If you teach Ancient China or world history, IBM and the Palace Museum in Bejing have just become your best friends. The two have worked for three years to create The Forbidden City: Beyond Space and Time and announced its release today.

a first-of-a-kind, fully immersive, three-dimensional virtual world that recreates a visceral sense of space and time of this Chinese cultural treasure — as it was centuries ago during the height of the Ming and Qing dynasties.

You can explore the palace as it was during the Qing dynasty, which ruled from 1644 until 1912, the end of the Imperial period in China, as a character that you select. You also can participate in various activities such as archery and cricket fighting as well as interact with other visitors.

If asked, tour guides within the simulation will take you around the grounds or you can wander at will.

The sim works for both Mac and PC and does not require any login or purchase. You can create an account that allows you to take “photos” within the compound and to participate in moderated forums on the Beyond Time and Space site.

I haven’t had a chance to play with the sim much but it seems responsive and provides great visuals. If you teach world or Asian history, Virtual Forbidden City looks like a no brainer.