ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

The History of the Forbidden City

Updated on October 21, 2019
angela_michelle profile image

Angela loves history and feels it is essential to our future to know the past—or else be destined to repeat it.

panoramic view of the Meridian Gate in the Forbidden City: Beijing China.
panoramic view of the Meridian Gate in the Forbidden City: Beijing China. | Source

Why Was the Forbidden City Built

From 1406 to 1911, the Forbidden City has been home to 24 different emperors. It is one of the most well-known places in Beijing, second to the Great Wall of China. Walls surround the city, which was its security against regular citizens. The emperors felt that the city should be a sacred place where only the elite would be allowed to enter. By limiting access to the Forbidden City, the emperors of China believed that the city maintained its supremacy. Despite the limited population, the Forbidden City is and was a prominent place for all Chinese people.

It was initially the Imperial Palace of the Ming and Qing dynasty. Emperor Chengzu requested the construction of the vast city. He asked for its isolation, and forbid the entrance until Puyi of the Qing dynasty abdicated the throne. Puyi of Qing was the last emperor to live there. He lived in the Imperial Palace until he abdicated the throne. Due to its forbidden nature, the security was extremely tight. Security included many structures ranging from watchtowers, walls, and a moat was its strength against infiltration and armed men.

The Palace Museum Photo

The Palace Museum
The Palace Museum | Source

The Palace Museum

The uses of the Forbidden City changed drastically after the Qing Dynasty was destroyed. In 1925, the Forbidden City became open to the public and established the Palace Museum. Since it was no longer a city where people resided, they wanted to preserve the great history that the city holds, allowing those who call China their homeland to know its rich history.

In 1961, the Palace Museum became one of China's key places for preservation of cultural relics. Many priceless items have been placed here for safekeeping and are very well protected from ever being destroyed or stolen. The Palace Museum can only be entered through the Tiananmen Gate. This gate lies on the north side.

Forbidden City Imperial Guardian Lions
Forbidden City Imperial Guardian Lions | Source

The History: Construction of the City

Construction began in 1406 during Ming Emperor Yongle's reign. It took 100,000 skilled technicians 15 years to finish it, along with millions of laborers. The walls envelop a 720,000 square meters rectangular piece of land. The walls stand 10 meters high, and the perimeter is 73.5 kilometers. Each wall is the shape of a trapezoid. The bottom is more substantial and gets narrower towards the top. There are four corner towers, which acted as defense watchtowers. You could enter the city at one of their four gates on each side of the rectangular wall. If the walls were not deterrent enough for possible invaders, in 1420, workers created a 52-meter wide moat surrounding the walls of the Forbidden City.

Inside the walls are numerous pavilions, squares, and gardens. Within the buildings that lie in the Forbidden City is 8,704 halls and rooms. All construction coincides with the five elements and the Yin Yang philosophy. There are two parts of the palace; the Inner Court that held state affairs, and the Outer Court that held imperial concubines and was home to the empress.

Meridian Gate in the Forbidden City, Beijing, China.
Meridian Gate in the Forbidden City, Beijing, China. | Source

Meridian Gate

The city's buildings are ornately created with detailed patterns on tapestry and luxurious colors, such as deep red and gold. One of the most recognized features is the pair of bronze lions at the Gate of Supreme Harmony, also known as the Meridian gate. They are the largest set of Chinese lions within the Forbidden City. This is because the Meridian gate was the highest ranking gate in the entire city. This is where the emperors would handle all of the state affairs, as well as listen to the minister's reports. They even issued many imperial edicts here.

The Meridian Gate was not only a place for great work, but also magnificent enjoyment. The emperors held numerous important ceremonies at the Hall of Supreme Harmony like the emperor's enthronement. During the Qing Dynasty, they held the emperor's wedding there. It was a fantastic event that caused the whole palace to be decorated with lanterns and colored hangings.

Chinese Imperial Garden Photo

A view of the Chinese Imperial Garden in the Forbidden City: Beijing China.
A view of the Chinese Imperial Garden in the Forbidden City: Beijing China. | Source

Chinese Imperial Garden

The Imperial Garden is another place of great interest. It is 11,000 meters squared and located at the northern point. Dozens of Lianli trees grow here. A Lianli tree is where two tree branches interlock. The pair that cross the axis line is the most famous, and many memorable photos have been taken here, including one with Qing Emperor Puyi and his wife. The florists take excellent care of the gardens here.

The Forbidden City is a place of great history in China, where many emperors from the Ming and Qing dynasties ruled. Although one can explore the great city, many great facts will forever be lost within these walls.

Fun Facts

  • The Zhen Fei Well got its name from Emperor Guangxii's favorite concubine. The story goes that Cixi, Guangxii's wife, ordered Zhen Fei to be drowned in this well because she was extremely jealous of her. After she died, Guangxi named the well in remembrance of Zhen Fei.
  • An image of the water God Xuanwu enshrines in the hall. Those who lived here felt that this protected the city against fire, as well as allowed safety during construction.
  • Above the bed in the black hall of Yangxin Dean (Hall of Mental Cultivation), where the emperor lived, a sign reads, "You Ri Xin," which means Reaping Renewal
  • The Highest Structure in the Forbidden City is the Wei Mein, also known as the Meridian Gates. This gate is the front gate and stands 38 meters high.
  • Emperor Shunzhi's was the youngest reigning ruler. He ascended the throne at six-years-old.

© 2010 Angela Michelle Schultz


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • angela_michelle profile imageAUTHOR

      Angela Michelle Schultz 

      10 years ago from United States

      So am I, I hope someday I'll get to see it in real life!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Cool,I like the pics.

      pretty good.

      I'm very interested in the forbidden city by the way!

    • angela_michelle profile imageAUTHOR

      Angela Michelle Schultz 

      10 years ago from United States

      Only some of the pictures are ours, most were taken from gettyimages. Well, I guess you can tell which ones. I didn't get to go on this trip with my husband, since it was with his MBA group, but someday he plans to go back and take me this time.

    • BkCreative profile image


      10 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      Oooh, I had the pleasure of visiting - and my cousin is there right now. I don't have these beautiful photos however, they are great! Thanks so much.

      Great hub!

    • angela_michelle profile imageAUTHOR

      Angela Michelle Schultz 

      10 years ago from United States

      Cool GarnetBird, you should write a hub about it, if you haven't already. That sounds like it would be interesting. :)

    • GarnetBird profile image

      Gloria Siess 

      10 years ago from Wrightwood, California

      NICE; I have been studying the 1st Emperior Wang--it's so complicted and interesting. GREAT photos.

    • angela_michelle profile imageAUTHOR

      Angela Michelle Schultz 

      10 years ago from United States

      My husband took many of them, the rest I got off of I get almost all my photos from there, but I try to use from my own photo reel as well. :)

    • EyesAndEars profile image


      10 years ago from Somewhere over the rainbow....

      beautiful pictures.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)