After exploring the Outer Court of Forbidden City, we could choose among three different routes to take in order to get to the exit. Since we had already planned to go on all three routes, we decided to take the western route first.
Before taking the Western route, we checked out the 军机处 (Jun Ji Chu), Grand Council of State:
In 1729, during the Qing Dynasty, 雍正皇 (Emperor Yongzheng) set up the 军机房 (Jun Ji Fang), Office of the Grand Council of State, in order to handle military affairs promptly.
After 乾隆皇 (Emperor Qianlong) ascended the throne, he renamed it “中理出” (Zhong Li Chu), Office of the Superintendent and finally “军机处” (Jun Ji Chu) in 1738.
The Grand Council of State consisted of grand ministers and secretaries of the state council. The Manchu and Han grand academicians, ministers and vice-ministers trusted by the Emperor served as grand ministers of the Grand Council of State concurrently.
The duty rooms for grand ministers were on the northern side of the 隆重门 (Long Zhong Men), Gate of the Distinguished Clan, and those for secretaries of the council of state were on the southern side.
The original tasks of the Grand Council of State were to draw up imperial decrees and participate in the handling of military affairs. Later, it became the place where the nation’s political decrees originated and became a centre of rule; its position was much higher than that of the cabinet.
In April 1911, the Grand Council of State was dissolved after the founding of a “responsible cabinet”.
To the left of 军机处 is the 隆宗门 (Long Zong Men), Gate of Distinguished Clan:
First constructed in 1420 during the Ming Dynasty, 隆宗门 (Long Zong Men) was reconstructed in 1599 and in 1655.
During the Qing Dynasty, the duty rooms for grand ministers were on the northern side of 隆宗门 (Long Zong Men) and those for secretaries of the council of state on the southern side.
隆宗门 (Long Zong Men) was also known as the ‘Forbidden Gate’ because except for those who came to make urgent reports or had been summoned, not even princes and officials were allowed to enter. Instead, they had to halt 20 paces away from the flight of steps and state their business to palace messengers. This is where the name “Forbidden City” originated.
In 1813, during the Qing Dynasty, rebels attacked 隆宗门 (Long Zong Men) with the help of palace eunuchs and pressed through to the 军机处 (Jun Ji Chu), Grand Council of State, and 养心殿 (Yang Xin Dian), Hall of Mental Cultivation.
Next, we went to 养心殿 (Yang Xin Dian), Hall of Mental Cultivation, which is behind the 养心门 (Yang Xin Men), Gate of Mental Cultivation:
This is the 养心殿 (Yang Xin Dian), Hall of Mental Cultivation:
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 雍正皇 (Emperor Yongzheng), lived here.
There is a throne in the front hall, where the Emperor handled state affairs and received his officials:
In 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:
A small room at the back of it is the famous 三希堂 (San Xi Tang), Room of Three Rarities:
Originally known as the “greenhouse”, it was later named 三希堂 (San Xi Tang) in 1746. Three rare calligraphic works by famous ancient calligraphers – 《快雪时晴帖》 (Kuai Xue Shi Qing Tie / Clear Sky After Pleasant Snow Scroll) by 王羲之 (Wang Xi Zhi), 《中秋帖》 (Zhong Qiu Tie / Mid-Autumn Scroll) by 王献之 (Wang Xian Zhi) and 《伯远帖》 (Bo Yuan Tie / Scroll) by 王珣 (Wang Xun) – were displayed in the room.
Inside the room, near the windows, there is a traditional heater. A board with an inscription written by 乾隆皇 (Emperor Qianlong) and an essay titled “Note the Room of Three Rarities” are still hung in the room.
In 1924, when Pu Yi left the Imperial Palace, he tried to take 《快雪时晴帖》 with him but it was confiscated. It is now preserved in the Taipei Palace Museum.
《中秋帖》 and 《伯远帖》 were brought back in 1951 by the Chinese Government from Hong Kong. They are now preserved in the Palace Museum.
The east room has two thrones, separated by a yellow gauze curtain, behind which the joint empresses, 慈禧太后 (Ci Xi Tai Hou), Empress Dowager Ci Xi and 慈安太后 (Ci An Tai Hou), Empress Dowager Ci An supervised the court in the late Qing Dynasty.
