Forbidden City has President Obama as guest

08:41, November 18, 2009      

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

With snow-covered roofs and patches of ice in the courtyards, the Forbidden City was given a little more sense of timelessness with the remaining snows brought by a blizzard last week.

Visiting U.S. President Barack Obama played tourist Tuesday on his first visit ever to China, spending up to an hour touring the Forbidden City and its maze of red buildings and cobblestone courtyards.

Built in the 1400s, the Forbidden City once was home to 24 Chinese emperors who ruled the country for nearly 500 years, between 1420 and 1911. The former imperial palace is now known as the Palace Museum, and is open to visitors all around the world.

President Obama changed from his business suit and tie to a sweater and brown shearling jacket, toured one of the world's greatest landmarks. The City is on the list of Unesco's World Heritage treasures.

"It's beautiful. It's a magnificent place to visit. I will come back with my girls and my wife," Obama told reporters. "It's a testament to the greatness of Chinese history," said Obama.

Accompanied by museum curator Zheng Xinmiao, Obama entered the museum from its main entrance in the south, the Meridian Gate and walked along the museum's central axis, also the axial line of Beijing, from south to north.
Before concluding his tour, Obama reportedly received a "mysterious" gift from the museum. He sat down and wrote at length in the VIP visitors' book, without disclosing the content.

Obama's visit did not go unnoticed by the Chinese people, as the museum was closed yesterday to public, who usually average more than 20,000 a daily. Part of Chang'an Avenue nearby had also been closed Tuesday morning.

As Obama is scheduled to visit the Great Wall in Badaling in northern Beijing Wednesday morning, notices reminding citizens to avoid traveling on the Badaling highway were posted by the transportation department in recent days.

Tight safety inspections were imposed outside the St. Regis Hotel, where Obama stayed in Beijing. Traffic controls were also seen in the surrounding area. A gas station nearby was temporally closed and will resume service on November 19, according to Beijing Times.

"It is understandable for such an arrangement," a Beijing citizen surnamed Zhang, who was waiting by a security cordon on Chang'an Avenue Tuesday. "I hope he can under-stand more about Chinese culture through his sightseeing, and further understand the people here."

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

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