This film is part of Free

Visit to Beijing and the Forbidden City

Beijing's Forbidden City is the star attraction in this film from the late 1920s, featuring historic buildings, the Lion's Gate and an early panorama across the city.

Amateur film 1929 2 mins Silent

From the collection of:

Logo for Screen Archive South East


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.