The Gallery of Clocks is one of the unmissable highlights of the Forbidden City. Relocated from the Hall for Ancestral Worship in 2018 (in order that the hall can be restored), it's now housed in buildings just to the south. The exhibition contains an astonishing array of elaborate timepieces, many of which were gifts to the Qing emperors from overseas.

Several of the 18th-century examples were crafted by James Cox or Joseph Williamson (both of London) and imported through Guangdong from England; others are from Switzerland, America and Japan. Exquisitely wrought and fashioned with magnificently designed elephants and other creatures, they all display astonishing artfulness and attention to detail. Standout clocks include the Gilt Copper Astronomy Clock, equipped with a working model of the solar system, and the automaton-equipped Gilt Copper Clock, with a robot writing Chinese characters with a brush.

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Nearby attractions

1. Hall for Ancestral Worship

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The hall where emperors worshipped their ancestors (under restoration at time of research). Once held the spirit tablets of deceased Qing emperors.

2. Nine Dragon Screen

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The Nine Dragon Screen, a 5m-tall, 27m-wide spirit wall, is one of three such screens in China. It's a spectacular composition of coiling dragons picked…

3. Treasure Gallery

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In the northeastern corner of the complex is the Treasure Gallery (or Complete Palace of Peace and Longevity, 宁寿全宫, Níng Shǒu Quán Gōng), a…

4. Hall of Imperial Supremacy


The main hall of the Palace of Tranquil Longevity (宁寿宫, Níng Shǒu Gōng) built around 1771 for Qing emperor Qianlong's retirement, though he never moved in…

5. Palace of Prolonging Happiness


The most unique of the Forbidden City's six eastern palaces, the Palace of Prolonging Happiness features an unfinished 20th-century Western-style building…

6. Hall of Preserving Harmony

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The third of the Great Halls is the Hall of Preserving Harmony, used for banquets and later for imperial examinations. Descending from the rear of the…

7. Palace of Great Benevolence

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One of the six eastern palaces in the Forbidden City, this was a residence of imperial concubines. Emperor Kangxi, most exalted of the Qing emperors (or…

8. Gate of Heavenly Purity

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The Gate of Heavenly Purity was the main portal between the outer and inner courts of the Forbidden City. Note the pair of gilded bronze lions guarding…