Palace of Many Splendors (Chonghuagong)

The Palace of Many Splendors (Chonghuagong) was built during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), and is situated north of the Six Western Palaces in the Forbidden City. Qianlong (1711-1799), the sixth emperor in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), once lived in Chonghuagong after getting married when he was a prince. After he was enthroned and moved to a higher ranked palace, this palace was designated by Qianlong to hold private banquets. The most famous one is the Tea Banquet held around the Chinese New Year.
 
 Notice: Chonghuagong is not open to the public yet.
 

Layout and Architecture of the Palace of Many Splendors (Chonghuagong)

Chonghuagong is mainly made up of three parts, front hall, middle hall and back hall.
 
The front hall is named the Hall of Reverence (Chongjingdian). It has five rooms with a saddle roof and three open rooms in front. Among the five rooms, only the largest one is equipped with doors, which are carved with the pattern of ancient coinage. This hall is the “living room”.
 
The middle hall is also called Chonghuagong, and used as the“bed room”. It is made up of five rooms with a gabled roof and three attached open rooms in front. Among the five rooms, the largest one and two middle-sized ones are separated by partition boards made of rosewood. The flower patterns engraved on the board are very exquisite. The middle hall also has a west side hall and an east side hall.
 
The back hall is named the Hall of Emerald Cloud (Cuiyundian), where Qianlong studied before he ascended the throne. This hall also includes five rooms, and the east middle-sized room was Qianlong’s study room when he was still a prince. The decoration of the back hall features a striking contrast with a black base color against golden patterns. In addition, wing rooms were also constructed on both the east and west sides.
 

From a Prince’s Residence to a Banquet Place

Actually, the original name of the Palace of Many Splendors (Chonghuagong) is “Qian Xi Er Suo”, which had no wonderful meaning but simply described its location in the Forbidden City. In 1727, Qianlong got married and moved here. At that time, he was just a prince. Nine years later, Qianlong was enthroned and became the sixth emperor of the Qing Dynasty. Thus, Qianlong considered this palace very auspicious, and asked people to rename it. Two scholars came up with “Chonghuagong”, which meant that the country would be vitalized through Qianlong’s governance. Qianlong adopted it and this name has been used till now. According to the tradition of the Qing Dynasty, the emperor was supposed to move into the Hall of Mental Cultivation (Yangxindian). However, Qianlong liked Chonghuagong very much and decided to have private activities here frequently. These activities were the Tea Banquet, royal family banquet and other banquets to receive governors from remote regions.
 

Chonghuagong Tea Banquet

The Tea Banquet can be considered the most well-known banquet held in the Palace of Many Splendors. Since 1743, the Emperor Qianlong would hold this banquet every year in one of the first 10 days of a year. Invited were his secretaries, ministers and members of the Imperial Academy. During the banquet, Qianlong and these participants would drink tea and compose poetry impromptu, so as to tighten and create harmonious relationship among them.
 
The tea offered during this banquet was called “San Qing Cha”. It was special because of these three ingredients, dried plum blossoms, citrons and pine nuts. These ingredients would be steeped in Dragon Well Green Tea (Longjingcha) for a while, and the final taste was very refreshing. Besides, the teapots and teacups were tailor-made by the emperor only for this banquet. While having a cup of tea, participants should prepare for composing poems. Once given the specific theme and rhyme from Emperor Qianlong, participants would speak one sentence impromptu one by one, and all the sentences needed to be linked coherently.
 
Apart from having tea and composing poetry, the Tea Banquet was also a good occasion for Qianlong Emperor to award these hard-working subordinates. The prizes could be the tea sets mentioned above, or the precious antiques, scroll paintings and works of calligraphy collected by Qianlong. In 1766, Emperor Qianlong began to limit the amount of participant to 18, so as to ensure the privacy of the Tea Banquet. Therefore, those who received the invitation could be very delighted, because it meant that Qianlong trusted and thought highly of them.
 
Later, the Tea Banquet in the Palace of Many Splendors (Chonghuagong) gradually became a tradition for celebrating the New Year in the Forbidden City. Emperor Jiajing, the 7th emperor of the Qing Dynasty, maintained this activity and held it on a certain day from January 2nd to 10th of the lunar calendar. The 8th emperor Daoguang held this activity occasionally, and it was abandoned until the Emperor Xianfeng came into power. According to the record, during the Qianlong Period, Jiaqing Period (1796-1820) and Daoguang Period (1821-1850), the Tea Banquet had been held for over 60 times in total, being the most characteristic activity in Chonghuagong.
 

A Place Where Qianlong Recalled His Good Old Days

When Emperor Qianlong was in his twilight years, he couldn’t stop reminiscing about his past. In order to remind himself of his early life, Qianlong put many odds and ends he used before and more than one hundred treasures in the Palace of Many Splendors (Chonghuagong). Those treasures were given by his grandfather Emperor Kangxi and his father Emperor Yongzheng, including lacquerware, jadeware, porcelain, wood carvings, and so on. At that time, Chonghuagong was really like a mini museum. What’s more, Qianlong also missed the nine years he spent in Chonghuagong with his favorite empress, Empress Xiaoxian (1712-1748) very much. She died of an accident not long after Qianlong became the emperor. In memory of Empress Xiaoxian, Qianlong placed her dowry, a cabinet made of mahogany, in the middle hall of Chonghuagong.

 Next:
 Go south to see the Palace of Universal Happiness (Xianfugong) and the Palace of Gathered Elegance (Chuxiugong) of the Six Western Palaces (Xiliugong);

 Go east to see the Imperial Garden (Yuhuayuan), and the Hall of Imperial Peace (Qin'andian)

​ Note: 
​ On the east side is the Studio of Cleansing Fragrance (Shufangzhai), which is not open to tourists yet.

 On the south side is the Palace of Established Happiness (Jianfugong), 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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