The Forbidden City

We got up early and decided to spend the day at the Forbidden City and visit the Imperial Palace. The palace complex is located in downtown Beijing a few miles from our hotel.

We took a taxi, bought our tickets, and got our map. We rented the audio tour with headphones. They gave us a map in English that showed places where we could hear a description of each area in the Forbidden City.

Most of the signs were in both Chinese and English so it was easy to learn about each building.

The Great Palace Complex

In 1491, the emperors of the Middle Kingdom moved into the Imperial Palace. It's sometimes called the Forbidden City because it was "a city within the city" far away from common people.

The Imperial Palace is huge and covers 861,000 square yards. It is surrounded by tall red walls. There's even a moat. The buildings seem to go on forever with two main areas. The outer courtyard has three grand halls and the inner courtyard contains many palaces including the Imperial Garden.

Huge lions guard the palace gates and can be found inside the complex in the courtyards. The photo shows a female. You can tell because there's a baby under it's front paw. The lions look strange because most of the local artists had never seen a real lion. They aren't native to China. Instead, they heard stories and made the sculptures from these tales.


At the high point of the complex, you can see throughout the city. It's interesting to compare the old buildings to the new skyscrapers being constructed around the city. All the buildings in the palace complex face north and south. Notice the interesting creatures on the rooftops. They are supposed to protect against evil spirits. We thought they looked like Santa and his sleigh.

Our Observations

While it was interesting to see all the structures, we were a little disappointed at the lack of informational signs and descriptions in many of the areas. They need a team of teachers to come in and develop some interesting interpretive signs.

They focused on the main buildings and the things the emperor would be doing. For example, in the first photo below you can see the interior of one of the palaces. Flat was interested in where the servants lived and where the cooking was done in ancient times. Where did the workers live? It would be fun to design an area that shows what life was like for children who lived inthe palaces.

Many of the buildings were in need of paint. We saw construction workers throughout the complex. We're guessing that they've started work in preparation for the Olympics in the near future.


While many people just walked down the middle of the Palace grounds. We thought it was interesting to explore some of the other areas. We spent lots of time looking at the roofs, the walls, and the designs.

Flat had a great time looking at all the sculptures and designs. For example, dragons lined many of the buildings. We read that many of the dragons spout water when it rains.

Everywhere you look there are beautiful decorations and designs. For instance, there are interesting paintings on the walls and ceilings. Even the stair steps are decorated.

We could have spent all day at the Forbidden City. We started at the south end and walked to the north end. After we turned in our headphones, we walked all the way back through the city to the south entrance. This time we didn't have to think about watching the map or listening to the recording. We just enjoyed the sights and took a lot of pictures.

As we left the main complex, we stopped to watch some demonstrations. People were marching, exercising, and doing martial arts.

We saw tourists from all over the world. Many were from Russian and Europe. Flat was hoping to see lots of children, but most were in school. We saw a few school groups and some children on vacation.




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Developed by Annette Lamb, 11/02.