Our Forbidden City Guide to The Hall Of Supreme Harmony and The Imperial Garden

The Forbidden City in Beijing, China is an Ancient Fortress located at the Fung-Shui Heart of Beijing City. It was declared a World Heritage Site in 1987 because it houses the largest and Best-Preserved Ancient Wooden Structures in The World.

Only the King, his Inner Circle, his Concubines and men who had been castrated and transformed into Eunuchs were allowed entry to the City.

The Hall of Supreme Harmony and the Imperial Garden are the most well-known sections of the Forbidden Imperial City.

Neither of which you'd have been able to see if you'd lived between the beginnings of the Ming Dynasty until the end of the Qing Dynasty some 500 years later.

Nowadays, you can have a visit to this once Forbidden Place without losing your Johnson.

The Forbidden Imperial City was built during the famous 'Ming Dynasty' of the early 1400's.

The Imperial Palace was home to a succession of Chinese Emperors and their 'Inner Circle' for the next 500 years.

During those years the City remained closed (or Forbidden) to anyone but the Emperor, his Concubine and the Eunuchs who served the Emperor and the Imperial family.

If a 'commoner' tried to walk the grounds of the Imperial Garden without the Emperor's permission, they would suffer a slow and painful death in a type of theater where all the 'common' people could watch.

Sometimes trespassers even got the deadly 'Hot Noodle Whipping' about the face before they were beheaded.

Many men considered it an honor to serve the Imperial Family and willfully volunteered to have their Penis and Scrotum sliced off so they could enter the Forbidden City as an Eunuch.

Poor and Middle-Class Families would even offer their Children to become Eunuchs, even though they were aware of the risks.

Many Children bled to death during the crude procedure to remove their sex organs. The ones that survived would be ensured a life of privilege as an Eunuch in the service of the Emperor.

forbidden city from jingshan hill


The Chinese Civil War, The Palace Museum and the Missing Priceless Chinese Art

The Imperial Palace Museum is spread across more than 250 acres and houses much of the most important and priceless artifacts in China.

The permanent collection at the Palace Museum holds over a million rare and valuable works of Chinese art. Most are paintings, pottery, inscribed wares, bronze wares, court documents, and others.

In 2010 the Museum claimed to hold 1,807,558 artifacts that included 1,684,490 items designated as nationally protected "Valuable Cultural Relics".

That is a great deal of Artifacts but it is not all of them and not even the most important ones. Some were relocated and no one will remark on what the contents of the entire missing collection held.

During the final months of the Chinese Civil War, many important artifacts were removed from the Palace Museum by Chiang Kai-Shek, who was the leader of the Nationalist Kuomintang.

When they escaped to Taiwan, they took the artifacts with them. The haul was relatively small but it was kept hidden from 1947 to 1965 by the Kuomintang, who were now living in exile in Taiwan.

Of the 13,427 boxes of artifacts evacuated by the Nationalists 2,972 boxes have appeared and are now housed in the National Palace Museum in Taipei.

This collection has since become the core of the National Palace Museum in Taipei and also a very sore spot in Sino-Taiwanese relations.

Are you surprised that China considers Taiwan a runaway Province and is demanding that they rejoin the Motherland?

The history of the Forbidden city is full of betrayals, deceit and mystery.

I learned much about the secrets of the Forbidden City from a book called The Forbidden City (Wonders of the World) and a National Geographic Documentary DVD called Inside the Forbidden City (English with Chinese and English subtitles) if you like the more visual tour.


The Forbidden City is Filled with Irony

It took nearly 1,000,000 workers the better part of 15 years to complete the Forbidden City. The laborers were mostly 'borrowed' from the prison and detention camps across China.

The Imperial City Guards used to heat metal branding irons over open fires until they glowed red hot. Then they branded a single Chinese symbol into the foreheads or cheeks of each of the workers.

The Facial Brand made escape pointless because the facial burn scarred them so badly that it remained with them for the rest of their lives.

Today, farmers brand their cows the same way. It's done to avoid theft and easy recovery if the cow runs away. Sometimes even that seems cruel to me. Free the cows!

A few thousand years later they opened a Starbucks Coffee shop within the Imperial City Walls. It wasn't long before the Starbucks was closed on July 13, 2007 amongst heated objections from well ... nearly everyone.

Ironic.


What Does The Forbidden City Look Like?

forbidden city main hall

You can get a really nice look at the interior of the City from the Forbidden City Video below and of what you can expect to find.

The video does not give the reality an ounce of justice.

