Lonely Planet Writer

Forbidden City in Beijing to tear down modern buildings to preserve its ancient architecture

The Palace Museum in Beijing will soon be getting a new look, or rather an old look, as officials have ordered all modern buildings in the complex to be torn down. The palace, more commonly known as the Forbidden City, is a complex of ancient buildings that once served as the emperor’s residence and was the heart of imperial Chinese rule. In the coming three years, the museum plans to tear down all modern buildings within the complex, which are currently used as warehouses and office space.

The Forbidden City, Beijing.
The Forbidden City, Beijing. Image by IQRemix / CC BY-SA 2.0

According to the South China Morning Post, the museum’s curator, Shan Jixiang said, “The Palace Museum is spending the next three years making sure the Forbidden City has only ancient architecture, without a single building of ­modern construction to affect its ambience.” As part of this plan, nearly 15,000 sq m of modern and prefab buildings will be torn down, and offices will be moved offsite to other locations.

The Forbidden City, Beijing.
The Forbidden City, Beijing. Image by Bridget Coila / CC BY-SA 2.0

The removal of modern buildings comes as part of the museum’s larger plan to open more of its historic areas up to visitors this year, in preparation for the palace’s 600th anniversary in 2020. By the end of the year, the palace expects to have more than three quarters of its total 160,000 sq m of historic space open to the public. In June of last year, the Forbidden City announced that it would limit daily visitor numbers in an effort to better protect the relics and architecture within the complex, as well as make the visitor experience more pleasant. At its busiest, in the past, the Forbidden City has seen up to 100,000 visitors in one day, though numbers are limited to 80,000 under the new scheme.