The rear hall was where the Emperor slept. In the centre of the hall, there is a ‘kang’ (brick bed) for people to sit on.
In the east room, there is a throne. The west room holds a large number of ornaments. According to the ‘Archive of Ornaments of Yang Xin Dian’, the rear hall has a total of 724 ornaments.
In 1911 (the third year of the 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 “养心” (Yang Xin) come from the Mencius, meaning that the best way to cultivate one’s mind is to reduce one’s desires.
On the left side of the rear hall is 体顺堂 (Ti Shun Tang), Hall of Consolation:
“体顺堂” (Ti Shun Tang) was constructed in the Ming Dynasty. Originally, it was named “隆禧馆” (Long Xi Guan), Hall of Intensive Happiness, and renamed “绥覆殿” (Sui Fu Dian), Hall of Peaceful Walks, in the Xinfeng reign period of the Qing Dynasty and finally “体顺堂” (Ti Shun Tang) in the first year of the Guangxu reign period.
The horizontal board bears an inscription by 慈禧太后 (Ci Xi Tai Hou), Empress Dowager Ci Xi:
A huge crystal stone is placed in the front of the hall to symbolise frankness, open-heartedness and purity (“光明磊落、纯洁无暇” ).
When the Emperor lived in 养心殿 (Yang Xin Dian), Hall of Mental Cultivation, the Empress lived in 体顺堂 (Ti Shun Tang), Hall of Consolation.
The houses in the east were the temporary residences for imperial concubines.
In the first year of the Tongzhi reign period, when two Empress Dowagers handled state affairs from behind a screen, 慈安太后 (Ci An Tai Hou), Empress Dowager Ci An, lived here.
The two words “体顺” come from the Book of Changes, signifying compliance with what the Emperor wants.
On the right side is 燕喜堂 (Yan Xi Tang), Hall of Swallow’s Happiness.
On the way to 太极殿, we saw the 永寿门 (Yong Shou Men), Gate of Longevity, which opens to 永寿宫 (Yong Shou Gong), Palace of Longevity:
However, 永寿门 (Yong Shou Men) was locked to the public.
Next up, 太极殿 (Tai Ji Dian), Hall of Great Supremacy:
This building was first constructed in 1420, during the Ming Dynasty. After renovation ins 1859, it was linked to 长春宫 (Chang Chun Gong), Palace of Eternal Spring, and four courtyards were added. Originally, it was named “未央宫” (Wei Yang Gong), Endless Palace. It was renamed “吉祥宫” (Ji Xiang Gong), Palace of Auspicious Signs, by Emperor Jiajing of the Ming Dynasty, as his father Prince Xian was born here. It was named “太极殿” (Tai Ji Dian) in the late Qing Dynasty.
In 1596, during the Ming Dynasty, 乾清宫 (Qian Qing Gong), Palace of Heavenly Purity and 坤宁宫 (Kun Ning Gong), Palace of Earthly Tranquility, were destroyed by fire. Thereafter, Emperor Shengzong (Zhu Yijun) of the Ming Dynasty lived in 太极殿 (Tai Ji Dian) for more than 10 years. He was the only Emperor of both the Ming and Qing Dynasty who lived and handled state affairs in this hall.
In the Qing Dynasty, it was the residence for Imperial concubines.
Before Emperor Pu Yi, the last Emperor of the Qing Dynasty, left the Imperial Palace, Emperor Tongzhi’s Concubine Yu lived here.
The words “太极” (Tai Ji) come from the Book of Changes and mean universe.
We then went to 翊坤宫 (Yi Kun Gong), Palace of Blessings to Mother Earth:
Built in 1420 during the Ming Dynasty, it was named “婉安宫” (Wan An Gong), Palace of Myriad Peace. It was later renamed because of its close proximity to the three palaces of the Inner Court. “翊” (Yi) means, “guarding and assisting”.
It was renovated in 1884 in celebration of 慈禧太后 (Ci Xi Tai Hou), Empress Dowager Ci Xi’s 50th birthday and was linked by four courtyards to 储秀宫 (Chu Xiu Gong), Palace of Gathering Excellence.