The City is surrounded by Imperial Gardens and a six-meter deep, 52-meter wide moat.

The massive 30 foot high walls that encircle The Forbidden Imperial City contribute greatly to the imposing structure.

To the North of the City is Jingshan Park, also known as Coal Hill or Jingshan Hill. It's a huge hill made of the very earth they had to excavate in order to construct the Imperial Forbidden City and the huge Moat that surrounds it.

Thus Jingshan Hill was Born. The very top photograph was taken from Jingshan Hill.


You will notice that most of the structures in the Forbidden City are colored Goldish-Yellow. This color is a representation of Royalty thus almost every rooftop in the Imperial City is topped with glazed Yellowish-Golden tiles.

There are 2 buildings that are suspiciously not yellowish-gold in color. They are the most interesting of them all because of the logic behind the change of color.

  • The library at the 'Pavilion of Literary Profundity'

The Library at the 'Pavilion of Literary Profundity' was the Emperor’s own library and must have held priceless works even of his day. The library has a black tiled roof because they wanted to protect the papers and books from its worst enemy. Fire.

To the Chinese, the color black is a representation of water so they painted the Library's roof with black-colored tiles for fire-prevention.

  • The Crown Prince's Residences

The Crown Prince's residences are covered with green tiles. Green is a color that the Chinese associate with life because the color is a signal of life amongst much of the living creatures of this planet.


Where to Stay in Beijing City

There is a rule I never break when planning a flight into China. I always book a room in advance, even if just for the first night.

It is a mistake to arrive in a city like Beijing without a secured room reservation. You'll be glad to have a destination address when you finally land in this huge city after such a long flight.

None of the hotels we offer ask you to pay for the room until after you have checked out.

Don't put yourself in the position of having to trust anyone but your own research.

Take a look at the huge selection of very low-priced budget hotels in Beijing or consider browsing the even larger selection of available Mid-Range Beijing Resorts and Hotels.

Every descent hotel in the city is listed and each of them offers photographs, maps and prices. How you choose your hotel is up to you but the information is there.

Despite that, we always recommend that you compare prices and read reviews from other travellers before deciding.


Entering and Touring the Forbidden City

The Forbidden City is included in many excellent Beijing Full Day Tours.

The Tour Provider we use has always offered us the most in return for our money. They have 4 separate Beijing Tours that include the Forbidden City as a stop on 4 of their own Beijing Tours.

Each of the 4 Beijing Tours they offer is made up of a combination of 3-4 destinations. Prices for each tour depend on the combination of destinations you choose.

It's always more expensive to include a stop at The Great Wall of China than it is to include a stop at the Temple of Heaven on the tour you finally choose.

Private Beijing Tours that Include the Forbidden City on the Journey

Private Custom Tour: Beijing in One Day

Beijing tours-1

This tour includes stops at Forbidden City, the Great Wall of China, and an exploration amongst the Hutongs via pedicab. The final stop includes an exploration of the incredible Lama Temple.

To finish the day you get an hour or 2 shopping in Beijing with the personal tour guide that took you on the tour. She/He will take you to some of the best "Locally Known" areas where you see few other tourists.

This is a tour of the softer kind. Not much physical stress but more cultural and informative. Good for Geeks, Girls and whipped Males.

Learn more about The Private Custom Tour: Beijing in One Day.

Beijing Essential Full-Day Tour

Forbidden City Tour2

This tour is for people wanting to see 'The Essentials' of Beijing. That must include the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square and that Huge Wall They have out there.

This tour focuses heavily on the Great Wall of China. But it spends the hours at the Badaling Section (Considered the most well preserved, yet touristy, sections of the Great Wall Of China.

If you have read our article on The Great China Wall then you'll be aware of how many people consider the Badaling Section much too Touristy and prefer to wander out to the more distant, secluded sections of the wall.

Only if you are a real adventure seeker. If your time in Beijing is short, take this full-day tour to see all the essential sights. You'll soon see why the capital of the People's Republic of China continues to an historic center of power, culture and wealth.

Learn more about the Beijing Essential Full-Day Tour.

Beijing Historical Tour

Forbidden City 3

This Tour may well be described in it's headline 'Beijing Historical Tour'.

It is a balanced tour of three of the city's most impressive historic attractions: Tian'anmen Square, the Forbidden City and the Temple of Heaven.

A top way to get a good balance of Beijing and its amazing history, which boasts one of the oldest cultures on earth.

Learn more about this Beijing Historical Tour.

Beijing Bike Tour

forbidden City 4

This is an awesome tour at a reasonable price. You'll spend the day biking through Beijing's ancient alleys and lane ways known as Hutongs.

