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Today, some 600 years after construction began on the 178-acre site that would become the center of unrivaled imperial power known as China’s Forbidden City, the Palace Museum and IBM will open the walled fortress - and hundreds of years of history and culture - to the world.

Three years in the making, IBM has built a virtual recreation of the architecture and artifacts of the former palace grounds, enabling online visitors to get a first-hand view into imperial China as embodied in the intricate design, history and storied culture of this newly accessible Forbidden City.

Originally, the Forbidden City was constructed to embody the idea of the emperor as the center of the universe with a series of dramatic courtyards and gates, buildings and landings underscoring a design built to reinforce security and power. This huge palace complex was completed in 1420, about twelve years after construction began, and contains hundreds of exquisite buildings and historic artifacts, and on October 10th, celebrates its 83rd anniversary as a museum and one of China’s major cultural attractions.

Now, using virtual world technology, visitors can experience the awe inspired by this vast and amazing space. Rather than experiencing its wonders in isolation, the virtual Forbidden City allows you to see and interact with other users and a range of helpful automated characters. As you explore the virtual Forbidden City, you can choose to simply observe the buzz of activity, or you can take tours and participate in activities that provide insights into important aspects of Qing culture.

IBM has dedicated more than a decade to creating successful cultural heritage projects, including the Vatican Library, the Pietà, Hermitage Museum, Eternal Egypt, and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.

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Sammy Feliciano