Forbidden City, Beijing
At Meridian Gate (the Gate, where you pass only after buying a ticket), visitors can rent an audio tape in lots of languages with a player, which introduces the history and architecture of the palace. The tape and player can be returned at the north gate of the Palace Museum. That is a nice and easy way to learn a bit about the palace, when you don't have a guided tour.
Don't forget to visit the Jingshan (Coal Hill) Park, on the opposite of the palace's north gate, from where you can see the splendid layout of the palace.
Opening time:8:00-16:00 (May-September); 8:30-15:30 (October-April);
Entry ticket: 60 yuan/person (busy season), 40 yuan/person (slow season);
Some of the museums have additional charges.
--Subways: Line 1: get down at Tian'anmen East, Line 3: get down at Qianmen;
--Buses: No. 1, 4, 5, 10, 20, 22, 52, 57, 802;
It is within walking distance from Wangfujing, Xidan or Qianmen.
You don't need to know how to say "Starbucks" in Mandarin Chinese. Workers inside the Forbidden City are used to hearing the same question from foreigners and can guess from your cup drinking hand motion that you're seeking a latte and not the loo.
Many foreign tourists are outspoken on whether an American company should be allowed to have a shop inside the emperor's historical residence. Of course the Ming emperors are rolling in their tombs out by the Badaling Great Wall, but most ordinary Chinese actually don't have a strong opinion about the international coffee chain's presence since it opened in 2000.
Maybe they just didn't see it. There aren't any signs posted on the palace grounds directing people to the Heavenly Altar of Almond Latte, but ask any Chinese museum worker pushing a broom and even they can understand what you are trying to find. ("Ah so! Foreign tourist asking me question, must be looking for coffee shop!")
Fondest memory: JULY 2007 UPDATE
Starbucks chose Friday the 13th as its unlucky last day of business inside Beijing's Forbidden City. The shop closed after months of controversy prompted by the Chinese blog of former CCTV television reporter Rui Chenggang, which called for Starbucks' eviction from the historic site out of respect for Chinese culture.
Starbucks finally decided to end their lease agreement following the Forbidden City's announcement in late June 2007 that it wants to operate all stores inside the palace museum and turn the present location of Starbucks into a beverage station selling multiple brands.
Favorite thing: Walking along the north side of Gugong (The Forbidden City), you can see the walls that surround it as well as the moat. Humorously, a sign here states no fishing in the moat, though you'll find plenty of people wading in and fishing. Interesting place. If you're walking this stretch along Wusi Dajie, be sure to walk alongside the moat and not alongside the road, where the views aren't so good.
You cannot miss this giant portrait of Chairman Mao Ze Dong (1893-1976) which hangs in front of Tiananmen.
Chairman Mao no doubt has left behind a historical legacy for modern China as a great revolutionary leader.
So as China progresses towards a fast growing manufacturing factory of the world, it is constantly under the watchful eyes of Chairman Mao at Tiananmen.
A photo opportunity not to be missed.
It is difficult not to be mesmerized by the huge golden rooftops of the Forbidden City. You will not see the color of ordinary people but only for the sons of dragons - the Emperors. Well, a picture speaks a thousands words.
At certain time of the day, from the reflection of the light, the roofs actually look like shining golden roofs.
Favorite thing: If you want to see all that the Forbidden City has to offer you better have a couple of weeks!! It is huge! Over 800 buildings with tons of stuff to see. I just wandered through some of the pavilions and looked at some of the old stuff that the Emperors of times gone by would have used. It was interesting to see but a little overwhelming for me at the same time. If you want to learn more about the sights of the Forbidden City it would probably be worth hiring a guide as they can fill you in on the cool details. I was just interesting at looking at some stuff and calling that good enough.
Here is the view from Tiananmen Gate rostrum. It is a separate ticket from main admission to the Forbidden City. You may stand in the same place where Mao Zedong and previous emperors gazed upon the loyal subjects assembled in Tiananmen Square.
Fondest memory: On the right is Mao Zedong Mausoleum and on the left is the Museum of History. This photo was taken on National Day (October 1) about an hour before the flag ceremony.
If you happen to be inside the Forbidden City about 30 minutes before the flag ceremony then you will be forbidden to exit the south gate until after the ceremonial troops have marched to the pole.
Better known as the "Forbidden City" and built during the Ming and Qing dynasty (1368-1911).The palace was forbidden area for the local people.The palace is divided into two bigger parts First the public halls (only for the upper part of the world diplomates - and a second part - the private rooms of the emperors - in total about 24 gouverning China.They ruled about the country from their so called "Dragon Throne" and never left the complex.It was opened for the locals and tourist only a few decades ago !
Fondest memory: It is a topic or highlight to visit in this beautiful country and give you - as tourist - the impression how it was till.........
If you want to go up to the Tiananmen gate rostrum then you must purchase a separate ticket. (It is not included with the 40 RMB admission fee to the Forbidden City.)
