The Imperial Palace is increasingly being devoted to museum space – so much so that it arguably constitutes the best museum in China. The numerous buildings spreading out from the Forbidden City’s central axis house a variety of fascinating permanent and temporary exhibitions of Chinese and international historical artefacts and treasures (check what’s on at www.dpm.org.cn); you’ll find a map showing their location on the back of your entrance ticket.
The Treasure Gallery
In buildings surrounding the Hall of Supremacy (¥10). Gold, silver, pearl and jade items demonstrating the wealth, majesty and luxury of imperial life.
Hall of Clocks
(¥10). This hall, always a favourite, displays the result of one Qing emperor’s passion for liberally ornamented Baroque timepieces, most of which are English and French, though the rhino-sized water clock by the entrance is Chinese. There’s even one with a mechanical scribe who can write eight characters. Some clocks are wound to demonstrate their workings at 11am and 2pm.
Hall of Literary Brilliance (free). A wonderful, air-cooled selection of fine pots, statues and porcelain treasures; keep an eye out for the Ming and Qing vases.
Painting and Calligraphy Gallery
Hall of Martial Valour (free). Pieces demonstrating the art, skill and beauty of artists and literary aesthetics.
Palace of Accumulated Purity (free). A selection of intricate jade objects from the Imperial Court.
Gold and Silver Gallery
Palace of Great Brilliance (free). Precious religious, decorative, dress and sacrificial items.
Hall for Viewing Opera (free). Fascinating display of all the finery of the Chinese opera.