Gallery of Clocks

Forbidden City & Dongcheng Central

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.