You'll cycle around the winding Hutongs right behind the Forbidden City and through a local market before stopping for a traditional Chinese lunch and a game of Mahjong, a favorite Chinese pass time.

Learn more about the Beijing Bike Tour.

Small Group Beijing City Tour

Forbidden City 7

Here is the first of the available group tours. The previous tours are all Private Tours. A group tour has only 1 advantage to me. That would be lower cost.

They have a maximum limit of 12 people per tour. Ours had 8 and that was enough in my opinion. We got a good long feel of Tiananmen Square, the tranquility of the Temple of Heaven and the grandeur of the Forbidden City.

Learn more about the Small Group Beijing City Tour.

2-Day Beijing History and Culture Small Group Tour

Forbidden City 6

The Big Boy Beijing Tour. Group size is supposed to be a maximum of 6 and I hold them at their word. This is a 2 day exploration of everything that Beijing has to offer any touristy or sightseer.

You'll explore the Ancient Hutongs behind the Forbidden City on bicycle before heading over to the part of the city that was modernized just for the Olympic games of 2008. They call it the Olympic Precinct now.

You'll do some walking tours but mostly your guide will help you navigate Beijing's public transport system and help you bargain at any of the Beijing vibrant local markets you may pass by.

You'll get to see the Temple of Heaven Park, Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City but the most fun was had with the locals in a game of Mahjong and a cup of Green Tea.

Learn more about the 2-Day Beijing History and Culture Small Group Tour.

Let the bus driver fight the crazy, congested traffic in Beijing. Let them pick you up outside your hotel and return you there in the comfort of an air-conditioned bus.

The best part of any of these tours is that they just know where to take you and what interests people the most. The historical stories that they tell about this Ancient City are both informative and generous.


How To Get There on Your Own

The Beijing Subway:

Beijing Subway Line 1:
Get off the subway at Tiananmen West Station or Tiananmen East Station. Take the direction that points you North through the Tiananmen Tower (Gate of Heavenly Peace). You'll end up at the Meridian Gate (South Gate) entrance to the Forbidden City.

Subway Line 2:
Just look for the Qianmen Station because that is your destination and where you will get off of the Subway. From there just walk North through the Tiananmen Tower.

Bus Routes:

There are 3 potential directions you can come from. Just say 'Forbidden City' to the bus driver and they will usually understand. As long as you stick to the bus numbers, you won't get lost.

Some things are just too big to miss. You won't drive past without noticing too easily.

Take bus 101, 103, 109, 124, 202, 685 or 814 and get off at Gugong (The Forbidden City) Station.

Take bus 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 52, 120 or 802 and get off at Tiananmen Xi or Tiananmen Dong Station. From there you'll have to walk North through the Tiananmen Tower (Gate of Heavenly Peace), and then through the Meridian Gate (South Gate Entrance) of the Forbidden City.

Take bus 9, 17, 44, 48, 59, 66, 803, 808 or the Tuanjiehu Special Line and get off at Qianmen, Qianmen Xi, or Qianmen Dong Station. You'll have to walk North through Tiananmen Square and but you'll find the Forbidden City right in front of you.


Forbidden City Opening Hours

Opening Hours: 8:30 to 16:30 (Nov. 1 - the next Mar. 31); tickets not available after 15:30 and last entry at 15:40.8:30 to 17:00 (Apr. 1- Oct.31); tickets not available after 16:00 and last entry is at 16:10.

Price of Admission and Entrance Fees

You'll have to pay an entrance fee for the Forbidden City. It changes along with the Seasons.

From April 1st to October 31st Admission is CNY 60 ($9.40USD)


From November 1st to March 31 The Entrance Fee is CNY 40 ($6.26USD)

It will cost you an extra CNY 10 to enter the Treasure Gallery and another CNY 10 to enter the Clock and Watch Gallery


How Long To Get A Good Look At The Forbidden City

You could easily take up 5 hours in the Forbidden City. You really need a minimum of 2 hours depending on how familiar with the history to this magnificent place.


Once you enter the Forbidden City Through the Famous Tiananmen Gate

The Tiananmen Gate connects The Forbidden City with Tiananmen Square and is the most interesting because of the big portrait of Mao Zedong and the 2 placards that read:

"Long live The People's Republic of China" and "Long Live the Great Unity of The World's Peoples".

Once you go through the outer wall of the city, you'll come to the Meridian Gate, the Main entrance to the City. You'll notice the huge square made of brick where the Emperor would stand to announce the new Lunar Calendar during the Winter Solstice.

