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The Forbidden City

The Forbidden City

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Arguably the most iconic sight in Beijing, the Forbidden City stands majestically in the centre of the city, the symbolic heart of Beijing. The Forbidden City's history dates back to the early 15th century and was constructed under the direction of the Ming Dynasty's Yongle Emperor as a residence for the Emperors after the capital was moved to Beijing.

From 1420 to 1912, the Forbidden City was the imperial seat of the Ming and Qing Emperors. Access to the palace grounds was prohibited to all but members of the royal court, on punishment of death, hence why the city is 'forbidden'. After the abdication of Puyi - the last Emperor of China - the Forbidden City was open to the public and in 1925, the Palace Museum was established within its grounds. In 1987, the Forbidden City was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Forbidden City covers an area of 180 acres and consists of 980 buildings. The style of the Forbidden City is typical of Chinese palatial architecture, with bilateral symmetry, construction from wood and use of gold and red imperial colours. There is also a clear reference to dragons in the Forbidden City, with the dragon representing the Emperor.

There are many buildings located in the Forbidden City with some of the most famous including the Hall of Supreme Harmony, the largest structure in the Forbidden City used for ceremonial occasions; the Hall of Mental Cultivation, from where the Emperors ruled; and the Hall of Preserving Harmony, where the Emperor would hold banquets for esteemed guests. There is also an Imperial Garden located within the Forbidden City, which was a private retreat for the Emperor's family and is typical of Chinese garden style.

The Forbidden City, like Buckingham Palace in the UK, is the central heart of Beijing's royal history in China and is at the forefront of Chinese imperial architecture in Beijing.

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