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Obama Tours Forbidden City (PHOTOS)

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(AP) BEIJING � Playing tourist on his first visit ever to China, President Barack Obama drew a chilly comparison between the Chinese capital and his Illinois hometown.

"I have to say I didn't realize that Beijing gets as cold as my hometown of Chicago," the president said Tuesday just before sitting down for a one-on-one meeting with Wu Bangguo, chairman of China's Standing Committee of the National People's Congress.

Earlier in the day, Obama had spent nearly an hour touring the Forbidden City's maze of red buildings and cobblestone courtyards. With snow dotting the roofs and patches of ice lining courtyards, Obama bundled up against the frigid weather in a sweater and brown shearling jacket. He kept his hands in his pockets to ward off the chill.

Built in the 1400s, the Forbidden City once was home to 24 Chinese emperors who ruled the country for nearly 500 years, between 1420 and 1911. The former imperial palace is now known as the Palace Museum, and is open to Beijing's visitors.

"It's a testament to the greatness of Chinese history," Obama said while on tour. He pronounced it "a magnificent place to visit" and said he wanted to come back with his wife, first lady Michelle Obama, and their two daughters, Malia and Sasha. Mrs. Obama did not accompany the president on the trip.

The visit, he said later, was a beautiful "reminder of the incredible traditions and heritage of the Chinese people."

Before leaving, Obama wrote at length in the VIP visitor's book. The White House did not immediately disclose what he wrote.

Obama's sightseeing was to continue Wednesday with a tour of the Great Wall.

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