Fondest memory: Come on, it's only 15 RMB! That's less than 2 US dollars and part of the proceeds go toward preservation of those nice big red lanterns. It is definitely worth it for the view of Tiananmen Square looking south and of the Forbidden City looking north.
For an additional fee, there is also a fancy souvenir certificate available marking the day and time that you ascended the Tiananmen Rostrum. It can be personalized with up to 4 Chinese characters or 16 English letters. It's really nice and comes with a booklet of beautiful photographs highlighting military processions during previous anniversaries.
The reason there is a strict 4 character limit for Chinese characters is because most Chinese names are comprised of 3 characters. This is a greedy tactic designed to prevent 2 people (you and your girlfriend/spouse/grandmother/concubine) from having both names on one certificate.
However if you look like a foreigner and pretend not to know much Mandarin, it is possible to trick the clerk by requesting the Chinese translation of your foreign name. This will enable you to have six Chinese characters, which of course is you and your Chinese girlfriend but the clerk will actually believe you are German or Croatian and make a special linguistic exception if you approach the kiosk alone and smile while asking. It worked for me, and I'm neither German or Croatian!
If you are in Beijing on October 1 then you might as well join the crowds at Tiananmen Square. If you want to use the bathroom, you'll have to also join the crowds getting in line (see photo)
Fondest memory: You can enter the Forbidden City and purchase a special ticket to mount the front gate's rostrum and experience the same view Mao Zedong and previous emperors had of Tiananmen Square. The gift kiosk sells a time stamped souvenir certificate so that you can prove you really were there on National Day.
Also, once you enter the Forbidden City through the Tiananmen Gate on October 1, you can not exit through the same door. As a crowd control measure on National Day, authorities keep pedestrian traffic one way and make people exit through the east gate onto Wangfujing.
Favorite thing: It is quite hard to comprehend how big the Forbidden City is and we had read that if we wanted a nice view of the palace we could go to the Jingshan Park which is located north of the Forbidden City. The park is actually a little peak made up from all the material that were left over when construction the moat around the Forbidden City. Unfortunately, we went into the park on a misty day and it was actually hard to see the south gate of the Forbidden City - it was a nice walk though.
Favorite thing: The Forbidden City is the number one attraction of Beijing, in my opinion. It is easy to visit palaces, and the Great Wall is more original, but this is where one can grasp what makes the Chinese civilisation unique: its history, its depth, its power, its refinement, but also what caused its downfall in this unbelievable replica of a world cut away from everything. From sheer size to fine detail, it has everything, and can only be compared to Rome, in the sense that it channeled the artistic talent of generations from a grand civilisation. Today, Mao's portrait on the main gate, the communist flag on royal roofs, are more symbols of China's nature, however much paradoxal it may appear at first.
Favorite thing: The Forbidden City is a great place to spend a half day or so if you find it interesting. For some reason I got bored there except for my run in with Police which you can read about in my "warnings and dangers" section. Maybe I was getting tired from months on the road.There are a few "Halls" to walk through with thrones set up. Lot's of garden area which does make for a plesent area for walking. When I was there it was really cold. The ponds had ice on them! I didn't bring my ice skates either.
Favorite thing: If you are a dignitary you might get special treatment! This guy had about 20 Black cars and lot's of bodyguards. And everyone seemed interested what he thought of the Forbidden City. I don't know who he is though. But the security guys were trying to look mean. He seemed friendly enough though.
The Forbidden City was home to twenty-four Chinese emperors over 491 years between 1420 and 1911. The Forbidden City is known as the Imperial Palace Museum.
The palace is 960 metres long and 750 metres wide, and it has 9,999 rooms. The Palace is surrounded by a moat 3,800 metres long and 52 metres wide. Intruders were discouraged by guards in watchtowers with bow and arrows.
The south entrance of the Forbidden City is the Gate of China (also known as the Gate of Ming in the Ming Dynasty or the Gate of Great Ching in the Ching Dynasty).
A long narrow courtyard connects the Gate of Great China and the Gate of Heavenly Peace (called Tian An Men today or known as the Gate of Receiving Mandate of Heaven in the Ming Dynasty). The Gate of Heavenly Peace leads to the Gate of Correct Demeanor, which is known as Duan Men.
The Imperial Ancestral Temple and the Altar of Land and Grain are located on the east and the west side of this area respectively.
The Meridian Gate is the front entrance of the Forbidden City. Inside the Meridian Gate, the Forbidden City is divided into two parts, the Outer Court and the Inner Court.
- The Inner Court is the residential building and gardens for the imperial family.
It contains the Palace of Heavenly Purity where the Chinese emperor conducted state affairs, the Hall of Union and the Palace of Earthly Tranquility where the empress lived.
On the east and the west, six palaces were built on each side .
- The Outer Court is for holding court and performing ceremonies.
The Gate of Supreme Harmony is the south gate of the Outer Court. Inside the Gate of Supreme Harmony, there are three great halls: the Hall of Supreme Harmony, the Hall of Complete Harmony, and the Hall of Preserving Harmony, The north gate of the Outer Court is the Gate of Heavenly Purity, which separates the Outer Court and the Inner Court.