Forbidden City

Forbidden City or the Gu Gong (in Chinese), is the most well preserved Chinese Imperial palace that served as home for about 24 emperors and their households from the Ming Dynasty (1368- 1644) to the end of Qing Dynasty( 1644-1911). The Forbidden City is located in the centre of Beijing, China. It is now known as the Palace Museum and is one among the five significant palaces of the world along with the other four situated in UK, France, Russia, and the US. In 1987, UNESCO nominated the Forbidden City as a World Heritage Site.


The Forbidden City was built in 15th century during the period when China was ruled by emperors of the Ming Dynasty. This was constructed by Yongle, the third emperor of Ming dynasty. Its construction began in 1406 and was completed in 1420 after exactly fourteen years. Around 100,000 well talented artisans and thousands of other laborers were employed towards its construction. In ancient China, the Emperors were considered as the ‘Son of Heaven’ and the palace where the emperors lived was constructed similar to the Purple Palace, which is believed to be the palace where the God lives in Heaven. This place is thus considered as a divine place, forbidden to the ordinary people and hence known as Forbidden City. Until 1911, i.e., toward the end of Qing Dynasty, the Forbidden City was known as the Imperial Palace.

Picture of Forbidden City

Forbidden City

Information :

State Party China
Type Cultural
Criteria i, ii, iii, iv
Reference 439
Region Asia-Pacific
Inscription History
Inscription 1987  (11th Session)
Extensions 2004

Features of Forbidden City

The Forbidden City is a Palace Complex that is ranked as World’s largest palace complex. It is rectangular in shape and covers a total area of around 72 hectares out of which 150,000 square meters encompass the total floor space. It measures 960 meters long from north to south and 750 meters wide from east to east. It is constructed on an axial symmetry. The central north-south axis of the Forbidden City lies along the central axis of Beijing. The major palaces are situated along this north-south axis.

The Forbidden City stands unique in its splendid architectural features. The stones used for building the grand terraces and other stone cravings were quarried from Fangshan of Beijing. Since large pieces of stones were employed in its construction, their transportation remained difficult through the conventional methods. Thus to make the transportation easier, lots of wells were dug along its way to the site of construction. During deep winter season, the water obtained from these wells were poured along the road that gets solidified easily due to the chilling cold resulting in the formation of ice layer. Through this ice layer, huge stones were transported easily. The soil that was dug out during the construction of the moat was piled up towards the northern side of the palace creating an artificial hill, namely the Jingshan hill. The wood needed for the construction of pillars was obtained from the precious tree Phoebe zhennan found in forests of China. The floors of almost all major halls of the palace were covered with special type of bricks, known as the “golden bricks”. These brick were made of clays taken from seven countries of Suzhou and Songjiang that were baked for many months to obtain smooth and strong bricks.

Since yellow is considered as the symbol of royalty, the most commonly used color in the palace is yellow. The tiles used to built the roof has a yellow glaze, the bricks used for flooring too has a yellowish tinge and almost all the wall decorations within the palace is of yellow shade. 

Walls, Gardens and Gates in Forbidden City

The Forbidden City complex consists of seventeen palaces, five halls, around 970 buildings and nearly 10,000 rooms. The entire complex is surrounded a city wall of about 8 meters height and a moat of about 51 meters width. The city wall serves both as a defensive wall to defend the attack from potential aggressors and as a retaining wall to hold back the ground. The city wall is made of rammed earth care which is capable of withstanding heavy cannon fire and the fire attacks of that time.

The beauty of the garden is further enhanced by three imperial gardens namely the Jingshan Park, Zhongnanhai Park and Beihai Park. On each side of the Forbidden City, there lies a gate. The gate situated towards the northern side is the Gate of Divine Might, towards the southern side is the Meridian Gate, towards the eastern side is the East Glorious Gate, and towards the western side is the West Glorious Gate.

The entire Complex is divided into two sections. They are:

Outer Court

The outer court is also known as the Front Court. It is the lesser court and includes the southern section. The key attractions of this site are the Hall of Supreme Harmony, Hall of Central Harmony, the Hall of Preserved Harmony and the Gate of Supreme Harmony.

Inner Court

The inner court is also known as the Back Palace and includes the northern section. The key attractions of this court are the Hall of Union and Peace, the Palace of Terrestrial Tranquility and the Palace of Heavenly Peace. This is the area were the Emperors and their households lived and the entire affairs were carried out.

Forbidden City Dividing Lines

  • Meridian Gate
  • Gate of Divine Might
  • West Glorious Gate
  • East Glorious Gate
  • Corner Towers
  • Gate of Supreme Harmony
  • Hall of Supreme Harmony
  • Hall of Military Eminence
  • Hall of Literary Glory
  • Southern Three Places
  • Palace of Heavenly Purity
  • Imperial Garden
  • Hall of Mental Cultivation
  • Palace of Tranquil Longevity


See Also Other Natural Wonders in Asia