How to Spend Your Day in the Palace Museum?

So I spent a day tour here, exploring the world’s largest palace complex. As mentioned in my previous post, there are 3 major routes you can do the tour. My whole day is reserved for this lovely palace, I fully engaged myself to find out the hidden gems. Alright, I did not exactly follow the recommended routes, skipping some places as the palace is sooooo big that you can’t really finish exploring each complex in one day. Here’s my one day adventure for your reference.

1. Meridian Gate (午门 wu3 men2)

It is the south entrance. Buy your ticket here and rent an audio guide if you wish to. Then, you are going to explore the Outer Court of the palace.


Outer Court 

2. Inner Golden Water Bridge (内金水桥 nei3 jin1 shui3 qiao2)

Passing through the Meridian Gate, you will soon get to see the Inner Golden Water Bridge. There are a total of five bridges crossing the water and the one in the middle was reserved for the emperor.


The water originated in Baifu Quan (白浮泉 bai2 fu2 quan2), flowing through lake, traveled in canals and into the palace.P1060771

3. Gate of Supreme Harmony (太和门 tai4 he2 men2)

Cross the bridge and reach the Gate of Supreme Harmony. This was the place where morning audience was held by the emperor. It is also the largest gate in the palace.


There stands also a pair of cast bronze lions, the male is portrayed with a ball under his paw while the female has a cub with her.  P1060778

4. Hall of Supreme Harmony (太和殿 tai4 he2 dian4)

Walk straight and you will get to see the Hall of Supreme Harmony with two small gates flanking it on the right and left. Take note to the both sides of the roof, there stands little figures in odd number which believed to protect the building from fire.


This was the largest ball in the palace for major ceremonies, such as the enthronement of an emperor. Hardly got his photo shot as tourists were pushing each other, tourist is not allowed to go in. P1060796

There are copper and iron vats which used for fire-fighting in the palace. They were filled with water to be used to douse fires. A total of 308 vats were placed in the palace.


The carving on door reflects Chinese mythology that dragon was the symbol of the Emperor. You will get to see dragons everywhere.


5. Hall of Central Harmony (中和殿 zhong1 he2 dian3)

Head straight to the Hall of Central Harmony after that, a place where the emperor rests before attending official ceremonies.


 The hall was used for making last minute adjustments to the emperor clothing and accouterments.


A big compound with cascading terraces.


6. Hall of Preserving Harmony (保和殿 bao3 he2 dian4)

This hall marks the last of 3 main palaces of the Outer Court. Emperors came here to don the ceremonial robes for rites and formal occasions.


During the Qing dynasty, the emperor held banquets here. It was also used as a banquet hall for foreign missions which brought tribute.

P1060819Dragons, dragons and dragons.


Inner Court

7. Office of the Ground Council of State (军机处 jun1 ji1 chu4)

Follow the route and you will come to the Office of the Ground Council of State. Ministers used to discuss key issues with the emperor here.

P1060830You may see abandoned complex as well.


8. Hall of Mental Cultivation (养心殿) yang3 xin1 dian4

Then, you will get to the Hall of Mental Cultivation. Eight emperors of the Qing dynasty lived here.


The unrestored plaque.


A lot of ornaments and relics can be found here.


The living style of the imperial family can bee seen here.

P1060854 P1060859

The walkway that linked to another palace. There are several palaces in the western route you will pass by, named the Six Western Palaces – Palace of Eternal Longevity (永寿宫 yong3 shou4 gong4), Hall of Supreme Principle (太极殿 tai4 ji2 dian4), Palace of Eternal Spring (长春宫 chang2 chun1 gong1), Palace of Earthly Honor (翊坤宫 yi4 kun1 gong1), Palace of Gathered Elegance (储秀宫 chu3 xiu4 gong1) and Palace of Universal Happiness (咸福宫 xian2 fu2 gong1).


9. Palace of Gathered Elegance (储秀宫 处 chu3 xiu4 gong1)

A special remark here, it was the place where Empress Dowager Cixi (慈禧 ci2 xi1) lived when she was a low ranking concubine.


Perhaps this was the sleeping quarter.


Now, the palace turned into a gallery to exhibit the life of the last emperor Pu Yi (溥仪 pu3 yi2).


Documents recording the canonization of Empress Wanrong (婉容 wan3 rong2), the last empress of China.


10. Imperial Garden (御花园 yu4 hua1 yuan2)

Apparently it was the garden for the imperial family to appreciate the scenery and amused themselves. It is the oldest and largest garden in the Forbidden City. One more note, girls were selected here for the emperor’s harem during the Qing dynasty.


11. Palace of Earthly Tranquility (坤宁宮 kun1 ning2 gong1)

Next, you will pass through the Palace of Earthly Tranquility. During the Ming dynasty, the palace was the main living quarters for the empress. The palace then turned into a bridal chamber. The imperial couples only spent a couple of nights here.


12. Hall of Union (交泰殿 jiao1 tai4 dian4)

A place that held celebrations of the lunar new year, winter solstice and the birthday of the empress during the Qing dynasty.


13. Palace of Heavenly Purity (乾清宮 qian2 qing1 gong1)

The palace was first the main residence for the emperors but then converted into a place where emperors took care of state affairs and political issues. P1060980

Do not miss the sundial (日晷 ri4 gui3) located in front of the palace. It worked as a time teller during both Ming and Qing dynasties.


The throne was set behind a desk for emperor to review documents.P1060975

13. Nine Dragon Screen (九龙壁 jiu3 long2 bi4)

There are nine dragons on the wall, hence it was named. The purpose of building the wall is to provide privacy by blocking the view through the Gate of Imperial Supremacy (皇极门 huang2 ji2 men2) into the Palace of Tranquil Longevity (宁寿宫 ning2 shou4 gong1). Each dragon represents different character. P1060992 14. Pavilion of Pleasant Sounds (畅音阁 chang4 yin1 ge2)

Skipping some palaces and head to this biggest theater constructed with a three-story opera stage that can hold 1,000 people. The imperial family went for theater here.


The opera script.


The comfortable seat to view the play.


15. Garden of the Palace of Peace and Longevity (宁寿宫花园 ning2 shou4 gong1 hua1 yuan2)

This garden was the imperial garden for Emperor Qianlong (乾隆 qian2 long2) after his abdication.


The original condition of the plaque.


16. Well of Concubine Zhen (珍妃井 zhen1 fei1 jing3)

It was said that the beloved concubine Zhen (珍妃 zhen1 fei1) of the Guangxu (光绪 guang1 xu4) Emperor was thrown into and drowned in this well. There is a mourning chamber for her right beside the well.


According to the history, her corpse was salvaged the next year and buried.


17. Gate of Divine Prowess (神武门 shen2 wu3 men2)

After walking by the long wall path and passing some halls, you will reach to the north gate, it marks the end of your adventure.


 The north gate is also another entrance to the palace.


18. Jingshan Park (景山公园 jing3 shan1 gong1 yuan2)

Once you exit the north gate, cross the road and get up to the hill for a panoramic view of the palace and Beijing city. There lies an elaborate pavilion on the top of the peak.
Mission accomplished.
As it is learned, the last emperor of the Ming Dynasty Chongzhen (崇祯 chong2 zhen1) hanged himself here under an old Chinese Scholar-tree at the foot of the hill.

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