Palace of Eternal Spring (Changchungong)

Palace of Eternal Spring (Changchungong) is the residence for royal concubines of the Ming and Qing dynasties (1368 -1911) in Forbidden City, one of the Six Western Palaces in inner court. It is located to the north of Hall of the Supreme Principle (Taijidian) and the south of Palace of Universal Happiness (Xianfugong). In the late Qing dynasty, the empress dowager Cixi and Cian both lived here for some time.

History of Palace of Eternal Spring (Changchungong) since 1420

Built in the 18th year of the reign of emperor Yongle (1420) of the Ming dynasty, it was originally named Changchungong, renamed as Yongninggong in the 14th year of the reign of emperor Jiajing (1535), finally changed back to Changchungong in the 43rd year of the reign of emperor Wanli (1615). In the 22nd year of the reign of emperor Kangxi of Qing dynasty (1683), the Palace of Eternal Spring was renovated. In the ninth year of Xianfeng (1859), its gate was dismantled, and the palace was connected with the back hall of Hall of the Supreme Principle (Taijidian).

What to See inside Palace of Eternal Spring (Changchungong)

The main hall of Changchungong has 5 rooms with yellow glazed tile roof. In front of the hall, there is one pair of copper turtles and one pair of copper cranes on the right and left. The east side hall of Changchungong is Suishoudian, and above the door hangs the empress dowager Cixi’s calligraphy: Ying Tian Qing (膺天庆). Above the door of west hall, Chengxidian, also hangs a calligraphy reading “Sui Wan Bang (绥万邦)”, which was also written by Cixi. All these are obsequious words presented by the officials when Cixi held her 50th birthday ceremony. On the walls of the corridors of Changchungong are 18 giant murals on the theme of "A Dream of Red Mansions", one of the four great classical novels of China. These murals, with their complete layout and vivid details, reproduce the classic scenes described in the book and show the superb skills of painters in the late Qing dynasty.

In the south of Changchungong, there is an opera stage where the empress dowager Cixi, during her 50th birthday celebrations, watched opera performances every day with other concubines for half a month. Its back hall was built at the same time with the main hall, named Yiqing Book Room. It also was equipped with 3 side rooms on the east and west respectively. 

Who had ever lived in Palace of Eternal Spring (Changchungong)?

1. Ming Concubine Cheng (1605 - 1637)

She was the concubine of emperor Tianqi, the second last emperor of Ming Dynasty, who was addicted to wood carving and indifferent to his concubines and state affairs. Then his wet nurse Ke and eunuch Wei Zhongxian took the chance to rule the palace as well as the country in the name of the emperor, sending many innocent officials and concubines against them into prison, or even killed them. One day, the only “surviving” concubine Cheng said some good words for another concubine to the emperor. Hearing that, Ke and Wei stopped providing food to Cheng and planned to starve her to death. Even though Cheng hid some food in advance and did not die, she was later forced to move out of Changchungong to the palace for old maids on a snowy night. 

2. Qing Empress Xiaoxian (1712 - 1748)

Changchungong was once the residence of empress Xiaoxian, who was deeply loved by emperor Qianlong of Qing. She was the first empress of Qianlong. In 1748, empress Xiaoxian followed the emperor on his southern tour. On their way back to Beijing, she fell overboard and drowned unfortunately in Dezhou, Shandong province. Emperor Qianlong was so sad that he took Xiaoxian back to Beijing day and night. During empress Xiaoxian's funeral, her coffin was placed in her residence, Changchungong. Then after, Qianlong ordered that the empress’s utensils and clothes in Changchungong be kept as before, so as her pearl crown and bead strings, till Qianlong handed over the crown to his son. Although Xiaoxian was not there any more, Qianlong visited this palace very often to miss her.

3. Qing Empress Dowager Cixi (1835 - 1908) and Ci’an (1837 - 1881)

Cixi and Ci’an, one is called the empress of the West palace and the other the empress of the East palace. From 1861, Cixi and Ci’an both lived in Changchungong when they together dealt with state affairs in the name of the little emperor Tongzhi. This was because it was the only palace hanging their husband, emperor Xianfeng’s calligraphy. In the 10th years of reign of Tongzhi, Ci’an moved from Changchungong to Zhongcuigong. In the 10th year of the reign of emperor Guangxu (1884), Cixi moved out of Changchungong to Chuxiugong where she had lived in her early years.

4. Qing Concubine Shu (1909 - 1953)

The last concubine once lived in Changchungong is the concubine Shu, Wenxiu of emperor Puyi, the last emperor of Qing. From the winter of 1922 to 1924, she lived in this palace. She is very introverted. Every day, except for routine greetings to the emperor and empress dowager Cixi in the morning and evening, she stayed in Changchungong to teach the palace maids to read, or supervise them to sew embroidery. On November 5, 1924, she was forced to leave the Forbidden City together with the emperor Puyi. On October 22, 1931, in a Tianjin law firm, Wenxiu and Puyi signed a divorce agreement. She is the first and only concubine daring to divorce in China history. 

See more Six Western Palaces

- Last modified on Jul. 22, 2020 -
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