THE FORBIDDEN CITY, Buildings West Side Iii

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English / USA Language: English / USA

Not far from the six Western Palaces, you’ll find the large Hall of Mental Cultivation. The front part was where the emperor took care of administrative matters, while the rear part contained the bedrooms of the last eight emperors.

It was here that the Empress Cixi, hidden behind a screen, spent several decades imparting instructions to the Emperors Tongzhi and Guangxu, who sat on the throne, but merely repeated her orders.

Opposite the bedrooms are the imperial kitchens.

 

Now press pause and visit the Hall, then move on to the Palace of Tranquil Longevity complex.

 

This is a group of buildings that covers a surface of 46,000 square meters.

The complex can be divided into three parts: eastern, central and western. The central part includes the Hall of Imperial Supremacy, the Palace of Tranquil Longevity and the three exhibition rooms of the Treasure Gallery. The eastern part comprises the pavilions dedicated to music and opera, while the western area is made up of the Qianlong Garden, which includes a number of buildings, among them the delightful Pavilion of Ancient Flower.

We owe the idea of building this complex to Emperor Qianlong, who intended to retire here to pray, and had building work begun in 1772. After reigning as emperor for 60 years, he abdicated as a sign of respect for his grandfather, Emperor Kangxi, who had spent 61 years on the throne, thus governing for one year less. However, on the pretext of educating his family, he continued to act as emperor, and never actually lived here. 

The Palace of Tranquil Longevity and the Hall of Imperial Supremacy have now been turned into the Exhibition Hall of Fine Arts of the Palace Museum, housing more than 100,000 paintings.

Make sure you don’t miss the marvelous, world-famous Nine Dragon Screen opposite one of the entrances to the complex. With a length of 29 meters and a height of 3 ½ meters, the bas-reliefs in vibrant colors depict nine dragons playing.

An interesting fact: the Nine Dragon Screen is made up of 270 glazed tiles. The number is no coincidence: 270 is a multiple of 9 and of 5, the numbers that in ancient China symbolized the supremacy of the emperor. 

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