Xidi Village is an original and well preserved traditional Chinese village that features Anhui-style architecture dating to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and 3,611 Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). It was founded in the Northern Song Dynasty Huangyou Period (960-1127) and further developed in the middle of the Ming Dynasty and early Qing Dynasty era.
Xidi is located in Yixian County of Anhui and many regard it as one of the most beautiful villages in the world featuring over 300 Ming and Qing dynasty residences along with its classical streets and laneways.
Xidi Village Highlights
Hu Wenguang Memorial Archway
The decorated archway featuring depictions of the Eight Immortals was built during the Ming dynasty (1368 – 1644) in memory of Hu Wenguang, a Ming officer.
Da Fu Grand House
A Hu family residence. It was built in the Kangxi Period of Qing Dynasty (1691
Featuring main hall, front hall, and a study room that dates back the Yongzheng Period of Qing Dynasty (1724 A.D.)
A classical Suzhou style garden that was built in the fourth year of Daoguang Period of Qing Dynasty (1824 A.D.).
Chinese Name: 西递村古建筑群
UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site
National 5A rated attraction
Location: Yi County, Anhui
Open Hours: 08:00~18:00
Tickets: 104 Yuan per person
Visiting Xidi Village
Time: between 4-6 hours
The main road runs in an east-west direction and is flanked by two parallel streets. Getting into the village, you’ll see Lingyun Attic, Hu Wenguang’s Memorial Archway, Ruiyu Courtyard, Taoli Garden, East Garden, West Garden, Dafu Grand Hall, Jing’ai Hall, Lvfu Hall, Qingyun Pavilion, Yingfu Hall, Dujing Hall, Yanggao Hall, Shangde Hall, etc. Following the main zig-zaggy road from west to east and you’ll explore all the essentials of Xidi Ancient Village.
Huangshan Maofeng Tea – is one of China’s ten famous teas.
Laba Toufu (bean curd) – a famous specialty of the region that even has a festival in its honor. Noted for its chewiness and saltiness.
Salted Mandarin Fish – local fresh fish that is preserved using the salt technique that dates back over two hundred years.
Getting to Xidi Village
From Yixian: Yixian Bus Station has services to Xidi Ancient Village. A taxi will only take around 14 minutes and 20 RMB.
From Hongcun Village to Xidi Village: Sightseeing buses depart from the South Lake Parking Lot at 08:00, 09:00, 10:00, 11:00, 13:00, 14:00, 15:00 and 16:00. It takes about 20 minutes from Hongcun to Xidi.
From Huangshan downtown area to Xidi: Sightseeing buses are available in Huangshan/Tunxi Bus Station (黄山汽车站). Buses run from 8:00-16:00.
From Tangkou (Mt. Huangshan) to Xidi: There is a bus station located in Mount Huangshan Front Gate. Buses depart from 10:00 and 15:30. Travel time is around 1 hour. Alternatively, you should be able to take a taxi which takes around 45 minutes and costs around 100 RMB.
Stay in Xidi Village
There is limited accommodation so be sure to book in advance especially during holiday periods.
In the village
Muran Guesthouse – Foreign visitor friendly. A classical courtyard style with modern fittings. Located in the village.
In Huangshan/Tunxi Downtown
Crowne Plaza – Outside of peak holiday times you can get amazing rates at this five-star branded hotel.
Huazhu Chenguangli River View – settled within an ancient Hui style building with a modern fit-out the guest house offers English speaking staff and restaurant.
The Presidential Palace could be thought of as Nanjing’s version of the Forbidden City in Beijing with it once being home to ancient emperors and later political leaders. The palace was also the base for Dr. Sat Yun Sen when he led the Kuomintang party to power in China.
