Palace of Great Benevolence (Jingrengong)

The Palace of Great Benevolence, called as Jingrengong, is one of the Six Eastern Palaces in the inner court of the Forbidden City. From its construction in 1420 to 1924 when the last emperor of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) was driven out, this palace had been the residence for imperial concubines. Now, it is open to tourists and holds themed exhibitions of porcelain, jadeware and lacquerware at irregular times.

History of about 600 Years

The Palace of Great Benevolence was constructed in 1420, the 18th year of Yongle Period in the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644), and named as Chang’angong (Palace of Eternal Peace) at the very beginning. In 1535, its name was changed to Jingrengong. During the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), Jingrengong was renovated several times in 1655, 1835 and 1890. Moreover, it is well-known that Kangxi Emperor (1654-1722) was born in this palace.

What to See inside Jingrengong

The Palace of Great Benevolence is mainly made up of three parts: Jingren Gate, main hall and back hall.
Jingren Gate is the main entrance to Jingrengong. Upon passing through it, you can see a huge stone screen wall. A screen wall is frequently seen in ancient Chinese architecture and is believed to prevent the house from external evil force. The frame of the screen wall in Jingrengong is made of white marble, and its body is carved from granite. Moreover, the two sides of this stone screen wall feature with smooth lines and represent different patterns and colors.
The main hall has a saddle-like roof paved by yellow glazed tiles. And the roof is supported by bucket arches and painted with the patterns of dragon and phoenix. The roof’s edge is decorated with five statues of auspicious animals in Chinese culture. Jingrengong’s main hall has five rooms and inside the largest room hangs a big plaque engraved with four Chinese characters ‘Zan De Gong Wei’ to promote virtues in this palace. The ceiling is painted with two dragons chasing a pearl, and the ground is paved with square bricks. In front of the main hall is a large balcony. The main hall is also equipped with three side halls in the east and three in the west. These side halls all have gabled roof and side rooms.
The back hall of Jingrengong has gabled roof covered by yellow glazed tiles. And the roof is supported by bucket arches with dragon and phoenix pattern. Apart from the five main rooms, back hall also has accessory buildings, three side halls each side. The underside of the side hall’s roofs are painted with rolling yellow and green flowers. In the southwest of the back hall is located a small pavilion.

Who had ever lived here?

During the Ming and Qing Dynasties, many concubines had lived in the Palace of Great Benevolence, among whom the five most famous are listed below. Also, as famous Qing Emperor Kangxi was born here, he once lived here for a while in 1703 to mourn for his deceased brother. 

1.Empress Gongrangzhang (1404-1443)

Her name Hu Shanxiang is more well-known. She was the empress of Emperor Xuande in the Ming Dynasty. In the 3rd year of Xuande Period in 1428, Empress Gongrangzhang had to relinquish the title of empress because she produced no child, and then moved into the Palace of Great Benevolence. From then on, she began to cultivate herself with Buddhism and lived a relatively peaceful life.

2.Concubine Tongjia (1640-1663)

In 1654, it was at this palace that Tongjia gave birth to the later famous Emperor Kangxi, the fourth emperor in the Qing Dynasty.

3.Noble Concubine Xi (1693-1777)

Noble Concubine Xi is the mother of Emperor Qianlong, the sixth emperor in the Qing Dynasty.

4.Noble Concubine Wan (1835-1894)

Noble Concubine Wan was born into a decent family and was the first concubine of Emperor Xianfeng, the ninth emperor in the Qing Dynasty. Though she did not produce a child, she was well treated and spent most of her time in Jingrengong, experiencing several changes of regime of Daoguang Period, Xianfeng Period, Tongzhi Period and Guangxu Period.

5.Concubine Zhen (1876-1900)

Among all the concubines who once lived in Jingrengong, Zhen could be the one with the most tragic ending. She used to be the favorite concubine of Guangxu Emperor, the eleventh emperor in the Qing Dynasty. However, Guangxu’s aunt, Empress Dowager Cixi disliked Concubine Zhen and even gave her the punishment of flogging. Later on, the war broke out and the royal planned to flee. Cixi considered Zhen as a burden and had her drowned in a well.

A Lost and Found Story of a Carpet

There are many cultural relics in the Palace of Great Benevolence. The Jingrengong Royal Carpet especially is worth introducing for its interesting twists and turns. This carpet is of 250×145×2 centimeter. Embroidered with colorful gold threads, this carpet has an exquisite pattern of nine phoenixes flying towards the sun. The history of this carpet can be traced back to 1654, the year when Emperor Kangxi was born at Jingrengong. The last emperor of the Qing Dynasty Puyi (1906-1967) cherished this beautiful carpet so much that he only used it during Chinese New Year. However, due to the political upheaval in 1945, Puyi had to flee and lost this carpet for some reason. An inn keeper accidentally gained it and used it for a while, probably having no idea about its background. During the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), which was a period greatly advocating frugality and simpilicity, the inn keeper had to hide this exquisite carpet in a warehouse. And when he took it out again, the carpet had already decayed. So, the inn keeper decided to cut it into pieces. Some pieces were used as door mats. Some were given away, and the remaining pieces were even used to decorate a chicken coop. In 1987, the experts of cultural relics conservation began to collect these pieces from the public through media announcements. However, though they’ve tried their best, this Jingrengong Royal Carpet was too ragged to be repaired. And the gathered pieces are now displayed in the Palace Museum of The Manchurian Regime in Changchun.

See more Six Eastern Palaces

- Last modified on Jul. 06, 2020 -
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