Palace of Established Happiness (Jianfugong)

The Palace of Established Happiness (Jianfugong) was built in 1742, the 7th year of the Qianlong Period in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). Located at the northwest corner of the Forbidden City, it was where the Emperor Qianlong (1711-1799) composed poetry and collected treasures. In 1923, the north half of Jianfugong was ravaged by fire, and the renovation of this area lasted from 1999 to 2006.
 
 Notice: Now, the area is mainly used by the Forbidden City to receive distinguished guests, hold culture salons, academic meetings and news briefings, not open to tourists.
 

Axisymmetric Layout in the East and Centric Layout in the West

The Jianfugong complex can be divided into the east part and the west part. Buildings in the east are arranged symmetrically along the south-to-north axis, which are Fuchendian, Jianfugong, Huifengting, Jingyixuan and Huiyaolou. The neat layout of these east buildings represents the august atmosphere of royal architecture. In contrast, the Jianfugong Garden in the west features with a centric arrangement with Yanchunge standing in the center. The flexible layout of the west buildings brings vitality to the Forbidden City. Later on, Jingyixuan and Huiyaolou were included into the Jianfugong Garden.
 

Fuchendian

The first building upon entering Palace of Established Happiness, Fuchendian, features curved saddle roof. Its ridge and edges are paved with green glazed tiles while the rest is paved with the blue ones. This building communicates with the north Jianfugong through nine corridors on both east and west sides.
 

Jianfugong

Jianfugong is the main building of this construction complex. This palace is well-known for its colorful and exquisite interior decoration. In its largest room, the wooden partition boards have black base color and delicate golden patterns. The top of the partition board is also painted with colorful peony, lotus and magpies. In the two middle-sized rooms on two sides of the main room, the ceiling and walls are all pasted with silver wallpapers, on which the round patterns of dragon, crane and butterfly can be seen.
 
Emperor Qianlong liked Jianfugong very much and used to compose a lot of poems for this building. Later on, it became a Chinese New Year’s tradition that the emperor should come to Jianfugong every December 1st of the lunar calendar and write Chinese character “Fu” (“福”, happiness) to send to his officials. The memorial tablets of Empress Xiaodexian (1831-1850) and Empress Xiaozhenxian (1837-1811) were also placed here. Verandas on the two sides of Jianfugong can lead to the more northern building, Huifengting.
 

Huifengting

Huifengting is a square pavillion with double-layered pointed roof. This roof is mainly decorated with purple glazed tiles, and its ridge and edges have blue glazed tiles. White rocks are used to make the terrace and banisters of this pavillion. The columns here are also carved with smooth wavy patterns, truly elegant. The red wall in the north separates Huifengting with Jingyixuan to its north.
 

Jianfugong Garden

Given its location in the west of the Forbidden City, it is also called West Garden (Xihuayuan). The whole garden has an area of 4,020 sq.m (4,808 sq.yd) with more than ten buldings inside, located to the north and northwest of the axisymmetric lined buildings mentioned above. These buildings can be divided into the east part and the west part.
 
The east part includes two buildings, Jingyixuan and Huiyaolou. They are to the north of Huifengting along the south-north axis. Jingyixuan is more like a transitional building and its veranda skilfully connects the Jianfugong Garden with other buildings in Jianfugong. Huiyaolou is a two-layered building used to store various statues of Buddha.
 
Unlike the axis arrangement of the east part in the Palace of Established Happiness, buildings in the west form a centric pattern. The central square building is Yanchunge, which features a double-layered pyramidal roof. Being the largest building in the Jianfugong Garden, Yanchunge Hall is surrounded by Jingshengzhai Hall, Bilinguan Hall, Ninghuitang Hall and Miaolianhuashi Hall. Such layout brings the splendor of Yanchunge into full play. Moreover, to the south of Yanchunge, grotesque rocks, lush vegetation and winding paths are elaborately designed, which makes Jianfugong Garden more seclusive and appealing.
 

Severe Fire Brought Down Jianfugong in 1923

On the evening of June 26th, 1923, the Palace of Established Happiness was suddenly on fire. Though the firefighters came to the Palace of Established Happiness in a short time, there was no sufficient supply of water. The blaze quickly spread from Jingyixuan Hall to Yanchunge Pavillion. The north half of Jianfugong were soon on fire. The pines and cypresses in the garden only made the blaze even more uncontrollable. This fire was not put out until the next afternoon.
 
It is a huge loss that over three hundred rooms were destroyed and many treasures were burned into ashes. These include precious Tibetan scriptures, goldwares, thousands of statues of Buddha, and many ancient paintings and calligraphies. What’s more, Emperor Qianlong used to place his tributes in Jianfugong Garden, and later Emperor Jiajing (1720-1860) asked people to seal Qianlong’s treasure boxes. That’s to say, lots of treasures had never been opened before being destroyed, which is really a pity.
 
How did the fire happen? The emperor of that time, Puyi (1906-1967), also the last emperor who lived in the Forbidden City, asked people to look into this fire, angrily to find that the fire was not an accident but arson. Some eunuchs stole treasures from Jianfugong and then set this place on fire intentionally, so as to destroy the evidence and avoid being caught. As punishment, Puyi only kept those eunuchs who served concubines, and evicted all of the rest from the Forbidden City.
 

Renovation from 1999 - 2006

In the following over 80 years, the Palace of Established Happiness was in debris. In 1999, with the sponsorship, the Forbidden City launched the renovation program of Jianfugong. In May 2006, the renovation was completed and Jianfugong regained its glory.

  Next:
​ Go south or east to see the Six Western Palaces (Xiliugong);
 Go south to see the Palace of Compassion and Tranquility (Cininggong).

​ Note: On the north side is the Palace of Many Splendors (Chonghuagong), which is not open to tourists yet.

 Further Reading:

How to visit the Forbidden City

- Last modified on Nov. 05, 2020 -
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