The Forbidden City

6/13 Monday

Subway stops: Tian’anmen East or Tian’anmen West

Cost: varies depending on if it is a touristy time of year. We went in June, it was touristy. Adults, Y60. Kids, Y20 each. (Our 3 year old was free.) Extra fees for the Treasure Gallery and the Clock/Watch Gallery)

The Forbidden City (the Chinese Imperial Palace from 1420-1912) is located in the center of Beijing, and thus, probably one of the closest large tourist attractions to our apartment. We’ve walked past it several times, seen it from Jingshan Park twice, but it gets thousands of visitors each day (about 7 million a year). We eventually decided that rather than wait for a crowded Saturday to go with B, the kids and I would have to go without him on a weekday and he’d go on his own while he was still in China after we’d flown to America at the end of June.

The Forbidden City is across the street (Chang’An Aveune, Beijing’s main east/west street) from Tian’anmen Square and subway line 1 runs underneath that street. So we ride underneath this part of town several times a week. The main gate you walk through with Mao’s portrait on it is actually Tian’anmen, or Gate of Heavenly Peace. Once through there, you show your passports and pay at one of the many ticket windows. On the map below, we started at the southern gate.


The Forbidden City is huge. We sort of walked north on the eastern side, cut through the middle, walked north on the western side, cut to the center when there was an important building, and hoped we saw all the good stuff.


From Wikipedia:

It consists of 980 surviving buildings with 8,886 bays of rooms. A common myth states that there are 9,999 rooms including antechambers, based on oral tradition, and it is not supported by survey evidence. 

From here:

Inside there are five halls, seventeen palaces, and numerous other buildings. The Forbidden Palace is reputed to have a total of 9,999 rooms. In some accounts, the Forbidden City has 9,999.5 rooms – the half-room, apparently, houses nothing more than a staircase.

Actually, depending on how the counting is done, the total is about 9,000.

The digit 9 was seen as a special, magic number, especially for emperors, because it is the highest value ordinal. Also, the word for nine in Chinese, ‘jiu’, is a homonym for ‘long / lengthy’. The number of rooms has a further rationale : because the Forbidden City was on Earth, it was impossible to have 10,000 rooms, which would conflict with the number of rooms in the version found in Heaven because the number 10,000 symbolizes infinity.

 The pagoda you can sort of see in the background, left, is the top of the hill in Jingshan Park.

 It was a super overcast day (we even got rained on some), but we could still 

see the tallest building downtown off in the distance. 

I didn’t plan on taking any pictures inside the Clock/Watch Gallery, but then S and L followed me around asking me to take pictures of their favorites.


We exited at the top (north) of the Forbidden City (it seems like you are supposed to enter at the south gate and exit at the north gate). When we exited, we could see the pagodas in Jingshan Park and the White Dagoba in Behai Park. We turned west and walked toward the watch tower on that northwestern corner then we headed south so we could get some pictures in Tian’anmen Square.


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