Hall of Joyful Longevity is located north of Hall of Character Cultivation. Empress Dowager Ci Xi had live here before. It is a museum that display giant jade from the Imperial. The signboard was written as:
" This hall was constructed in 1776 during the Qing dynasty as a copy of Chun Hua Xuan (Purity Studio) in Chang Chun Yuan (Garden of Eternal Spring) for Emperor Qianlong's retirement. In front of the hall, on the wall of the covered corridor, there is a stone inscription reproducing the Rubbings of Model Calligraphy of Jingsheng Studio. Since the Qing Dynasty, a huge jade carving titled " Yu the Great Quelling the Floods" has been preserved in the hall. It is the largest jade carving in the Palace Museum. After the celebration of the 60th birthday, Empress Dowager CiXi lived in the west chamber of this hall. The words "Le Shou" come from The Analects of Confucius, meaning "intelligent people are happy people, and benevolent live long."
NEXT: Hall of Harmony (Yihe House)
In Chinese: 乐寿堂 ( Le Shou Tang)
Hall of Character Cultivation is located at the center between Garden of the Palace of Peace and Longevity and Pavilion of Cheerful Melodies. It was mostly used as a function hall in the Qing Dynasty. The signboard was written as:
" This hall was constructed in 1776 during the Qing Dynasty, as a copy of Yang Xin Dian (Hall of Moral Cultivation). Emperor Qianlong planned to live here after his abdication but never did. In December 1781, the emperor held a banquet in this hall to entertain princes, high-ranking officials, Mongolian chieftains and Manchu nobilities. When Empress Dowager Ci Xi lived in Le Shou Tang (Hall of Joyful Longevity) in the late Qing Dynasty, she dined in this hall in Dong Nuan Ge (EEast Chamber of Warmth). In 1903 when Emperor Guangxu lived here, he and Empress Dowager Ci Xi would meet the wives of foreign envoys in the hall. In 1909 a celebration was held here when Empress Dowager Long Yu was given a title of honor. The words "Yang Xing" are derived from Mencius, meaning "cultivating one's character to reach benevolence."
NEXT: Hall of Joyful Longevity (Leshou Hall)
In Chinese: 养性殿 (Yang Xing Dian)
The Pavilion of Cheerful Melodies is located far east of Forbidden City, east of the Hall of Character Cultivation. This was a performing stage that emperors and empresses enjoyed watching opera in here. The signboard was written as:
" This pavilion was constructed in 1776 (the 41st year of the Qianlong reign period of the Qing Dynasty). In 1817 (the 22nd year of the Jiaqing reign period), a three-story opera stage, the largest stage in the palace, was added to the pavilion. The pavilion is 20.71 meters high, with a construction area of 685.94 square meters. The upper story of the stage is called Happiness Stage; the middle part, Position Stage; and the lower story, Longevity Stage. Longevity Stage has five trapdoors in the ceiling, leading to Position Stage. By the trapdoors, there are capstans and wheels, allowing dramatic entrance and exits of supernatural beings, ghosts and demons. During large-scare performances actors and actresses appeared on the three stories at the same time. The stage can hold 1,000 people. This pavilion faces Yue Shi Lou (Pavilion for Reading) to the north. The two words "Chang Yin" signify loud and cheerful sounds. "
In Chinese: 畅音阁 (Chang Yin Ge)
On the north of this hall is the Pavilion of Reading. The signboard was written as:
" Built in 1776 during the Qing Dynasty, this pavilion has two stories. Every New Year's Day and on the emperor's birthday, the emperor and empress, princes and high ranking officials watched operas here. Officials sat in the covered passages on both sides. On her 60th birthday, Empress Dowager Ci Xi was accompanied by Emperor Guangxu, his empress and officials in watching performances for more than 10 days at this hall. The words "Yue Shi" mean making correct judgement of reality from watching stage performances. "
NEXT: Hall of Character Cultivation (Yang Xing Dian)
In Chinese: 阅是楼 (Yue Shi Lou)
Garden of the Palace of Peace and Longevity is another imperial garden in Forbidden City. It is located on the far east Forbidden City, west of Hall of Character Cultivation (Yang Xing Dian). Pavilion of Bestowing Wine (Xi Shang Tang) and Studio of Ancient Glory (Gu Hua Xuan) were the two main pavilions I visited.
The signboard for the Garden was written as:
" Also known as Qianlong Garden, it was first constructed in 1776 (the 41 year of the Qianlong reign period of the Qing Dynasty) as an imperial garden for Emperor Qianlong after his abdication.