During the Qing Dynasty, it was the residence for Imperial concubines. A board with an inscription written by 乾隆皇 (Emperor Qianlong) hangs in the front hall. When 慈禧太后 (Ci Xi Tai Hou), Empress Dowager Ci Xi lived in 储秀宫 (Chu Xiu Gong), the Imperial concubines paid their respects by kowtowing to Ci Xi here at important festivals.
On the top of the beams, a pair of metal loops (already rusty in picture) are fixed:
They were for a princess’ swing as she loved swings.
This is the 体和殿 (Ti He Dian), Hall of Manifested Harmony:
This hall was constructed on the site of the old rear hall of 翊坤宫 (Yi Kun Gong), Palace of Blessings to Mother Earth, and 储秀门 (Chu Xiu Men), Gate of Gathering Excellence. The hall, which is five bays wide, has passageways, a door in the front and a door in the back. The rooms in the East and West, which are linked by doors, were where 慈禧太后 (Ci Xi Tai Hou), Empress Dowager Ci Xi dined, drank tea and rested when she lived in 储秀宫 (Chu Xiu Gong).
In 1887, 慈禧太后 (Ci Xi Tai Hou), Empress Dowager Ci Xi, presided over a ceremony here for selecting the Empress and concubines for 光绪皇 (Guang Xu Huang), Emperor Guangxu.
“体和” means “experiencing and observing gentleness and harmony”.
The cranes found in the courtyard symbolise longevity:
This is the 储秀宫 (Chu Xiu Gong), Palace of Gathering Excellence:
储秀宫(Chu Xiu Gong) was built in 1420 and rebuilt in 1655. During the Ming and Qing Dynasties, it was the residence of the Empress and Imperial concubines.
Found directly in front of 储秀宫 (Chu Xiu Gong):
慈禧太后 (Ci Xi Tai Hou), Empress Dowager Ci Xi, once lived here in 1852 when she was conferred “兰贵人” (Lan Gui Ren), Honorable Person Lan. She gave birth to 同治皇 (Tong Zhi Huang), Emperor Tongzhi, here in 1856. Thereafter, she was conferred 懿嫔 (Yi Pin), Concubine Yi.
In 1884, 慈禧太后 (Ci Xi Tai Hou), Empress Dowager Ci Xi, moved her residence to 储秀宫(Chu Xiu Gong) in celebration of her 50th birthday.
The inscriptions on the walls along the corridor in the yard are the poems to wish for 慈禧太后 (Ci Xi Tai Hou), Empress Dowager Ci Xi’s longevity:
(J’s reflection was captured instead – but the picture above was supposed to show the longevity-wishing poems.)
Walking on, we got to the 皇家电话局 (Huang Jia Dian Hua Ju), Royal Telephone Office:
In the Opium War, Western powers landed on the soil of China, which brought about great changes to Chinese feudal society. The Qing Government realised the importance of telecommunication in dealing with military and political affairs. The antiuated communication method was replaced by modern telecommunication.
In April 1910, ten telephone switchboards were installs in the Forbidden City and six telephones were installed respectively in the Hall of Jian Fu, Chu Xiu and Chang Chun. This was the only royal telephone office of China.
The above photos shows the operation scene of Central Telephone Exchange in Qing Dynasty.
We then ended up in the East Room, (part of) an exhibition of Emperor Pu Yi, the last Emperor of the Qing Dynasty.
Pu Yi’s Education:
This mechanism here shows a Chinese saying, “谦受益，满招损” (Qian Shou Yi, Man Zhao Sun), which means, ‘If you are humble, you will benefit; but if you are too full of yourself, you will be disadvantaged’.
Apparently the cup above will topple over if water is filled to its brim.
Pu Yi began his education at age six. His most influential tutors were 陈宝琛 (Chen Bao Chen) and a British, Johnston. Chen took charge of his Confucian courses while Johnston, his English tutor, taught him English, History, Geography, etc. Pu Yi preferred Johnston’s teaching and his English texts, gaining much new knowledge about Western countries and societies. The stationery and books displayed here were used in Pu Yi’s education:
His life as a blend of Chinese and Western Styles:
Pu Yi became Emperor at three and was forced to abdicate at six. The Imperial lifestyle deprived him of the warmth of family and the comfort of friends. Hence, toys became an important aspect of his otherwise boring life. However, as he grew up, he developed his awareness and rebelled against the Chinese lifestyle – he cut his braid, wore Western clothes and ate Western food. This combination of East and West added some colour to his otherwise gray childhood.