Officially, it is now called the China Modern History Museum yet its history dates back to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) when it functioned as a royal palace. It was taken over during the Taiping Rebellion and for ten or more years it served as a base for that revolutions leaders until the Qing government reclaimed Nanjing in 1864. It was also the KMT’s (Kuomintang) headquarters from 1927 to 1949 from which it ruled the country until Mao Zedong and the CCP took over control and declared Beijing as the capital once again.
All of that is a very long story, but one can understand, this place has a played a very special part in what were defining periods in China’s history.
Inside of the walls, you can still find the imperial palaces and gardens built many years ago and also buildings added in the 1930’s that housed the revolutionary government.
Inside the rooms of the several original buildings are interesting displays, such as the emperor’s throne, moving into the newer buildings the many rooms are filled with displays of artifacts, photos and storyboards of the then revolutionary government that led China from 1911 to 1949.
There’s also the former home of Dr. Sat Yun Sen to wander through, and the many nooks and crannies of the garden shouldn’t be missed as it’s hard to beat a garden built that was originally built for an emperor. Especially a garden that features a mini-lake with a boat made of stone.
Alongside the Presidential Palace is whats known as 1912 (南京1912街区), a cluster of charming old buildings now packed with bars and eateries (Chinese/Western). You can find a Starbucks and Costa Coffee here, several bars and night spots, hot pot restaurant, Pizza Hut, KFC.
Across the street is the Nanjing Library (南京图书馆) which is actually at exit 5 of the subway station so take a peek before you head over to the palace, and a few minutes walk away is the Jiangsu Art Museum (江苏省美术馆), across from which is the Six Dynasties Museum (六朝博物馆).
The Ming Tombs in Beijing is a massive area featuring mausoleums for 13 of the 16 Ming Dynasty Emperors, also buried at the site are empresses and concubines of the era. Only a couple of the tombs have been excavated, many are still sealed awaiting the progress of technology to provide a means of preserving everything that is inside once they open the tomb.
On my first visit, I was still feeling pretty ordinary from a bout of travel exhaustion so I chose to join a tour group to see the Great Wall rather than go through all the challenges of how to get there and back. I asked the tour desk at the hotel and they got me into a tour the next morning (Later in the post I am going to include all the details you need to do a self-guided tour of the tombs).
A minibus picked me up from the hotel early in the morning and off we went, all three of us, a grand total of five including the driver! Cool, this could be OK! First stop was the Ming Tombs.
It’s another display of China’s history and the extravagant life of its former emperors. The guided tour rushed through this area and I wish I could have explored the area more, but this is an organised tour, and the tombs are spread out over a very large area, also I think was the ‘there it is, ok, let’s go’ version of a Ming Tombs tour. I suggest a much better experience is to be had by charting your own course and the info below will enable you to do such.
The other problem with guided tours is the stops at shopping halls where the guides will earn a commision from anything you buy, so, be wary of low-priced tour tickets.
Of the 13 tombs, only three are open to the public being Dingling Tomb, Zhaoling Tomb, and the Changling Tomb. The other essential site is the Sacred Way which leads to tombs.
The Whole Ming Tombs Site Overview
Of the 13 tombs, only three are open to the public being
Dingling Tomb – mausoleum of Emperor Zhu Yijun and his two empresses, Empress Xiaoduan and Empress Xiaojing. Featuring marble stone bridges, Wailuo Wall, courtyards, kitchens and storerooms (for the afterlife), Ling’en Palace, engraved stone road, Lingxing Gate and the tomb itself. Here you will find the underground palace and perhaps the key sight of the whole area being the only unearthed tomb.
Zhaoling Tomb – mausoleum of Emperor Zhu Zaihou and his three empresses, don’t miss the stone turtle.
Changling Tomb – mausoleum of Emperor Zhu Di and Empress Xu. A highlight here is the Blessing and Grace Palace being made from Camphor and sitting on top of three levels of white marble. It also contains many artifacts and a lifelike bronze statue of the emperor.
