Palace of Eternal Harmony (Yonghegong)
The Palace of Eternal Harmony (Yonghegong) is on the west side of the inner court in the Forbidden City. It is east of the Palace of Celestial Favor (Chengqiangong), north of the Palace of Prolonging Happiness (Yanxigong) and south of the Palace of Great Brilliance (Jingyanggong). Yonghegong was constructed in 1420 during the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644) and repaired in 1686, 1765, and 1890 during the Qing Dynasty (1644 – 1911). It is one of the Six Eastern Palaces, where many famous concubines lived, and the birthplace of Emperor Yongzheng(1678-1735), the 5th emperor of the Qing Dynasty. Today temporary exhibitions of different themes are occcasionally held here.
The front hall has five rooms and three attached rooms. The saddle roof of these rooms is decorated with yellow glazed tiles and five ceramic statuettes of animals. Interlaced bracket arches support the whole roof and the dragon and phoenix paintings can be seen on the beams. Inside the front hall, the ceiling is covered with paper and satin and the floor is paved with square bricks. The plaque at the center was made in the Qing Dynasty and engraved with ‘Yi Zhao Shu Shen’, in order to remind concubines to behave themselves with decorum. Other accessory buildings include six adjacent rooms, which are evenly located at the west and east side.
The back hall is named ‘Tong Shun Zhai’, which means the hall of shared harmony. Five rooms of the back hall are capped with a gabbled roof with yellow glazed tiles. The largest room has four hollowed-out wooden door leafs with a petal-like pattern, two of which can be opened. The rest rooms have both wooden and glass windows. There are also adjacent rooms and a well.
In the Palace of Eternal Harmony, there various temporary exhibitions have been held, including exhibits of ancient bronze mirrors, concubines’ articles for daily use and the royal medical appliances and herbs. However, this is not a permanent exhibition hall. So if you are not sure whether it holds exhibitions on your visit date, check the official Palace Museum website to get the latest information.
Five Famous Concubines Once Lived in Yonghegong
De was the favorite concubine of Emperor Kangxi, the 4th emperor in the Qing Dynasty. She gave birth to three sons and three daughters with Kangxi. Owing to her careful nurture, one of her sons became a competent general taking control of the northwestern territory, and another son was the next imperial successor, Emperor Yongzheng (1678-1735). Concubine De was a gentle, smart and considerate woman, and thus won the affection and respect of Kangxi and other royal members.
1. Concubine De (1660-1723)
Yu was the concubine of Emperor Qianlong, the 6th emperor in the Qing Dynasty. Though Qianlong paid scant attention to Concubine Yu, he was really fond of their son, Yongqi. Thus Yongqi became the only one Concubine Yu could rely on. In order not to let his mom down, Yongqi was very diligent and had good command of several languages. In 1763, Emperor Qianlong and some other ministers were accidently caught in a fire. Yongqi bravely came to Qianlong’s rescue and saved him. Qianlong appreciated Yongqi so much that he wanted to secretly choose Yongqi as the crown prince. Unfortunately, in 1766, Yongqi fell severely ill and died at the age of 24. This was undoubtedly a fatal blow to Concubine Yu. Without the company of her son or a shred of affection from Qianlong, Yu lived a solitary life in Yonghegong and passed away at the age of 79.
2. Concubine Yu (1714-1792)
Jing was the concubine of Emperor Daoguang, the 8th emperor in the Qing Dynasty. She was a very ambitious woman and was determined to become the empress. As a concubine, all she could do was to give birth to a prince as quickly as possible. During the first three years, Jing had two boys. However, they both died soon after birth. In 1831, Jing gave birth to a little princess. But she was not satisfied, because she was clearly aware that only a boy could help her get elevated. In 1833, Jing finally bore a boy and was subsequently conferred the title of noble concubine. Seven years later, the empress suddenly died. Emperor Daoguang asked Jing to raise the empress’s son and Jing willingly agreed. Because she was pretty sure that she would be appointed as the new empress very soon! However, before she was elevated, Emperor Daoguang died and Emperor Xianfeng came to power. She was not resigned to such situation and tried every way to convince Xianfeng to make her as the empress dowager. Emperor Xianfeng considered it improper and refused. Jing’s hope was totally dimmed and she only received the title of empress dowager after she died.
3. Concubine Jing (1812-1855)
Li was the concubine of Emperor Xianfeng, the 9th emperor in the Qing Dynasty. Not long after Xianfeng was enthroned, Li was chosen to be his concubine. She was very beautiful and good at singing and dancing. Two years later, she gave birth to a girl, also Xianfeng’s first kid, which delighted Emperor Xianfeng. After that Concubine Li spent a peaceful period of time in Yonghegong. In 1861, Emperor Xianfeng died. Concubine Li was elevated as the noble concubine and moved to the Palace of Health (Shoukanggong). Nevertheless, she was in poor health for a long time and finally passed away at the age of 54.
4. Concubine Li (1837-1890)
Jin was one of the three concubines of Emperor Guangxu, the 11th emperor in the Qing Dynasty. The other two concubines gained Guangxu’s favor either due to their familial background or their delicate figures. As for Concubine Jin, she was from humble origins and not goodlooking, thus failed to stand out. Her life during the first two decades as a concubine was rather simple and even monotonous. After Emperor Guangxu died in 1908, Concubine Jin felt less stress and enjoyed freedom in Yonghegong. All she needed to do was to savor cuisines, paint and collect antiques. However, after Empress Dowager Longyu died in 1913, there was no one but Jin could take on the responsibility and deal with everything in the inner court. From then on, her personality changed and she went from a timid concubine to a harsh controller. The mother of Emperor Puyi, the last emperor in Qing, committed suicide after being humiliated by Jin. In 1924, Concubine Jin’s illness were aggravated and she soon passed away.
5. Concubine Jin (1873-1924)
See more Six Eastern Palaces
- Last modified on Jul. 06, 2020 -