Qing Dynasty Mahjong set:
Poker Cards with Western Beauties:
His expulsion from the palace:
冯玉祥 (Feng Yu Xiang), a General under the Warlord 吴佩孚 (Wu Pei Fu) staged a coup d’etat in Beijing in 1924. He commanded his troops to enter Beijing and sent General 鹿钟麟 (Lu Zhong Lin) to take charge of the Forbidden City on November 5. He made a declaration revising the 清室优待条件 (Qing Shi You Dai Tiao Jian), Articles of Favourable Treatment of the Members of the Qing Court, and drove Pu Yi out of the palace, thus ending the palace-phase of his life.
Situated at the back of 储秀宫 (Chu Xiu Gong) is 丽景轩 (Li Jing Xuan), Pavilion of Beautiful Scenery:
丽景轩 (Li Jing Xuan) was built in 1535, during the Ming Dynasty. In 1856, the 6th year of Xianfeng reign period in Qing Dynasty, 慈禧太后 (Ci Xi Tai Hou), Empress Dowager Ci Xi, then 懿嫔 (Yi Pin), Concubine Yi of the 4th rank, gave birth to Zai Chun, who eventually became 同治皇 (Tong Zhi Huang), Emperor Tongzhi.
In 1884, the 10th year of Guangxu period, 慈禧太后 (Ci Xi Tai Hou), Empress Dowager Ci Xi moved to the 储秀宫 (Chu Xiu Gong), Palace of Gathering Excellence, on her 50th birthday and renamed this room “丽景轩” (Li Jing Xuan).
It served as a dining hall for Western cuisine during the last Emperor, Pu Yi’s period.
Based on the 《清室善后委员会的点查报告》, Checking Report of Rehabilitation Committee for Qing Court, written after Pu Yi was abdicated from the Imperial Palace in 1924, the room has been restored to display the table setting during Pu Yi’s time:
(In this pavilion, there used to be a small exquisite stage. 慈禧太后 (Ci Xi Tai Hou), Empress Dowager Ci Xi, sat on the Imperial bed opposite the stage to enjoy the performances of theatrical troupe at her leisure.)
In the East Room, there is another an exhibition of Emperor Pu Yi, the last Emperor of the Qing Dynasty.
Pu Yi’s designation as heir-apparent and his enthronement:
By 1909, the Qing Empire was in crisis financially, politically and militarily. According to an order given by the deceased 慈禧太后 (Ci Xi Tai Hou), Empress Dowager Ci Xi, Pu Yi, the song of the Prince Regent Chun, was designated heir to the throne since 光绪皇 (Guang Xu Huang), Emperor Guangxu died of illness without a son. Pu Yi ascended to the throne in 1909 under the reign title, “宣统” (Xuan Tong).
The exhibition also showed his abdication and short-lived 1917 as well as his wedding and gifts, which we were unable to take photos of as people were crowded around those exhibits.
This is the end of the western route, during which we saw:
- 军机处 (Jun Ji Chu), Grand Council of State
- 隆宗门 (Long Zong Men), Gate of Distinguished Clan
- 养心殿 (Yang Xin Dian), Hall of Mental Cultivation
- 三希堂 (San Xi Tang), Room of Three Rarities
- 体顺堂 (Ti Shun Tang), Hall of Consolation
- 永寿门 (Yong Shou Men), Gate of Longevity
- 太极殿 (Tai Ji Dian), Hall of Great Supremacy
- 翊坤宫 (Yi Kun Gong), Palace of Blessings to Mother Earth
- 体和殿 (Ti He Dian), Hall of Manifested Harmony
- 储秀宫 (Chu Xiu Gong), Palace of Gathering Excellence
- 皇家电话局 (Huang Jia Dian Hua Ju), Royal Telephone Office
- East and West Rooms of Exhibition on Emperor Pu Yi
- 丽景轩 (Li Jing Xuan), Pavilion of Beautiful Scenery
Our next post will be on the central route where“乾清宫” (Qian Qing Gong (Palace)), “交泰殿” (Jiao Tai Dian (Hall)), “坤宁宫” (Kun Ning Gong (Palace)) and “御花园” (Yu Hua Yuan (Garden)) are.