Palace of Accumulated Purity (Zhongcuigong)

As one of the Six Eastern Palaces in Forbidden City, Palace of Accumulated Purity (Zhongcuigong) is situated at the northwest part of the inner court, west to the Palace of Great Brilliance (Jingyanggong) and north to the Palace of Celestial Favor (Chengqiangong). During Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), Zhongcuigong was designated as the residence for crown princes and concubines. The famous Xianfeng Emperor (1831-1860) had lived in this palace during his boyhood. Now, Zhongcuigong has been changed into a jadeware exhibition hall.

History Since 1420

Zhongcuigong was built in 1420, the 18th year of Yongle Period in Ming Dynasty. And it was first named as Xianyanggong. In 1535, the 14th year of Jiajing Period in Ming Dynasty, its name was changed into Zhongcuigong, which literally means accumulating the spirit of purity. During Qing Dynasty, this palace was refurbished for a few times in 1655, 1831, 1874, 1890 and 1897.

Festoon Gate

After passing through Zhongcui Gate, the entrance to Zhongcuigong, visitors can see the second gate on the central axis of this palace. Among the Six Eastern Palaces and Six Western Palaces in inner court of Forbidden City, only Zhongcuigong has this special Festoon Gate. It features with two columns supporting the gate beam. And the columns are carved with the pattern of lotus and bead.

Front Hall

The front hall contains five rooms, all capped with gable and hip roof. Its roof is piled with yellow glazed tiles and supported by multiple bracket sets. And the roof beam is delicately painted with Suzhou-style pattern. Except the largest room, the other four rooms are equipped with hollow-out wooden windows and doors, some with the pattern of cracked ice. On both sides of the front hall have three side halls, which are covered by gabled roof. This roof is also decorated with yellow glazed tiles and Suzhou-style colored paintings.

Back Hall

The back hall has five main rooms, two adjacent rooms, three side halls at the east side and three at the west. These accessory buildings are all covered by the gabled roof with yellow glazed tiles. And there is a small pavilion to the southwest side. A veranda skillfully connects all the buildings in Zhongcuigong.

Jadeware Exhibition

Zhongcuigong exhibits over 150 selected jade articles of Qing Dynasty, including jadeware for house decoration, jadeware for daily use, antique jadeware and ornamental jadeware. Some famous exhibits are Jade Thumb Ring; White Jade Thumb Ring; Jade Pendants of the Twelve Months; White Jade Imitation Antique Pendant with Openwork Dragon Design; Pale-white Jade Arhat; White Jade Bowl Inlaid with Gold and Encrusted with Rubies; and Pumpkin-shaped Kettle with Goat-headed Spout and Enamel Handle.

Who had ever lived here?

 1. Crown Prince Zhucilang (1629-1644): the 16th emperor in Ming Dynasty.

 2. Noble Concubine Ulanara (1681-1731): the empress of Yongzheng Emperor, the 5th emperor in Qing Dynasty. She is more well-known as Empress Xiaojingxian.

 3. Noble Concubine Huixian (?-1745): the concubine of Qianlong Emperor, the 6th emperor in Qing Dynasty.

 4. Noble Concubine Xin (?-1764): the concubine of Qianlong Emperor.

 5. Noble Concubine Quan (1808-1840): also known as Empress Xiaoquanzheng. She is the empress of Daoguang Emperor and the mother of Xianfeng Emperor, the 8th and 9th emperors in Qing Dynasty respectively. Before Xianfeng ascended the throne, he had also lived in Zhongcuigong for 17 years.

 6. Noble Concubine Jing (1812-1855): the concubine of Daoguang Emperor. After Empress Xiaoquanzheng died, Jing moved into Zhongcuigong to help raise her son Xianfeng.

 7. Noble Concubine Zhen (1837-1881): more well-known as Empress Dowager Ci’an, she was the concubine of Xianfeng Emperor. After being conferred the title of empress, she once lived in the Palace of Eternal Spring (Changchungong) and the Palace of Benevolent Peace (Cininggong) for a short period. However, she spent most of her time and eventually died in Zhongcuigong.

 8. Noble Concubine Longyu (1868-1913): the cousin and express of Guangxu Emperor, the 11th emperor in Qing Dynasty. She lived in Zhongcuigong after getting married with Guangxu, and then spent 19 lonely years in the palace. After Guangxu died, she was conferred the title of Empress Dowager Longyu, and moved to the Palace of Eternal Spring (Changchungong) and the Hall of Supreme Principle (Taijidian).

The Mystery of Empress Dowager Ci’an’s Death in Zhongcuigong

The most mysterious story about Zhongcuiong is how Empress Dowager Ci’an (Noble Concubine Zhen mentioned above) died here.
The first version hold by many people is that the Empress Dowager Ci’an was poisoned by Empress Dowager Cixi (1835-1908). They both were the concubines of Xianfeng Emperor. After Xianfeng died, they were both conferred the title as empress dowager. At that time, the successor, little Tongzhi Emperor, was only six years old, thus not capable of dealing with national affairs. Therefore, it is Empress Dowager Ci’an and Cixi who made important decisions and took control of the whole imperial court at that time. One day, Ci’an showed Cixi a written instruction left by the passed Xianfeng Emperor. It roughly means that if Cixi was too arrogant and kept domineering over others, Ci’an was qualified to punish Cixi upon showing this written inscription. Later, though Ci’an burnt it in front of Cixi to show her trust, Cixi still had grudge against Ci’an. One day, Cixi presented some pastry for Ci’an, and at that night, Ci’an felt acute stomach pains. A few hours later, Ci’an died in Zhongcuigong. Many people believe that Cixi was a wicked woman and she considered Ci’an a timing bomb. Only through killing Ci’an could make Cixi exercise more political power.
Another version is that Ci’an died of the onset of stroke. According to the record of royal physicians, on April 8th of 1881 in Chinese lunar calendar, Ci’an became unconscious at noon and kept drooling with a twisted look. The medicine prescribed by physicians didn’t work at all. In that afternoon, Ci’an had incontinence and passed away a few hours later. However, there is no clear evidence to prove this record’s authenticity. Thus, what did Empress Dowager Ci’an die of still remains a mystery till now.  

See more Six Eastern Palaces

- Last modified on Apr. 20, 2020 -
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