Obama: I will come back to Forbidden City

18:59, November 17, 2009      

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U.S. President Barack Obama visits the Forbidden City in Beijing on Nov. 17, 2009.(Xinhua/Pang Xinglei)

U.S. President Barack Obama said he would return to China and revisit the Palace Museum, or the Forbidden City, during his tour on Tuesday as part of his four-daytrip to China.

"It's beautiful. It's a magnificent place to visit. I will comeback with my girls and my wife," Obama told a Xinhua correspondent before leaving the museum through the northern Gate of Divine Prowess (Shenwu Men).

The Forbidden City, the former residence of China's imperial families during the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties, is a national landmark.

Accompanied by museum curator Zheng Xinmiao, Obama entered the museum from its main entrance in the south, the Meridian Gate (Wu Men) and walked along the museum's central axis, also the axial line of the city, from south to north, about 960 meters, in roughly 45 minutes.

Tuesday was a sunny, but a windy, cold day in Beijing. Patches of snow still lingered on the roofs of some buildings and the ground. Obama wore a blue shirt with no tie and a casual leather jacket.

"Very good! Spectacular!" he exclaimed in front of the Hall of Supreme Harmony (Taihe Dian), in front of dozens of journalists and photographers. He also posed for photos on the square in front of the hall.

Inside Taihe Dian, Zheng briefed him on its history and architecture. Obama asked about the words on the board hanging in the middle of the hall, "Jian Ji Sui You", meaning "Emperors should make good rules."

Taihe Dian was one of the largest wooden structures in China and the largest hall in the Forbidden City. Ming Dynasty and Qing Dynasty emperors held their enthronements and wedding ceremonies in the hall.

Outside the Palace of Earthly Tranquility (Kunning Gong), Obama peered through the glass of the rooms, which were used on the emperor's wedding night.

"Thank you for the wonderful tour of the Forbidden City. It is truly majestic, and a testimony to the greatness and longevity of Chinese civilization," said the message Obama wrote on the official guest book before leaving the museum.

He was also accompanied by U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman and Chinese Ambassador to the United States Zhou Wenzhong.

The Forbidden City covers about 72 hectares with a total floor space of approximately 150,000 square meters. It consists of 90 palaces and courtyards, 980 buildings and 8,704 rooms.

The museum was reopened to tourists in 1972, only one day prior to then U.S. President Richard Nixon's China trip. Millions of visitors from home and abroad pass through every year, including heads of state and government leaders.

Obama is the fourth incumbent president of the United States to visit the Forbidden City, after Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and Bill Clinton.

Obama is also set to visit the Great Wall in Beijing on Wednesday morning, another famous landmark and a UNESCO World Heritage site. He will leave Beijing for the Republic of Korea Wednesday afternoon to continue his Asian tour.

"On my first visit [to China], I want to visit Shanghai and Beijing. But next time, I want to visit some other places in this country," Obama said.

Source: Xinhua
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