The British Film Institute presents the best global cinema on-demand:
From classic and contemporary films to the best of the BFI National Archive.

A Visit to Beijing and the Forbidden City
A Visit to Beijing and the Forbidden City

A Visit to Beijing and the Forbidden City 1929


This film is certified

Please confirm that you accept our terms of use.


A Visit to Beijing and the Forbidden City 1929

1 mins United Kingdom

This short film features a Forbidden City surprisingly devoid of visitors, apart from a fur-clad Charlotte Simpson, who appears in many of the scenes. Both the Inner and Outer Courts within the Hall of Supreme Harmony can be seen as well as various views of the Lion's Gate. The film ends with a panoramic view across Beijing, taken from the Simpson's balcony, while below a semi-circle of rickshaws await their drivers who are busy examining a motorcar.

William Simpson, who made this film, worked for the Bradford Dyers Association in Shanghai, at Number 1, The Bund. His wife Charlotte was born in China's Lushan mountains and she married William, who originally came from Bradford, in Shanghai's St Ignatius Roman Catholic Cathedral. The couple left Shanghai before the city was overrun by the Japanese Army and by 1938 had left China for good. The few visitors to the Forbidden City, as seen in this film, contrasts sharply with the Chinese government's announcement in April 2014, that it intended to limit the number of visitors to the complex, which currently stands at 7 million visitors per year.

Screen Archive South East is a public sector moving image archive serving the South East of England. The archive's collections of magic lantern slides, films, videos and associated materials capture the many varied aspects of life, work and creativity from the early days of screen history to the present day and serve as a rich and invaluable historical resource.




Rickshaws China Chinese people Beijing Imperial Palace (Beijing)


Beijing - Northern Capital




United Kingdom



Read lessRead more
Part of

1,000s of beautifully preserved films, capturing 120 years of Britain on Film

The map

Explore further

View Forbidden City
Forbidden City
Watch for free 4 mins

Forbidden City 1933

Take a tour around the gates of Beijing’s sprawling Forbidden City during its transition from Imperial home to World Heritage Site.

4 mins United Kingdom

View Summer Palace Beijing and Tsientsin
Summer Palace Beijing and Tsientsin
Watch for free 4 mins

Summer Palace Beijing and Tsientsin 1929

Dancing bears and camels feature in views of Beijing's Summer Palace in the late 1920s filmed by an expat couple who are later seen enjoying a traditional Chinese meal.

4 mins United Kingdom

View At Home in Shanghai and a Trip to Hong Kong
At Home in Shanghai and a Trip to Hong Kong
Watch for free 3 mins

At Home in Shanghai and a Trip to Hong Kong 1928

Chinese junks and British battleships appear together in this film depicting the 1928 Armistice Day in Hong Kong.

3 mins United Kingdom

View A Visit to China
A Visit to China
Watch for free

A Visit to China 1938

This stunning colour film features the only known pre-war footage of Seoul as well as Beijing, the Great Wall, the Marco Polo Bridge and many other famous landmarks.

30 mins United Kingdom


View All

Welcome to a new subscription service like no other.

>100s of hand-picked classics and critically-acclaimed films

>Critic Mark Kermode picks a must-see film every week

>No contract, cancel anytime

Cookies Policy

This website uses cookies, as explained in our Cookies Policy.

To accept the terms and hide this message please click 'I accept'.

I accept

Passionate about film? So are we…

Don't miss the email made for the in-the-know film fan:

New releases — on the same day as in cinemas Special collections & unheralded classics Exclusive news on discounts

Never ask | Ask me later