The 13 Ming Tombs and their emperors
Here is something interesting about Chinese emperors, they had a convention of naming their reign as if to give it a theme or slogan. For example, Zhu Di who ruled from 1402 to 1424 named himself the Yong Le emperor, Yong Le translating to perpetual happiness.
Changling Tomb (open to public) – Emperor Yong Le, Zhu Di (1360 – 1424)
Sometimes referred to as the Spirit Way or Divine Road. It is symbolic in that it represents the path to heaven. It also incorporates Feng Shui, as does the entire site, with the road being on a North-South axis. The Stone Archway is one of the first built in China and also the largest. Through the Palace Gate, and further along, you will find the Stele Pavilion, featuring a giant turtle with an inscribed stele. The stele holds a tribute to the Yong Le Emporer (Zhu Di), and record of tombs including costs, and also a record of why the Ming Dynasty fell. Further along is the sacred way, featuring stone pillars and stone sculptures of officials, lions, haetae, qilins, horses, camels, and elephants. Then through the Lonfeng gate over the bridge and the road leads to the Changling Tomb of the Yong Le Emperor (Zhu Di).
Key Sights of the Entrance & The Sacred Way
I. Stone archway
II. Great Palace Gate
III. Stele Pavilion
IV. Sacred Way
V. Longfeng Gate (Dragon and Phoenix Gate)
Ming Tombs Location Map Beijing
Ming Tombs Open Hours
Low Season Nov 1 – March 31
Peak Season April 1- Oct 31
Dingling (定陵 )
AM 8:30－PM 5:00
AM 8:00－PM 5:30
Changling (长陵 )
AM 8:30－PM 4:30
AM 8:00－PM 5:00
AM 8:30－PM 5:00
AM 8:00－PM 5:30
Sacred Way (神路)
AM 8:30－PM 4:30
AM 8:30－PM 5:30
Ming Tombs Entrance Fees
Apr. – Oct.
Nov. – Mar.
Getting to the Ming Tombs
Address: Ming Tombs ( 明十三陵) Changchi Rd, Changping Qu, Beijing
Take subway Changping Line to Changping Dongguan station (昌平东关) from where you’ll need to take a bus or taxi. See here for a Beijing Subway Map
Public Bus from Subway Station
To visit the Stone Archway
From Changping Dongguan station (昌平东关) take bus 67 to 石牌坊 bus stop. After visiting the Stone Archway, catch bus 32 or 67 to the next stop Dagonmen bus stop 大宫门 which is the Great Palace Gate. From there you can walk to the Stele Pavilion, and continue walking along the Sacred Way, at the end of which is Changping Huzhuang stop (昌平胡庄) and you can catch the 314 bus to Changling stop (长陵) or Dingling stop (定陵).
A taxi from central Beijing to the Ming Tombs area ( 明十三陵) would take around 70 minutes in travel time and cost around 140 RMB. You could also negotiate with the driver as to how much to shuttle you around the different sections and return home.
Taxi from Subway Station
Alternatively, you can go to Ming Tombs Station (十三陵景区) on the Changping Line and take a taxi from the subway station. Some people have reported lots of touts working here quoting high prices and even taking people to showrooms. You may be better to get off at the prior station being Changping (昌平) and get a real taxi as it’s on a main road.
For example, the taxi fare from the subway station to the Great Palace Gate should be around 25 RMB. From the subway station to the Changling Tomb in a taxi should be around 35 RMB. Here are the Chinese names for the driver.
Stone Archway – 石牌坊
Great Palace Gate – 大宫门
Stele Pavilion – 长陵神功圣德碑亭
Sacred Way – 明十三陵·神路
Dingling – 定陵
Changling – 长陵
Zhaoling – 昭陵
Where to Stay in Beijing?
One of my top picks for places to stay is the Sofu Hotel, which has a small food street near its door, it’s four-star, and is a very short walk to Ping’anli Station which gives you access to Line 4 and 6. Another choice is the Novotel Xinqiao which is four star and very near Chongwenmen Station or the Ji Hotel at Xuanwumen Station. All three are super convenient for getting around the attractions of Beijing by subway.
