BEIJING — A rare opportunity for those who have long dreamed of watching illuminated lanterns dancing across night skies in the stunning historic setting of Beijing’s Forbidden City.
For the first time in 94 years. China’s Palace Museum, commonly known as the Forbidden City, will open its doors to the public after dark — but for two nights only.
The special event, taking place February 19-20, will form part of Beijing’s Lantern Festival celebration, which marks the end of the Lunar New Year holiday.
The Forbidden City normally closes to tourists at around 4:30 p.m. in the winter and 5 p.m. in the summer. Until today, few — save for VIP state guests, such as President Trump in 2017 — have been granted the privilege of seeing this incredible landmark at night.
Completed in 1420, the Forbidden City was the home of emperors and served as the political center of China for over 500 years.
Back in the day, celebrating the Lantern Festival in the Forbidden City was a tradition reserved for Imperial families.
But concerns about protecting the landmark’s ancient architecture — which is mostly made of wood — from fire hazards arose and the tradition died out.
Festival organizers planning this year’s Lantern Festival event are using LED lights rather than traditional paper lanterns and red candles, reports local media.
The event has set social media alight in Beijing.
With the museum being a cultural icon featured countless times in Chinese TV series and novels, news of the evening visits led some enthusiastic fans to let their imaginations run wild.
“I wonder if people will come across exciting ghostly shadows on the ancient walls.” one person jokingly wrote on Weibo.
Tickets for the tour — which were available free online — were snapped up almost immediately. The Palace Museum’s official website temporarily crashed at midnight on Sunday due to the overload of visits.
Only certain sections of the Forbidden City will be open to the public during the nighttime tour.
These include the Meridian Gate exhibition hall, the Gate of Supreme Harmony, the East Wall and the Gate of Divine Might.
There will be lantern shows and symphony orchestra performances to enjoy, while ancient Chinese paintings will be projected onto building roofs.