Palace of Gathered Elegance (Chuxiugong)

Palace of Gathered Elegance (Chuxiugong), one of the Six Western Palaces in Forbidden City, was the residence of concubines in Ming and Qing dynasties (1368-1911). Empress dowager Cixi once lived here and gave birth to emperor Tongzhi. It is located to east of Palace of Universal Happiness (Xianfugong), north of Palace of Earthly Honor (Yikungong). Nowadays, visitors can see clearly through the windows of main hall of Palace of Gathered Elegance the original display of the empress dowager Cixi’s 50th birthday. The rest and the side halls are display of the last emperor's life.
 

600 Years’ History of Palace of Gathered Elegance

It was built in the 18th year of Ming Yongle in 1420, formerly known as Shouchanggong. In Jiajing 14th years in 1535, it was renamed Chuxiugong. In the 10th year of the reign of Guangxu in 1884, Chuxiugong was renovated to celebrate empress dowager Cixi's 50th birthday. In May 2018, the Palace Museum launched the lighting system of Chuxiugong and lit up more than 40 lights for the palace.
 

What to See Inside

Chuxiugong is the most elegant palace among the Six Western Palaces in the inner court of Forbidden City. Its front door is hung with a "Da Yuan Bao Jing" plaque, meaning scare away evils, and its beams are decorated with elegant Su style paintings. The courtyard of Chuxiugong is spacious and quiet, with two vigorous ancient cypress trees standing in. Under the base of the palace, a pair of bronze dragons and a pair of bronze deer are placed on east and west sides, which were cast for the 50th birthday of Cixi. East and west side halls for Chuxiugong are Yanghedian and Suifudian. The rear hall of Chuxiugong named Lijingxuan is 5-room wide, also equipped with side halls of Fengguangshi and Yilanguan.
 

The Palace for the Young Empress Dowager Cixi

Chuxiugong is of great significance to empress dowager Cixi. When she got married with emperor Xianfeng and entered the Forbidden City at the age of 17, she lived in the rear hall of Chuxiugong, which was full of her youth memories. Later, she gave birth to the emperor Tongzhi here, through him she held the power of the country. In the 10th year of the reign of emperor Guangxu in 1884, the empress dowager Cixi, who had already been living in Changchungong for ten years, decided to move back to Chuxiugong to celebrate her 50th birthday, and named the rear hall Lijingxuan. At the same time, Cixi broke the ancestral rule set by emperor Qianlong that the furnishings of the Six Western Palaces and Six Eastern Palaces should not be changed. It eventually cost six hundred and thirty thousand taels of silver to overhaul Chuxiugong.

The layout of Palace of Gathered Elegance was originally shaped like Chinese character “日”, with two courtyards. At this time, Chuxiugong’s front gate was dismantled, to connect with the back hall of the Palace of Earthly Honor (Yikungong) in its front. Then the connected Chuxiugong and Yikungong form a palace with four courtyards
 

Who else had ever lived in Palace of Gathered Elegance (Chuxiugong)?

1. Concubine Ping (1670 - 1696)

She was the concubine of emperor Kangxi, the third emperor of Qing Dynasty. She entered the Forbidden City when she was only ten years old and was granted the title of concubine in 1684. She was not only the youngest of the five concubines at that time, but also the noblest. However, she died of illness at the age of 26.
 

2. Empress Xiaoyichun (1727 - 1775)

She was the third empress of emperor Qianlong and the mother of emperor Jiaqing. She was awarded the title of imperial noble concubine in the thirtieth year of Qianlong's reign and died of illness at the age of forty-nine.
 

3. Empress Xiaoherui (1776 - 1850)

She was the second empress of emperor Jiaqing and the longest-reigning empress in Qing history. She died at the age of 74. In the sixth year of Jiaqing, she was crowned empress and lived in Chuxiugong. After the death of empress Xiaoshurui, empress Xiaoherui helped raise her son Minning and treated him as her son with deep care and love. Minning succeeded to the throne successfully, largely due to the recommendation of empress Xiaoherui, so he treated her with more respect and love.
 

4. Empress Xiaoshencheng (1792 - 1833)

She became empress after Qing Daoguang emperor ascended the throne and lived in Palace of Gathered Elegance. Empress Xiaoshencheng gave birth to the first daughter of the emperor at this palace, who died young. Emperor Daoguang was very nostalgic for the princess, so he not only wrote "Daonvci” (mourning for the girl) for his daughter, but also granted her the title of Duanmin Gulun princess and built a mausoleum for her. The relationship between the emperor Daoguang and the empress Xiaoshencheng is very deep.
 

5. Empress Xiaozheyi (1854 - 1875)

After the death of emperor Tongzhi, empress Xiaozheyi lived in Chuxiugong until her death. She was the only Aleut (family name) queen in the Qing dynasty and the last empress from Mongolia. The empress Xiaozheyi was the tragic victim of empress dowager Cixi's struggle for political power. She committed suicide at the age of 22, more than 70 days after the death of the emperor Tongzhi.
 

6. Empress Wanrong (1905 - 1946)

Wanrong was the last empress of the Qing dynasty and China, the emperor of Xuantong, who is more well-known as Puyi. Wanrong received western education since childhood, was an open-minded, lively and generous lady. After she entered the Forbidden City at the age of 17, she lived in Chuxiugong and decorated this palace with western style items. At the end of 1924, Puyi was forced to leave the Forbidden City, and Wanrong had to follow him to go to Tianjin, ending her life in the Chuxiugong. 
 

See more Six Western Palaces

- Last modified on Jul. 22, 2020 -
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