Image of a building with Chinese architecture and a golden throne within the Forbidden City

Secrets of The Forbidden City

By Tiger Shi
Web Content Contributor

It was a freezing morning in Beijing in March 2013. I woke up feeling rested after a week of school. My original plans were to just stay at home. However, my dad offered to take me to see the most iconic scenic destination: The Forbidden City.

I choose to go because I thought it would be an interesting place to visit. The drive from the apartment was not too crazy and traffic was okay because it was the weekend. Once dad found parking, we got our tickets and went in. The first thing I saw was the also iconic Tiananmen Square gate. 

A large, building with Chinese architecture. Many people crowd the front to enter.
A gate within the Forbidden City.

Entering the Tiananmen gate, I saw rows of similar buildings. My dad told me there are close to 10,000 rooms in the Forbidden City. Therefore, it doesn’t surprise me that the property is insanely huge. In the spaces between each gate was a large plaza-like area.

From my understanding, those areas were reserved for imperial officials to kowtow to the emperor as a form of greeting. Chinese emperors had many servants, imperial advisors and guards resulting in the need for thousands of rooms. 

Built in the 15th century, the Forbidden City is an iconic symbol of Chinese history. It was used by emperors of the Ming and Qing Dynasties. This landmark of the world is basically like China’s “White House” but bigger in terms of property size.

It would take a long time to explore all 10,000 rooms— impossible even. Therefore, my dad and I only tour about a quarter of the whole palace that day.

The throne of Chinese emperors during the Qing Dynasty period (1644-1912). The throne is gold, many Chinese characters and a low cushion.
The throne of Chinese emperors during the Qing Dynasty period (1644-1912)

At one point, there was a souvenir photo stand that the museum organizers set up in front of the imperial throne. Visitors could dress up as an emperor or empress with Qing period costumes.

I dressed up as a Qing emperor and posed for a photo. I was impressed by the look of the imperial throne. The cushions looked comfortable, the design was very royal and the artwork of the dragon looked cool. The dragon culturally is like the “seal” of the emperor and for the empress, a phoenix. 

The tall and red hallways inside the Forbidden City. People walk along the stretching hallways into the distance.
Extremely long hallways in the Forbidden City

Visiting the landmark in-person was a mind-blowing experience because I’ve seen the Forbidden City in TV shows and movies but it was certainly bigger in property size than I had ever imagined.

I find it fascinating that the last emperor of China, Puyi, lived in this property as a child. There was a revolution in which China’s last dynasty, the Qing, were overthrown and a republic was founded. The new government at the time signed a deal with the imperial family, allowing Puyi to remain within the boundaries of the Forbidden City. I cannot imagine living there. It would be like living in heaven. 

At the end of that day, I left the Forbidden City feeling knowledgeable. I did know some about it beforehand, but physically going there expanded that knowledge. If you visit Beijing, the Forbidden City is a must go!  

Featured image by Min Shi and edited by Andrea Mau via Canva.

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