China society
Get more with myNEWS
A personalised news feed of stories that matter to you
Learn more
The Forbidden City in Beijing will be opening at night for the first time in 94 years and demand for the free tickets caused the online registration site to crash. Photo: Weibo

China’s Forbidden City first night opening in 94 years crashes website

  • Many left disappointed as free tickets snapped up in hours
  • Palace will be open on Tuesday and Wednesday to celebrate the Chinese spring lantern festival

An online ticket fight crashed Beijing’s Forbidden City website on Monday after the palace announced it was opening free to the public at night for the first time in 94 years.

The Palace Museum, which closes at 5pm daily, announced on Sunday that it would be lighting up the ancient city on Tuesday and Wednesday night to celebrate the Chinese spring lantern festival, the traditional end to the Lunar New Year celebrations.

The online registration page crashed in the early hours of Monday morning, shortly after it opened at midnight, due to the rush of people flocking to get one of the limited number of places.

The website later reopened and all tickets were sold out by 10.30am.

According to online media portal, people were willing to pay up to 4,000 yuan (US$590) for a ticket from the black market.

The rare late opening of the museum quickly became a hot topic on Chinese social media, with 50,000 discussions and 350 million views on the microblogging platform Weibo by Monday. Many commenters complained about not being able to get a ticket.

“The museum never said how many tickets they were offering. The website was stuck and I can’t even get into the registration page,” one wrote.

“Someone please do a live broadcast,” another wrote.

The lantern festival marks the night of the first full moon of the Lunar New Year and the last day of festivities. People traditionally carry paper lanterns and solve riddles attached to them.

On both Tuesday and Wednesday nights, a 1,000-metre stretch of the palace’s walls will be decorated with lanterns. Ancient drawings will be projected onto the rooftops, while traditional musical performances and a special exhibition are also planned.

Visitors will be able to climb to the top of some of the buildings to appreciate the royal court’s night view from above and there will be dining at the palace’s restaurants and cafes.

The lantern festival celebration is an extension of the palace’s special event “Celebrating the Spring Festival in the Forbidden City” which lasts for three months until April 7.

Digital displays and more than 800 relics form part of the exhibition explaining how China’s emperors used to celebrate Lunar New Year in the palace.

The record-breaking exhibition – which features the largest number of antiques ever displayed in a single presentation – has also attracted unprecedented crowds. According to Beijing Daily, visitor numbers to the Palace Museum are up by more than 70 per cent compared to last year.

The Forbidden City is the palace complex in central Beijing which served as the home of emperors and their households during the Ming and Qing dynasties. From 2012 just 30 per cent of the palace was on display but last year this was expanded to cover 80 per cent of the complex.

Interest in the historic buildings has soared as a result of the recent popularity in China of period television dramas, including Story of Yanxi Palace and Ruyi’s Royal Love in the Palace, as well as an innovative line of products from the Palace Museum.

In December, online buyers snapped up more than 100,000 lipsticks developed by the Palace Museum within four days of their launch.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Rush for Forbidden City’s night tickets crashes site