Imperial Palace – The Western Axis
Just as the Dazheng Hall on the far eastern axis is especially worth seeing, so the far western axis is worth a detour (although in mid 2005, the theatre was being restored). The first part of the western axis is the theatre, with the Jiayin Hall behind constructed for Emperor Qianlong to watch the performance, while the remainder of the court huddled together in under the roof at the sides.
The Wensu Pavilion was the royal library and is a different architectural style from other buildings. It also has black tiles as with other imperial libraries: fire was an ever-present risk in these royal palaces, and the black roof tiles symbolized water, so acting as an additional talisman against the ravages of fire in a building full of papers and books.
The Wensu Hall was originally built, again by Qianlong, for storing the great Siku Quanshu encyclopedia of Chinese knowledge. Such was Qianlong’s devotion to studying the classics and learning, that each of the three floors of this library has a study, living quarters and a bedroom, to allow him to stay put while he read! It is notable that Qianlong had no qualms about living “in the air like a Western barbarian” here in Shenyang, yet when the Old Summer Palace was built in Beijing, all the apparently two-storey buildings were just one storey, under his strict instructions!
The Wensu Hall is one of the more eclectic buildings in the Imperial Palace, and still one of the quieter parts of the complex.