That's when you'll realize how massive, wondrous and mysterious this Ancient City is. A lot of people recommend taking a guided tour to avoid the hectic public transport system, the crowded lines of people and the stifling heat.


The Forbidden City is divided into two sections. The 'Outer Court' and the 'Inner Court'. Here's what to see at the Forbidden city divided by the inner and outer courts.

The Outer Court of The Forbidden City

Three large buildings make up the Outer Court of the Forbidden Imperial City.

  • The Hall of Preserving Harmony

'The Hall of Preserving Harmony' was mostly used for rehearsing ceremonies such as Coronations or Imperial Weddings. It was also where future Emperors took the final stage of the Imperial Examination.

You must make sure to see the ramp on the Northern side of the Hall of Preserving Harmony. It is carved from a single piece of stone 17 meters long, 3 meters wide, and 2 meters thick. It's estimated to weigh 200 tons and is the largest stone carving in China.

  • The Hall of Central Harmony

The Hall of Central Harmony is a smaller, square hall that the Emperor used to rest and prepare for Ceremonies in solitude. The Forbidden City was closed to public eyes for 500 years but even fewer people ever entered The Hall of Central Harmony.

It is smaller than the other two halls, and is square in shape. It is used by the Emperor to prepare and rest before and during ceremonies.

  • The Hall of Supreme Harmony

During the Ming Dynasty the Hall of Supreme Harmony was an important place if not the most. It was where the Emperor held court and discussed the affairs of state.

The Emperors held court far more frequently during the Qing Dynasty but the location was moved from the Hall od Supreme Harmony to the Palace's Inner Court.

After that, the Hall of Supreme Harmony was only used for Ceremonial Purposes, Such as Coronations, Investitures, and Imperial Weddings.

The original Hall of Supreme Harmony was first built by the Ming Dynasty in 1406 but was destroyed seven times by fires during the Qing Dynasty.

The latest re-built to the Hall of Supreme Harmony was in 1695–1697.

The Hall of Supreme Harmony is one of the most intriguing places in the Forbidden city. It first burned to the ground a mere 100 days after its completion and took another 16 years to rebuild.

The Hall of Supreme Harmony was the last Great Hall to be built in the Forbidden city and because of this, the attention to detail and improvements in building technique benefited the construction of this wonderful place.

After the fire, the Emperor sent 1000 men out to gather the rare 'Phoebe Zhennan' tree trunks from the jungles of South-Western China.

It took another 4 years to float the massive logs down the river to Beijing before they finally became the Main Pillars of the 'Hall of Supreme Harmony'.

Only 500 of the original 1000 men returned from the Jungles. Harvesting the trees was dangerous work but they had succeeded.

A visit to The Hall of Supreme Harmony is a must. The more you read about it the more fascinating it gets.

Get a Beijing budget tour just for the guide, his information and the air-conditioned bus back to the steps of your hotel.


The Inner Court of The Forbidden City

6 Western and 6 Eastern Palaces make up the Inner Court of the City. These Palaces were once the living quarters of the Emperor and the Imperial family.

This was where he conducted some of the more mundane, daily business of being an Emperor.

The 2 largest palaces in the Inner Court

  • The Palace of Heavenly Purity

The 'Palace Of Heavenly Purity' is where the Emperor lived during the time of the Ming Dynasty. The boys from the following Qing Dynasty decided to move the Emperor's living quarters to the smaller 'Hall Of Mental Cultivation' to the West.

It's a chance to see the bedrooms of 2 Emperors from 2 different dynasties.

The current Chinese government is paying massive sums of money to 'Buy Back' artifacts removed from the Forbidden Palace. The place just gets more restored to its original glory by the month.

  • The Palace of Earthly Tranquility

sunset over forbidden city

During the Ming Dynasty, the 'Palace of Earthly Tranquility' was where the Empress lived. She lived in lavish surroundings with many Eunuchs as servants to performed every task from lighting candles to grooming the Empress.

During the following Qing Dynasty, large portions of the palace were converted for worship by the new Manchu rulers. However, two rooms in The Palace of Earthly Tranquility were left untouched.

They were only spared for use on the Emperor's wedding night.

Exit the Forbidden City

The visitor exit is at the 'Gate of the Divine Might', located behind the Imperial Garden.

Remember that you can always Find the best deal, compare prices, and read what other travelers have to say at TripAdvisor

Here is a short video of the inside of the City. Have a look before you travel to Beijing and decide if it's worth your time.

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