Forbidden City in Beijing Tour Guide:
The Imperial residence of the Ming and Qing dynasties, the Forbidden City served as the royal residence, working office and ceremonial centre for almost 24 Emperors of China for the major part of 500 years. In its rich 500-year history, this early 15th Century palace was the equivalent of a heaven or a paradise for the terrestrial counterpart of the Celestial Emperor and hence, forbidden or out-of-bounds without the Emperor’s explicit consent.
The Emperors are long gone and the Forbidden City is no longer forbidden; it is now the Palace Museum, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and invites tourists, foreign and locals alike to come and explore its many treasures. The 7,800,000 sq. ft. complex houses within its rectangular perimeters 980 wooden buildings, the largest collection of perfectly preserved wooden buildings in the world, each exemplifying traditional Chinese palatial architecture in its premier.
Take on the role of the Emperor himself as you enter the Meridian Gate and walk through the central pathway, a stone-flagged path dedicated for the Emperor’s use alone that led all the way from the Gate of China to Jinshang in the North. Even the Empress could access this gateway only on her wedding day!
Deviate from the path, but only so you can marvel at some of the most magnificent pieces of Chinese Calligraphy and Paintings including extremely rare masterpieces and representative works from every historical era at the Hall of Martial Valour. A similar deviation to the right leads you to the Hall of Literary Brilliance, which now houses the interactive Ceramics Gallery, a treasure-trove of ceramic works from across the centuries.
Once back on the emperor’s path, walk through the Gate of Supreme Harmony, across the huge square and up the dragon-pattern bas-relief-adorned ceremonial ramp to the Hall of Supreme Harmony, the largest surviving wooden structure in China and the Qing dynasty ceremonial centre and Ming dynasty imperial court. The ramp that you walked on is actually carved out of a single slab of stone and is the largest such carving in China.
Delve into the intricacies of an Emperor’s life at court at the Hall of Central Peace, where the Emperor received officials and examined sacrificial writings and farm implements before presiding over ceremonies. The Hall of Preserving Harmony, just beyond, was the place where the Ming Dynasty Emperor donned his ceremonial robes and the Qing Dynasty Emperors held banquets for high-ranking officials on New Year’s Eve and other occasions. Richly decorated thrones dominate all three halls and offer fantastic photo-op moments.
Imagine the Emperor’s personal life as you explore the Palace of Heavenly Purity, the Emperor’s personal residence and the Hall of Union with its 25 imperial seals, a mechanical striking clock and the copper clepsydra (a water clock). The Empress received greetings from her subjects in this hall. Continue to the Palace of Earthly Tranquillity, the personal residence of the Ming Empresses and the Shamanism sacrificial hall and the imperial bridal chamber for the Qing Empresses.
The Forbidden City tour then continues to the Hall of Mental Cultivation, the Emperor’s residence post-Yongzheng reign; and through the Six Western and Eastern Palaces and the lavish Imperial Garden, before going on to the Hall of Ancestral Worship, which now houses the Hall of Clocks, a magnificent collection of clocks from the imperial era. Marvel at the Imperial treasures displayed in the Treasure Gallery along the eastern end of the imperial palace before ending the tour and exiting the Forbidden City through the Gate of Divine Prowess.