9 Things You Didn’t Know About The Forbidden City in Beijing

The Forbidden City (Zi Jin Cheng) was the luxurious palace of the royal families in dynastic China. It is now more commonly known as Gu Gong (meaning “ancient palace”), and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987. If you haven’t yet visited this gem, you better get to it!

Here are 9 fascinating facts about the Forbidden City:

forbidden city

The Gu Gong is a magnificent sight to behold. How did the ancient people build such an architectural masterpiece?

#1 It’s super big. No, really.

Spans 1,600,000 sq ft, which is the size of about 28 football fields!

#2 It’s also really old.

Construction began in 1406, which makes the palace 611 years old this year!


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#3 So naturally, it is the “Largest Ancient Palace In The World”.

Yup. It’s even in the Guinness World Records. No wonder it took 1 million labourers and 14 years to complete!

forbidden city

Pictured: The emperor’s throne.

#4 It was also an impressive fortress!

The defensive walls are 10m high and 3,430m in circumference. That’s not all. There are also watchtowers at every corner, which served to give the ancient soldiers a good vantage point in war.

#5 Of course, it needed to protect 24 emperors in total.

Emperors from the Ming and Qing dynasties (1363 to 1911) called the Forbidden City their home.

#6 It could literally house a city.

Within the compound, there are 90 palaces and courtyards, 980 buildings, and 8,704 rooms!


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#7 Its Chinese name “Zi Jin Cheng” is after the North Star.

It was believed that the emperors are sons of the Heavens, where there is a “Purple Palace” (also called “Ziwei Star” and North Star).

#8 Even the emperor in Disney’s Mulan lived in the Forbidden City.

Even if you haven’t visited it, the Gu Gong probably looks familiar. It is the often depicted in Chinese period dramas, and was featured in Disney’s 1998 Mulan film adaptation. The 1987 movie The Last Emperor is the first film to get approval from the Chinese authorities to film in the actual historical site.

forbidden city

Did you know?
The popular Peking Duck originates from ancient China, and was an imperial dish as well!

#9 You Can Have “Imperial Cuisine” There

Nearby, there are many restaurants that specialise in imperial cuisine, which consists of the dishes that were prepared for the ancient royal family. For the most authentic taste, splurge on a meal at Family Li Imperial Cuisine (2km from the Forbidden City, at 11 Yangfang Hutong). The recipes are passed down from Li Zijia, who served Empress Dowager Cixi and was in charge of the royal meals. His grandson currently runs the establishment.

NOTE: The restaurant only serves 10 people a day, and have a fixed menu. Reservation is required (tel: 010-66180107).

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