This garden is 160 meters from south to north, and 37 meters from east to west. It is adjacent to the palace wall in the west and the palace in the east. This garden has four courtyards, and southern and northern axial lines. Yan Qi Men (Gate of Lasting Happiness), Gu Hua Xuan (Pavilion of Ancient Glory), Sui Chu Tang (Hall of Nostalgia) and Song Xiu Ting (Pavilion of Paramount Elegance) are along the southern axial line; and Cui Shang Lou (Pavilion of Excellent Views), Bi Luo Ting (Green Shell Pavilion), and Fu Wang Ge (Tower of Elusive Dreams) are located along the northern axial line. The garden includes over 20 pavilions, towers and other buildings, green pine and cypress trees, delicate rockeries and winding paths, showing the exquisite layout of the garden in South China and the gorgeous features of the imperial gardens. "
In Chinese: 宁寿宫花园 (Ning Shou Gong Hua Yuan)
Special features of Pavilion of Bestowing Wine (Xi Shang Tang) are interesting. The signboard was written as:
" Built in 1776 during the Qing Dynasty, this pavilion is also known as Liu Bei Ting (Pavilion of Floating Cups) because of the "Ditch of Floating Cups." This pavilion was designed to reflect a scene described in the famous Chinese work Preface to Poems from Orchid Pavilion by Wang Xizhi. An excerpt is quoted here: " Cups flow along the winding water and we appreciated music while watching operas." The ditch is the pavilion is 27 meters long. The water in the ditch comes from a well behind the rockery. Water is fetched from the well, and held in a vessel. The water flows to the ditch from the holes at the bottom of the water vessel and then streams back to the well. To amuse themselves, the emperor and his officials would sit by the ditch composing poems and allow cups of wine to float around in the circulating water. Similar pavilions also can be found in the Zhongnanhai and Yuanmingyuan palace compounds and at the Chengde Summer Resort. "
Studio of Ancient Glory (Gu Hua Xuan) is another interesting pavilion in the Garden. The signboard was written as:
" Located on the central axis of Ning Shou Gong Hua Yuan (Garden of the Palace of Peace and Longevity) this studio was constructed with a gable-rolling roof in 1776 during the Qing Dynasty. The ceiling is decorated with nanmu-wood carvings. A board, with an inscription written by Emperor Qianlong, hangs on the facade of the studio. An ancient Chinese catalpa tree, which was here before this building was built, stands in front of the studio. "
NEXT: Pavilion of Cheerful Melodies
In Chinese: 古华轩 (Gu Hua Xuan)
Palace of Peace and Longevity is located north of Hall of Norms of Governments. This hall has significant history for Emperor Qianlong.
The signboard was written as:
" Constructed in the Ming Dynasty, this palace was originally named Ren Shou Gong (Palace of Benevolence and Longevity). After renovation in 1689 during the Qing Dynasty, it was renamed Ning Shou Gong Hou Dian ( Rear Hall of the Palace of Peace and Longevity). In 1776, it was reconstructed as a copy of Jun Ning Gong (10- Hall of Earthly Tranquility) and the board reading "Ning Shou Gong" (Palace of Peace and Longevity) was moved here. When Emperor Qianlong prepared for his abdication, he offered sacrifices to the gods in this hall. In celebration of Emperor Qianlong's 80th birthday and Emperor Jianqing's 50th birthday, banquets were held here. The words " Ning Shou" come from the Book of History, and imply good health and longevity. "
NEXT: Garden of the Palace of Peace and Longevity (Ning Shou Gong Garden)
In Chinese: 宁寿宫 (Ning Shou Gong)
Hall of the Norms of Government is the largest hall in the far-east Forbidden City. It is located between Gate of Peace and Longevity and Palace of Peace and Longevity. There were many important imperial history events held here.
The signboard was written as:
" Constructed in 1689 during Qing Dynasty, this hall was originally named Ning Shou Gong (Palace of Peace and Longevity) but was renamed Huang Ji Dian (Hall of the Norms of Government) after its renovation in 1776. This hall was renovated again in 1802 and 1884. It is nine bays wide and five bays deeps, with a double roof in the wudian (thatched hall) style covered with yellow glazed tiles. On the lunar New Year of 1796, Emperor Qianlong handed the throne over to his son and a grand ceremony was held in Tai He Dian ( Hall of Supreme Harmony). On the fourth day of first lunar month, Emperor Qianlong held a banquet for 1,000 elderly men at this hall. Empress Dowager was buried, her coffin was placed in this hall. the words "Huang Ji" in Chinese are from the Book of History, and mean "the emperor sets the supreme rules."
NEXT: Palace of Peace and Longevity (Ningshou Palace)
In Chinese: 皇极殿 (Huang Ji Dian)
Hall of Justice is just next to Hall of Quintessence. It was the palace for imperial concubines during Qing Dynasty. It was also a library on the north side of the hall. Emperors used to come here to read and write poetry.
