The Forbidden City was the Chinese imperial palace from the Ming Dynasty to the end of the Qing Dynasty. It is located in the middle of Beijing, China, and now houses the Palace Museum.
For almost five centuries, it served as the home of the Emperor and his household, as well as the ceremonial and political centre of Chinese government. Built from 1406 to 1420, the complex consists of 980 surviving buildings with 8,707 bays of rooms and covers 720,000 square metres (7,800,000 square feet).
The palace complex exemplifies traditional Chinese palatial architecture, and has influenced cultural and architectural developments in East Asia and elsewhere. The Forbidden City was declared a World Heritage Site in 1987, and is listed by UNESCO as the largest collection of preserved ancient wooden structures in the world.
Since 1924, the Forbidden City has been under the charge of the Palace Museum, whose extensive collection of artwork and artefacts were built upon the imperial collections of the Ming and Qing dynasties. Part of the museum's former collection is now located in the National Palace Museum in Taipei. Both museums descend from the same institution, but were split after the Chinese Civil War.
There are four entrance gates: the Meridian Gate (Wumen) to the south, the Gate of Divine Prowess (Shenwumen) to the north, the Eastern Flowery Gate (Donghuamen) to the east and the Western Flowery Gate (Xihuamen) to the west. The largest and best preserved group of ancient buildings in China today, its more than 9,000 rooms covers some 150,000 square meters. A 10meterhigh wall and moat more than 52 meters wide run six kilometers around the perimeter.
A visit to the Palace Museum begins at the Meridian Gate (Wumen) in the south. Passage through the central opening was formerly restricted to the emperor whereas the two side openings served civil and military officials as well as imperial clansmen. An excursion to offer sacrifices at the Temple of Heaven or Altar of Earth was heralded at the gate by bells, which to the Imperial Ancestral Temple was announced by drums.