The Forbidden City
Other places of interest

The Forbidden City, Beijing, China

Other Places of Interest

One of the many small courtyards in the Inner Court.

The Hall of Mental Cultivation

The main building to the west of the Inner Court is the Hall of Mental Cultivation. It was built during the Ming Dynasty.

Emperor KangXi of the Qing Dynasty took this hall as his study. Starting with Emperor YongZheng (1723-1735), this hall served as the living quarters for the emperors. Emperor YongZheng also took the central hall here as his office, where he could deal with state affairs. As a matter of fact, eight of the Qing Emperors both lived and worked here. Emperors ShunZhi, QianLong and TongZhi even died here.

The central hall was the office in which the emperor met foreign diplomats, and summoned his officials for consultation. It was also here that the last emperor in Chinese history, Emperor PuYi, announced his resignation.

Emperor YongZheng named the western hall the Hall of Three Rare Treasures. This referred to three outstanding calligraphy masterpieces by Wang Xizhi, Wang Xianzhi, and Wang Xun, three pioneers in Chinese calligraphy. Emperor YongZheng, a great calligraphy lover himself, had a collection of the outstanding works by the three Wang's, hence the name.

The emperor's seat is well arranged for reading and writing, and the writing brushes and inkstones are placed in proper order. Secret talks on political and military affairs also took place here. The screen partition in front was supposed to stop the secrets from leaking out.

The eastern hall is of historical significance. This was the site of the well known 'power behind the throne' or 'behind the screen'. Most people think that only Empress Dowager Ci'Xi gave audience behind the screen, but in fact, this was first jointly practiced by the Empress Dowager Ci'Xi and another empress called Ci'An. However, the sudden death of Empress Ci'An in 1881 left the power solely to the Empress Dowager Ci'Xi. Empress Ci'An was believed to have been poisoned by Ci'Xi.

Ci'Xi ruled over China for about 40 years from behind the yellow screen. She had to stay behind the screen all the time because at that time in China women weren't supposed to be in the Outer Palace or to hold any public positions! If you have a close look at the setting here, you will find that a lot of scenes were shot here for the film 'The Last Emperor', the first western film made in China.

This last emperor was PuYi just a child when chosen by Ci'Xi as her next puppet. The next day the imprisoned emperor was poisoned (probably) but that day CiXi also died. Within four years came the Republican revolution and PuYi was forced to abdicate.









The Six Western Palaces

These palaces are located north of the Hall of Mental Cultivation, three palaces on each side of an alley from north to south. They were the living quarters for the empress and the concubines. The original layout and decor has been preserved to offer visitors some ideas about the way of life that the imperial family led. The original 18th and 19th century furniture is on display. Also on display are some fine paintings illustrating the famous novel 'Dream of the Red Chamber'.

The Empress Dowager Ci'Xi lived in the Palace of Eternal Spring (Chang Chun Gong) during the reign of TongZhi. The last emperor's wife lived in the Palace of Accumulated Elegance (Chu Xiu Gong) until 1924 when she and Emperor PuYi were expelled.

In the past, there was a well known saying - that "3,000 beauties live in the Inner Court". It actually referrd to those women (concubines) living in the Six Western Palaces.

When the emperor fancied company at night, he would write the name of his desired concubine on paper and the on-duty eunuch would go to fetch her. She would be stripped naked, to make sure she was without weapons, then rolled in a rug, carried to the emperor's chamber and deposited at the foot of the bed. A few of the emperors were cruel and some of the concubines were killed.

Apart from the emperor and his sons, all other males in the Forbidden City were eunuchs, castrated at start of service, before entry. The purpose of this was to be sure that any children born belonged to the emperor.






The Six Eastern Palaces

The Six Eastern Palaces stand on the other side of the central north-south axis. Most of these palaces were restored in the 17th century. They were also the living quarters for the empresses and concubines.

Today, they have mostly been turned into special exhibitions such as the Museum of Bronzes and the Museum of Ceramics.

East of the Six Palaces lie the store-houses for tea and some of the brocades. The Five Northern Kitchens (BeiWuChu) to the north fed everyone living in the eastern part of the inner court.




The Palace for Fasting

The Emperors were expected to fast the night before they offered sacrifices to Heaven. As a general rule, the emperors stayed here for the first two days of their fast and then moved to an imperial residence within the confines of the Temple of Heaven.

During the fast, the emperors abstained from wine, onions, garlic, chives, praying, involvement in petty affairs and making love. It must have been quite a task for them!



Next : Doorways

Forbidden City

Forbidden City
: Introduction
Forbidden City : History
Forbidden City : Layout
Forbidden City : Map
Getting there

The Meridian Gate (outside)
The Meridian Gate (inside)
The First Courtyard
The Gate of Supreme Harmony

The Second Courtyard
The Hall of Supreme Harmony (part 1)
The Hall of Supreme Harmony (part 2)
The Hall of Complete Harmony
The Hall of Preserving Harmony

The Large Stone Carving

The Gate of Celestial Purity
The Hall of Celestial Purity
The Hall of Celestial and Terrestrial Union
The Hall of Terrestrial Tranquility
The Imperial Garden
The Imperial Garden (part 2)

The Exhibition Halls
The 9 Dragon Screen
Other Places of Interest

Doorways (part 2)
Decorative Tiles
Beams and Ceilings
Windows and Doors
Walls & Screens

Sunset at the Forbidden City

Beijing Guide

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