The signboard was written as :
" Constructed in 1420 during the Ming dynasty, this hall was originally named Chang Yang Gong (Hall of Eternal Justice) and was later renovated in 1686. This hall has two courtyards. The rear hall was the imperial studio. In the Ming Dynasty, it was used by imperial concubines and in the Qing Dynasty it served as a library. In this building's Xue Shi Tang (Hall of Studying Poetry), Emperor Qianlong once preserved the Mao Edition of the Book of Songs, written by Emperor Gaozong of the Song Dynasty and Paintings for the Book of Songs, by Ma Hexhi. Location in the northeast part of the six palaces, the location of this hall corresponds with the northeast symbol "gen" in the Eight Diagrams of The Book of Changes. The words "Jing Yang" mean venerating justice.
NEXT: Nine-Dragon Screen
In Chinese: 景阳宫 (Jing Yang Gong)
Hall of Quintessence is another west palace that I had visited. This hall had less crowd during my visit, it could be less interesting as the buildings on west side are pretty much the same. But I think they have different stories and history background as compare to other halls.
The signboard was written as:
" Constructed in 1420 during the Ming Dynasty, this hall was originally named Xian Yang Gong (Hall of Universal Justice) and was renamed Zhong Cui Gong (Hall of Quintessence) in 1535. In 1571, the front hall was named Xing Long Dian (Hall of the Rising Dragon) and the rear hall, Sheng Zhe Dian (Hall of the Sages). Later , the hall was renamed Zhong Cui Gong. In the Ming Dynasty, it was used by imperial concubines and once served as the palace of the crown prince. In the Qing Dynasty, the imperial concubines were its primary occupants. Empress Dowager Ci An and Empress Long Yu, wife of Emperor Guangxu, lived here. Empress Dowager Ci An passed away in this hall. The words 'Zhong Cui' mean 'gathering quintessence.' Zhong Cui Gong is symmetrical with Chu Xiu Gong (Palace of Gathering Excellence), one of the six palaces in the west. These two halls are located along opposite sides of the central axial line of the inner court. "
NEXT: Hall of Justice (Jingyang Palace)
In Chinese: 钟粹宫 (Zhong Cui Gong)
After visiting the west halls, I continued to visit halls on the east side. I still got lost on my way to the east side, with so many red walls and palaces along the way with similar architecture. I only managed to see three halls on the east sides, including this hall, Hall of Quintessence and Hall of Justice.
The signboard of this hall was written as:
" Built in 1420 during the Ming Dynasty, this hall was originally named Chang An Gong (Hall of Eternal Peace) and renamed Jing Ren Gong in 1535. It was renovated in 1655 during Qing Dynasty, but the original layout was left unchanged. In the Ming and Qing dynasties imperial concubines used it. In 1654 (Qing Dynasty) Xuanye (Emperor Kangxi) was born in this hall. Imperial Concubine Xi of Emperor Yongzheng, Imperial Concubine Wan of the Emperor Xianfeng and Imperial Concubine Zhen of Emperor Guangxuonce lived here. Jing Ren Gong and Yong Shou Gong (Hall of Immortality), which is one of the six western palaces, are located symmetrically along the central axial line of the inner court. The name of this hall comes from saying in The Analects of Confucius; " The intelligent are happy; and the benevolent live long."
NEXT: Hall of Quintessence (Zhongcui Palace)
In Chinese: 景仁宫 (Jing Ren Gong)
Hall of Mental Cultivation is my favorite among all the buildings at the west of Forbidden City. It looks like a temple with a " 凸 " shape building from the front. It was a where emperors lived during Qing Dynasty.
The signboard was written as:
" Constructed in 1537 (the 16th year of the Jiajing reign period of the Ming Dynasty), this building, in the shape of " 工" , is divided into two halls-the front and rear halls, which are linked by covered corridors, and surrounded by side corridors. Eight emperors of the Qing Dynasty, starting with Emperor Yongzheng, lived here. There is a throne in the front hall, where the emperor handled state affairs and received his officials. On the west, there is a large room between two small rooms. The large room was for the emperor's officials in charge of confidential work, and a small room at the back of it is famous San Xi Tang (Room of Three Rarities). The east room has two thrones, separated by a yellow gauze curtain, behind which joint empresses Dowager Ci Xi and Ci An supervised the court in the late Qing Dynasty. The rear hall was where the emperor slept. In the center of the hall there is a kang (a heatable brick bed) for people to sit on. In the east room there is a throne. The west room holds a large clothes closet decorated with dragon and cloud patterns, and a kang for sitting on. The rear hall holds a large number of ornaments. According to the "Archive of the Ornaments of Yang Xing Dian," the rear hall has total of 724 ornaments. On the left side of the rear hall is Ti Shun Tang (Hall of Swallows' Happiness).
In 1911 (the third year of Xuantong reign period), the Revolution of 1911 broke out. Empress Dowager Longyu held a "palace meeting" here, at which she decided to abdicate. The words " Yang Xing" come from the Mencius, meaning that the best way to cultivate one's mind is to reduce one's desires. "
NEXT: Hall of Benevolence (Jingren Palace)
In Chinese: 养心殿 (Yang Xin Dian)
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