Forbidden City

Obama in Forbidden City
At the heart of China's capital city of Beijing lies the Forbidden City. The sprawling 7,800,000 square foot complex served as the main Imperial palace for five hundred years, from the Ming dynasty until the end of the Qing dynasty. It has been a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987 and contains the largest collection of ancient wooden structures to exist.

The Forbidden City contains more than nine hundred surviving buildings dating back to the fifteenth century, when Emperor Zhu Di moved the capital of the Ming Dynasty and began construction of this opulent palace. From about 1429 until 1912, the Forbidden City was the center of government and politics for all of Imperial China. Since the eviction of Puyi, the last emperor, the complex has been more of a cultural and artistic depository, with much of its space given over to museums, gardens, and other tourist attractions.

There are two main sections which make up the Forbidden City, the Inner Court at the north end and the Outer Court to the south. The complex is surrounded by a high wall, which allows access through o­ne of four gates. The Meridian gate leads to the outer court, which was used for ceremonial purposes and special events. The Gate of Divine Might opens directly o­nto the inner court, which was the location of the imperial residences and everyday governmental workings. The other two gates are called the East and West Glorious Gates.

Gate of Heavenly Peace
The structures found in the Forbidden City showcase the intricate wooden architecture created by the best builders Imperial China had to offer. Here o­ne can see the traditional palatial architecture that has influenced many other cultures throughout the East. Modern day visitors can view artwork and archaeological treasures from the Ming dynasty period and even earlier in the Palace Museum, which contains o­ne of the largest collections in Asia.