Beijing – the Forbidden City

“Beijing – förbjudna staden” was first published on my Swedish Blog.


So, I finally got to do my visit no 2 in the Forbidden City, the other day when I tried I’d forgotten my passport – and no, that’s not possible anymore! You have to get registered! So many safety controls too in the city on your way to both Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. Crazy! I passed through 3 of them!

Somehow they didn’t seem all that interested in me though, I didn’t get to show my passport, nor did they scan me further when the alarm went off… apparently the Swedish tourist wasn’t that big of a deal… she looked like an honest one! 🙂



The first time I visited the Forbidden City was in December 1994, after Pernilla and I had taken the Trans-Mongolian railway to Beijing. It was icy cold, and we’d been shopping a whole heap of winter clothes, hence the reason I thought it would be somewhat cooler now, and not complete summer! I brought totally wrong clothes for this!


Because Pernilla suggested before we left home we’d only bring 1 film roll for a journey of 4 months, I’d hardly need to mention I didn’t take that many photos of the Forbidden City (I might add here though, she didn’t get the last word, but still, I don’t have too many photos of my first backpacker trip). I had planned to rectify this.


Below you see all of the photos I/we took of the Forbidden City in 1994:


The Forbidden City was however much larger than I remembered, so I didn’t get to see it all this time, there wasn’t enough time, since I’d entered only 2 hours before closing, just to avoid all the tourist groups! However, that was completely pointless, and I’m very disappointed it was so crowded! I’ll have to make another visit this week. I live so close, so there’s really no excuse…


What is the Forbidden City and why is it forbidden?


Ming emperor Yongle, was a self proclaimed emperor, and son of the founder of the Ming dynasty: emperor Hongwu. Since Yongle’s mother was a concubine, Yongle himself was never handed the power, thus Yongle had a hard time accepting he wasn’t the rightful heir, so he simply grabbed the power and kept it. He had difficulties getting support in the current capital Nanjing, so he moved his capital to Beijing, and the plans for his new palace: The Forbidden City (故宫; Gùgōng) was ready in 1406, the foundation laid in 1417 and the mighty palace stood ready in 1420, with the help of 1 million workers!


The Forbidden City, which is called “forbidden” because back in the day regular human beings wasn’t allowed inside, was inaugurated on New Year’s Day in 1421 and after this, 24 emperors ruled from this palace until the fall of the Qing dynasty in 1911. It was the emperor’s home and palace and place of rule – all in one, originally contained 999 buildings with 9999 rooms; according to Chinese numerology 9 is the most perfect number, but today the palace only houses 9371 rooms! Well, I guess that’s enough… 🙂


The Forbidden City is surface-wise the largest palace in the world.


Through the years the Forbidden City has been affected by more than 50 fires, but they always rebuilt what’s been burnt down. 1644 with the fall of the Ming empire, large parts of the palace were burned down, and it took 100 years to rebuild them. I feel amazed over such devotion to rebuild something you will never see finished.


1923, 120 rooms burned down in the last fire, and they weren’t completely rebuilt until 2000. That means that parts of the palace wasn’t rebuilt the last time I was there, but it’s nothing I have a memory of. Unfortunately. It might’ve been in parts closed to the public, too, since only 76% of the palace is open, but there are plans to open up 80% of the palace in 2020!


1987 the Forbidden City was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and today the palace has 14 million visitors per year, and sometimes as many as 100 000 per day!


forbidden city


Hall of Supreme Harmony December 1994 (above) vs September 2017 (below)


forbidden city


I just lounged around this powerful palace, breathing in the atmosphere, which was a little hard at times, due to all the noisy groups everywhere. I hope indeed I will get another visit, with a smaller crowd before I go back to Sweden; someone says: “visit in the morning” and another one says: “visit in the afternoon” – like your everyday Chinese people – you have no idea what is really true… so now I’ve tried the afternoon, so next time I guess I’ll try early morning!


I might even wait until December to see, there might be less tourists then!



I will however, remember to bring my own food next time I’ll pay another visit to the Forbidden City, since all you could buy was chips, rice cookies, muffins and a lot of other crap. I got hold of a fluffy, sweet piece of bread and some Coke – that was my lunch! Not very Chinese, although when I’m hungry I prefer white bread and not Pringles…


forbidden city


Another comparison above: me with my sword in 1994 among all the taxis vs no motor vehicles in 2017


I’ll leave you with a few more views of this magical place…





4 thoughts on “Beijing – the Forbidden City

  1. Its such an amazing place and the history of it its just so fascinating..and strange.. 😉
    I remember I ate (questionable – like all other food in china) crisps all day there as well..


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