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Experience the Glory of Ancient China in The Forbidden City
You are going to find three main buildings in the outer court and this is the first hall in the list. The Hall of Supreme Harmony, also called the Hall of Gold Throne, is thought to be the most important building across China, which is quite an amazing feat in itself. It was where grand ceremonies were hosted and the furnishings were made to match the importance of the building. Take a look at the sandalwood throne, which was the ultimate symbol of imperial power at some point in the country's history.
This museum showcases over a million valuable pieces of art. The number is impressive, even if you are unaware that the amount makes up a sixth of the total cultural relics in the country. You will find books, bronzes, calligraphy, ceramics, and jade pieces in this collection. The Bronzeware Gallery, Calligraphy Gallery, Clocks Gallery, Treasures Gallery, and Paintings and Ceramics Gallery are the main exhibition galleries of the museum.
The Imperial Garden was constructed during the Ming dynasty, back in 1417. It was meant to be a sanctuary for the imperial family and a solid example of Chinese garden design. The main garden might have been small compared to other gardens, but it is certainly interesting to see how the emperors were nonetheless able to place rocks, pavilions, ponds, and trees. Observant visitors will notice a pavilion located at each corner of the garden, every one of which represents a season.
Another building in the outer court, the Hall of Central Harmony used to serve as the emperor's lounge of sorts. It would usually be in use before grand celebrations were held in the Hall of Supreme Harmony. The structure has a square shape and there are nine rooms overall: three in each flank and three in the main side. It is the smallest building in the outer court.
When you enter the Gate of Heavenly Purity, you will find the main gateway that leads to the inner court. This area served as the living quarters of the emperor, empresses, and even the concubines. There are three key structures located here: the Palace of Heavenly Purity, the Palace of Union and Peace, and the Hall of Terrestrial Tranquility. Aside from these buildings, there are also twelve palaces divided into the eastern and western palaces.
Often hailed as the second most important structure in the complex, this hall served as the sleeping quarters of a total of 8 emperors. Occasionally, the emperor would also conduct state affairs and hold audiences here. Later on in history, it was turned into an imperial workshop. The Western Warmth Chamber located at the western side of the building was the study where presentations were read and private audiences were held. Check out the bedrooms inside the building: the biggest room belonged to the emperor, while the four others were for the empresses and the concubines.
How to Get Tickets?
Purchase of tickets can be done both online or offline. If you are a foreigner, don't forget to bring your passport with you as proof of identity. The Palace Museum will charge you either 60 yuan or 40 yuan, depending on the time of your visit. Visitors with disabilities are free of charge, while seniors will receive a 50% discount.
How To Get Around?
The only way to get around is by walking. Get ready to put your legs to use, and a comfort sneakers might be the best use! It might be a good idea to warm up a little. However, the size of the palace makes it impossible to explore the entire complex in a single day.
What Should I Wear?
There is no dress code that you have to keep in mind in this tourist destination. There are, however, some unique traditions. For men, try to avoid wearing green hats as it is an indicator that one has been cuckolded by his wife in Chinese culture. Regardless, do not forget to wear comfortable shoes as you will be doing a lot of walking.
Best Time to Visit
Peak hours are between 10 o'clock in the morning and 1 o'clock in the afternoon. If you wish to avoid crowds, try to schedule your visit outside of this period. As usual, weekdays would similarly be more preferable. The low season is from November to March. Whatever date you choose to go, don't forget that there is a limit of 80,000 visitors each day.
Will I Need a Guide?
We would recommend that you go explore on your own, especially as the tours tend to follow the same route. You will find that it is more rewarding to go off-the-beaten path. However, you might want to stick to a group if you don't have a strong sense of direction due to the maze-like structure of the complex. You can also rent an audio guide if you wish to make the most out of your visit.
How To Get There?
There are plenty of buses that pass by the Southern Gate. You can also take the subway until Tiananmen West Station or Tiananmen East Station. From there, walk through the Gate of Heavenly Peace until you reach the Meridian Gate. If you take the Metro Line 2, get out at Qianmen Station and walk to Tiananmen Tower.