The Forbidden City was once the imperial palace of the Ming and Qing Dynasties and was originally constructed in the early 1400s. The city was once off-limits to the general public and home to 24 successive emperors. Now, it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the world attracting over 7 million visitors a year.
Its official name has been changed to the Palace Museum, but most people still refer to it as the Forbidden City. The complete site occupies an area of over 720,000 square meters featuring nearly 10,000 buildings. It is also the largest collection of ancient buildings in China and also the best preserved.
The Forbidden City also features a moat around its outer walled perimeter and internally is divided into two parts, being an outer court (for ceremonies) and an inner court where the emperor would live and handle state affairs.
It’s easy to see the lavish opulence that the residing Chinese emperor of the time would have enjoyed. Apparently many emperors chose never to leave the palace and it’s easy to see why as this place is immense. There are special buildings and areas for nearly every activity the emperor undertook, and some buildings just to cater for the differing moods of the emperor!
I spent more than 4 hours just wandering around all the hallways, pathways, rooms, halls, open squares and garden areas, and still, there was so much more to see. It would be no problem to spend a whole day here and even come back again if you were really interested in ancient Chinese history and culture.
I wandered around this place on my own rather than being stuck in a tour group, but here’s a handy trick, there is plenty of tour groups moving around the place with English speaking guides. So, when you want to know more about something, just move in on the group as the tour guide is spieling out an explanation. There’s also a map available at the ticket office which features a small write up on the important sections, and you can also hire audiobooks to walk around and listen to while in the city.
It’s well worth getting there before the gates and ticket office open at 8.30 am, as the tour groups pour into this place and the line up I saw later in the day looked like no fun at all!
Why was it called the Forbidden City?
It’s original name in Chinese, Zi Jin Cheng, which translates to Zi meaning purple, Ji meaning forbidden, and Cheng meaning city. Being an imperial palace up until 1925 ordinary people were not allowed. During that time it was exclusively for the emperor, his family, servants, government officials and visiting dignitaries with much of the grounds being exclusively for the emperor.
My Top Ten Forbidden City visiting tips
Plan your route so as not to wear yourself out, and miss key highlights.
The flow of people is from South to North now. The only entrance is from the Meridian Gate
ID needs to be shown when buying tickets (passport or Chinese ID card for each person)
It is closed on Mondays, except during certain holidays
It’s a must to avoid visiting during Chinese public holidays due to crowds
Be mindful of heat exhaustion. Beijing’s summer is from June to August. Drink plenty of water and wear appropriate clothing.
Don’t miss the turret towers and moat which are beautifully illuminated at night (no ticket reqd.)
Afterward, head to Jingshan Park and Wanchun Pavillion for a panoramic view of the palace (wide-angle + zoom lens are useful)
There are left luggage areas at the Meridian Gate and North Gate, but, then you have to return there to get it. Easier to not take anything that you won’t like to carry for two, three or more hours.
Have an exit strategy. It’s a bit confusing as to how to get to the next destination after heading out the north gate as the streets are fenced off. Know which destination you are going to next and have the route worked out how to get there.
Opening Hours & Ticket Price
April to October
November to March
How and where to buy tickets for the Forbidden City
Unfortunately, it’s not available in English and even if you use Google Translate to navigate the site, payment is required by local bank card or Alipay (China’s equivalent to Paypal).
Don’t fret, tickets are still easy to get for foreigner visitors.
At Meridian Gate, there is a Comprehensive Service Window (综合服务窗口) to the left of the main entrance where they check tickets for entering, and they will help you get tickets. It’s fast and easy.
Unless it is a Chinese holiday, you should have no trouble securing tickets. If you are planning to go during a Chinese holiday, and you cannot visit on another day, go in advance and purchase tickets.
