Forbidden City is the European name for the Beijing residence of the Chinese Emperors, their families, and courts. This term is not used in China. Today the Imperial residence is referred to simply as the Gugong, the Old Palace.

The exterior of the Forbidden City is truly 'forbidding'. The compound is entirely enclosed by high stone walls and entered through a series of massive stone gatehouses. The architectural style is typical of old Beijing, being very different from that of South China.

The main entrance of the Forbidden City is the Tian'anmen (Gate of Heavenly Peace) which is on the north side of Chang'an Avenue. On the south side is Tiananmen Square, which is at the heart of Beijing.

Strictly speaking the the apostrophe in Tian'anmen is needed to ensure the word is pronounced correctly as Tian-an-men, not Tia-nan-men, but most Western sources usually omit it, ie, Tiananmen.

At the north side of the Forbidden City enclosure is an exit which leads to Bei Hai (North Lake) Public Park. Original this was a private park and part of the Imperial residence.

The Forbidden City and Bei Hai are both now open to the public and Bei Hai lake is a popular spot to relax on a Beijing Sunday.

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