"Admission price" to the Forbidden City has dropped considerably from instant death for the last 500 years (during the Ming and Qing Dynasties) to less than a hundred Rand today!
If you want to walk through the vast and spectacular courtyards in relative peace; get there early - the gates open around 8:30am. Despite the transformation Beijing, the Forbidden City remains mercifully untouched. Here you can truly appreciate the might and grandeur of the imperial Chinese court during the height of its power in the Ming and Qing dynasties.
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What's all the fuss? 24 Chinese Emperors from the Ming and Qing dynasties (500 years) ruled the whole of
China with an iron rod from here! Power and influence were total...and the emperor was
more deity than human.
Why "Forbidden"? Well...this high-walled enclave was strictly a base for the emperor or empress's extensive
entourage...and any intruder had his or her head chopped off instantly! The palace ceased
to be "Forbidden" when Pu Yi was ousted as emperor in 1912. It became a museum in 1925,
shortly after Pu Yi's expulsion.
About this magnificent palace...
Beijing's Forbidden City was the Chinese imperial palace from the Ming Dynasty to the Qing Dynasty...ending with the forced abdication of the last emperor, Pu Yi in 1912. It was home to 24 emperors over a period of more than 500 years. It was also the ceremonial and political centre of Chinese government.
You approach the Main Entrance from Tiananmen Square, now immediately behind you.
It's an emotional moment for any visitor...you can feel history here!
Entering through a deep passage...and before you stands the aesthetically named Hall of Supreme Harmony. If you also saw Bernardo Bertolucci's 'The Last Emperor' you too would have recognized this commanding hall, which featured prominently in this fllm about the grandeur, pageantry and court life surrounding the child emperor Pu Yi. He was ousted in 1912, thus ending Qing rule...the last of the Chinese dynasties, and it was a time of drama, unrest and change in China.
You walk through the palace from one end to the other, passing the expansive public spaces and multiple official halls, through the private (somewhat cramped) living quarters and even seeto the actual room where Pu Yi was when the edict was issued for his removal from a position of supreme power.
You become patently aware of distinctive Chinese architecture as you take in the curved roofs and jutting tiles that are a feature of most older structures across the land. There is a small private garden with gnarled cypress trees, some more than 300 years old. In the main, the whole place is spartan, simple, with few trees and little shade. It is difficult to picture (or envy) being an emperor, trapped in this high walled enclave, with only castrated slaves to serve you, and a clump of pretty concubines to service you. Many men may well consider that Heaven? Pu Yi was too young to know about all that...and his life took tragic turns thereafter. He spent his last years as a simple gardener. It is a story of immense fascination, scope and sadness.
The palace has a total of 9,999.5 rooms, including living quarters for emperors, empresses, concubines and eunuchs. Construction lasted 15 years after 1406, and required more than a million workers. The complex consists of 980 surviving buildings with 8,707 bays of rooms. The palace exemplifies traditional Chinese palatial architecture, and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.
In 1860, during the Second Opium War, Anglo-French forces took control of the Forbidden City and occupied it until the end of the war. In 1900, Empress Dowager Cixi (Tze-She) fled from the Forbidden City during the Boxer Rebellion...and spent the last 30 years of her controversial life at the beautiful Summer Palace outside Beijing.
The Hall of Supreme Harmony featured prominently in Bernardo Bertolucci's 'The Last Emperor'.
The National Palace Museum was originally established as the Palace Museum in Beijing's Forbidden City on October 10, 1925, shortly after the expulsion of Puyi from the Forbidden City by warlord Feng Yuxiang. The articles (now priceless) in the museum consisted of the valuables of the former Imperial family.
In 1931, shortly after the Mukden Incident, General Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist Government ordered the museum to quickly move its most valuable pieces out of the city to prevent them from falling into the hands of the Imperial Japanese Army The collection was moved to several places, including Shanghai, Anshun and Yibin as the Imperial Japanese Army advanced farther inland during the Second Sino-Japanese War, which merged into the greater conflict of World War II.
The Chinese Civil War resumed following the surrender of the Japanese, ultimately resulting in Chiang Kai-shek's decision in evacuating the art to Taiwan. This unparalleled display of Chinese art and craftsmanship can still be seen in the National Palace Museum in Taipei. Mainland China is understandably eager to have it back in the Forbidden City in Beijing!
The back entrance, where you emerge after a walk down two dynasties of Chinese history.
When you exit the palace at its rear doors, you have already pledged to make an effort to know much, much more...and hereafter the saga of China's long and tempestuous history becomes real for you.
On a Dragon Holidays tour, our driver will be waiting...!