Beijing has a history of about 3,000 years. It first became the capital of a big regional empire under the Mongols in 1271. After that, it continued to be the capital of the Ming and Qing empires, and it was the capital of modern China for most of the 20th century.
A city that is continuing reinventing itself. New buildings, new roads, and new sports venues seem to spring up overnight. The cityscape is changing yearly but at the same time, Beijing remains the center of tradition, with the treasures of nearly 2,000 years.
Few places on Earth can match the extraordinary historical panorama on display in Beijing. There are six Unesco World Heritage Sites in this city alone (just one less than the whole of Egypt). At its heart is the magnificent Forbidden City, a royal palace on a scale like no other. For five centuries, it was the center of the universe.
And home to ruling emperors for nearly 500 years. It contains 9,999 rooms—nine being a lucky number for the superstitious Chinese.
The history of the Forbidden City starts in 15 century when an Emperor of the Ming Dynasty decided to move the capital from Nanjing to the north, in Beijing. And started to build an imperial palace here.
He used more than 230 thousand artisans and millions of people in the construction.
With the excavated soil, during the construction, it was create an artificial hill to the north of the palace.
After the construction, Forbidden City functioned as the political center of the Ming Dynasty and home for the fourteen emperors of the Ming Dynasty, which came to an end in 17 century with the suicide of its last Emperor.
Later on, the Qing Dynasty seized the Forbidden City.
After ruling the country for about three centuries, the Qing Dynasty was overthrown by revolutionaries.
Emperor Puyi abdicated, and the Forbidden City ceased to serve as the country’s political center. However, he was allowed to live in the Forbidden City until 1924 after which the Forbidden City was transformed into the Palace Museum and opened to the public.
We entered to the Forbidden City through the south gate (Meridian Gate), which is the touristic gate.
We walk 400 m down a ceremonial avenue through the Tiananmen gate, once known as the Imperial City.
The usual route for visitors is to follow the central axis, which starts from Meridian Gate and leads through the largest halls and palaces before reaching the Imperial Garden and exit through the Gate of Divine Might.
There are various buildings and museum displays to the left and right of this main axis. Even on a full day’s visit it would be difficult to see all of these, so it is best to plan ahead what you want to see, and take detours from the main axis to see them.
We just strolled around the halls and courtyard of the Forbidden City for a half day relaxing and just enjoying the view with no pressure of any kind. Except the fact that we were constantly asked to take pictures with the locals.