After visiting Beihai Park and the Temple of Heaven as well as the New Summer Palace, I wanted to visit the Forbidden City together with a friend. We arrived with the subway close to the southern end of Tiananmen Square and were quite surprised by the heavy security measures. Each visitor was screened and bags were x-rayed before they were allowed on the square. You even had to prove that the water in your water bottles was drinkable!
First, we passed the modern monuments including the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong, the Great Hall of the People, and the National Museum of China with their colossal architecture. Finally, we stood in front of the Gate of Heavenly Peace with the iconic painting of Chairman Mao still in place. In contrast to my earlier visits in 2007 and 2008, it was not possible to enter the Forbidden City through this gate. A huge military parade was planned in commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Chinese victory in the Second Wold War and consequently whole areas at the northern end of Tiananmen Square were fenced off where tribunes were erected. Despite the scorching heat, we had to turn back and take a long detour before entering the Forbidden City via Zhongshan Park.
The Forbidden City was as majestic as during my earlier visits, but I had the feeling that nowadays even more sections of the palace grounds were accessible. The alleyways and courtyards in the northeast were particularly nice – especially because the numbers of visitors were much less compared to the major halls. Unfortunately, our visit was cut short by the early closing time and together with thousands of other tourists we were gently asked to leave the museum.
Because it was still too early for dinner, we crossed the street from the Forbidden City’s north gate and entered Jingshan Park. The centrepoint of this beautiful garden is an artificial hill formed from the material excavated during the construction of the palace moats. Nowadays, it offers splendid views across the Forbidden City as well as the rest of Beijing. Especially in the evening hours, it is well worth a visit for its quiet atmosphere and to observe the sunset.
After four days of Beijing’s crazy citylife, we took the chance to leave the chaos behind and hike amidst the solitude of China’s Great Wall. You can read about it here! 🙂