Best Museum for Sinologists (2001)

Forbidden Gardens

Like its namesake, the Forbidden Gardens is a well-kept secret. However, the spectacular 40-acre spread just off I-10 in Katy rewards those who chance the trip. The outdoor museum carefully reconstructs some of the great design feats of Imperial China, and on a breathtaking scale. The entire Forbidden City, the governmental center created by Ming emperors in the 15th century, is re-created in an astonishing 40,000-square-foot display. Enter at Tiananmen Gate, with its red base and sloping orange-tile roof, and saunter on past the Palace of Heavenly Purity, the Imperial Garden and other wonders, all rendered to scale. The model buildings are painted in lovely, painstaking detail, and the grounds of the reconstructed city teem with models of courtesans, concubines, soldiers, administrators and monks. Elsewhere at Forbidden Gardens, you'll find 6,000 terra-cotta soldiers in formation -- a faithful rendering of the same model army that China's first emperor, Qin, had placed in his tomb more than 2,000 years ago. The sounds of bubbling fountains and zither music waft through the air, and iridescent fish and large turtles grace the waters at the entrance. Forbidden Gardens displays ancient weapons, sedan chairs and a reconstruction of Suzhou, "the Venice of China." Tours with highly knowledgeable guides are available.

Location Details

23500 Franz Road (Grand Parkway, exit off I-10)
Houston TX 77084


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