You must show ID, so be sure to take your passport.
Also, see the official website of the Palace Museum at dpm.org.cn which features info on upcoming exhibitions and section closures.
Ticketed Galleries inside the Palace Museum
If you wish to visit these, and it’s recommended, you need to pay for entry
Treasure Gallery (Zhenbao guan)
Hall of Clocks (Zhongbiao guan)
Food and Beverage inside the Forbidden City
There are 8 cafe/kiosks inside. The small food court near the Hall of Mental Cultivation has a sitdown area. Outside the Gate of Heavenly Purity, there is the old Starbucks that still serves coffee and similar light foods. It can get expensive compared to street prices so you may like to take your own water and snacks.
Free WiFi – search for “PalaceMuseum-WiFi”.
Free left luggage – at Meridian Gate and Gate of Divine Prowess (North Gate).
Free Wheelchairs and strollers – at Meridian Gate and Gate of Divine Prowess (North Gate).
Tourist Service Center – at the Gate of Supreme Harmony and the Arrow Pavilion
Subway: Take the Subway Line 1 to Tiananmen West Station (天安门西), exit B, or the preferred Tiananmen East station (天安门东), exit A, as it’s much closer to Tiananmen Gate.
Taxi: Show the driver this 故宫 and he/she will look after the rest and drop you within a short walk to Tiananmen Gate.
Once you get to Tiananmen Gate, walk through, and continue along past Zhongshan Park on your left until you reach the ticket office at the Meridian Gate.
It’s confusing at first as the streets are fenced off. Look for a large sign that has tips on getting to a series of onward destinations. Basically for everything you simply head in a westerly direction. After walking 20 meters to the west you’ll find an underpass and head to Jingshan Park, there are also bus stops here. Alternatively, ignore the underpass and keep walking to the bus stop where you can catch the trolley bus 103 to Wangfujing St, or bus 814 and head to the Temple of Heaven, or hail a taxi, or keep walking westward for 800m and you’ll find Beihai Park.
Forbidden City Map
Click Image for Larger Version
Suggested tour routes
The key to getting the most out of your time at the Palace Museum is not getting lost, and doubling back over covered ground, and wearing yourself out. Here are incredibly useful maps of the Palace Museum with suggested tour routes and the must-see highlights.
The One Day Forbidden City Full Tour Plan and Map
1. The Meridian Gate
2. “Painting and Calligraphy Gallery” Hall of Martial Valor
3. “Ceramics Gallery” Hall of Literary Brilliance
4. Gate of Supreme Harmony
5. Hall of Supreme Harmony
6. Hall of Central Harmony
7. Hall of Preserving Harmony
8. Palace of Heavenly Purity
9. Hall of Union
10. Palace of Earthly Tranquility
11. Hall of Mental Cultivation
12. Area of Six Western Palaces
13. Imperial Garden
14. Area of Six Eastern Palaces
15. “Hall of Clocks” & Hall for Ancestral Worship
16. “The Treasure Gallery, Gallery of Qing Imperial Opera” & Area of Palace of Tranquil Longevity
17. Gate of Divine Prowess
Half-Day Forbidden City Tour Plan and Map
1. Meridian Gate
2. Hall of Martial Valor: Painting and Calligraphy Gallery
3. Gate of Supreme Harmony
4. Hall of Supreme Harmony
5. Hall of Central Harmony
6. Hall of Preserving Harmony
7. Palace of Heavenly Purity
8. Hall of Union
9. Palace of Earthly Tranquility
10. Area of Six Eastern Palaces
11. Hall for Abstinence
12. Outer Court of Palace of the Tranquil Longevity Sector: Treasure Gallery and Stone Drum Gallery
13. Inner Court of Palace of the Tranquil Longevity Sector: Treasure Gallery, Opera Gallery, and the Well of Consort Zhen
14. Gate of Divine Prowess