One of the Three Great Halls, this is the most important and largest structure in the Forbidden City. Built in the 15th century and restored in the 17th century, it was used for ceremonial occasions, such as the emperor’s birthday, coronations and the nomination of military leaders.

In its time, the Hall of Supreme Harmony was the tallest building in Beijing – nothing was allowed to be built higher (although the Drum and Bell Towers were actually taller). It sits atop a three-tiered marble platform mimicking the Chinese character for king (王, wáng).

Inside the hall is a richly decorated Dragon Throne (龙椅, Lóngyǐ), from which the emperor would preside over trembling officials. The entire court had to touch the floor nine times with their foreheads (the custom known as kowtowing) in the emperor’s presence. At the back of the throne is a carved Xumishan, the Buddhist paradise, signifying the throne’s supremacy. Today you can only view it from the outside, if you muscle your way close enough through the throng of onlookers.

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1. Three Great Halls

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Raised on a three-tier marble terrace with balustrades are the Three Great Halls, the glorious ceremonial heart not just of the Forbidden City but of the…

2. Hall of Central Harmony

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Behind the Hall of Supreme Harmony is the Hall of Central Harmony, which was used as the emperor’s transit lounge. Here he would make last-minute…

3. 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…

5. 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…

6. Gate of Supreme Harmony

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Originally built in 1420, the Gate of Supreme Harmony is the main gate of the Forbidden City's outer court. It was used by the emperor for his morning…

7. Gallery of Clocks

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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…

8. Forbidden City

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Enclosed by 3.5km of citadel walls at the very heart of Beijing, the Unesco-listed Forbidden City is China’s largest and best-preserved collection of…