Smallest Palace in the Forbidden City

The smallest palaces in the Forbidden City are two gilt bronze halls namely Jiangshan Hall and Sheji Hall in front of the Palace of Heavenly Purity (Qianqinggong). The west one is the Jiangshan Hall, the east one is the Sheji Hall, together called “Jiangshan Sheji Halls”. Each hall is less than 10 square meters (12 square yards). They were not used for living, but built to burn incense and bless for the prosperity of the country and the long reign of the royal family.

Constructed in 1656

The original meaning of Jiangshan refers to rivers and mountains, while Sheji represents crops such as rice. Later on, they became a synonym for the country in ancient times. And ancient emperors always blessed the God of Jiangshan and God of Sheji to pray for the prosperity of the country and their long rule over the country.

In the 13th year of the reign of Qing emperor Shunzhi in 1656, he ordered to build the Jiangshan and Sheji halls when rebuilding the Palace of Heavenly Purity (Qianqinggong). These halls were built in front of the Qianqinggong, the residence of the emperor, which not only symbolized the supreme power of the emperor, but also reminded the emperor to keep the country in his heart all the time and not to indulge in fun.

Three-Layer White Marble Terrace

The two halls were built on the terraces made from white marble. Each terrace has three layers, one layer bigger than another from the top to the bottom, in a pyramid structure. The bottom layer is a stone chamber, to the south of which the craftsmen opened a door so people can enter it. The stone chamber is very small, less than 10 square meters, dedicated to the gods of Jiangshan and Sheji. The terrace also has very good drainage facilities. Each layer of the terrace is concave on the top, with drainage holes on the edge. In this way, when it rains, the water can drain away through the drainage holes, not accumulate on the terrace.

The terrace is carved with seawater, river cliffs and geometric patterns, making the Jiangshan Sheji Halls seem like fairy temples rising from the sea, looking very spectacular. And it is surrounded by white marble fence with 12 balusters, each with a stone lion statue on the stigma.

Small Gilt Bronze Halls in Cube

The Bronze Halls on the white marble terraces are cubic buildings. Four partition doors are installed on each side. The whole gilt building is gorgeous and beautiful, and the dragon, lotus and other auspicious patterns are engraved on the architecture, praying for the sound rule throughout the ages.

Double-Layer Eaves

Their roofs are composed of two-layer eaves: the upper layer is round with a ball on the top, symbolizing the emperor’s rule over the whole country; the lower part is a square eave with four ridges and each ridge stands some auspicious animals. The round and square eaves together symbolize the “round sky and square land” in ancient Chinese beliefs.

Worship Activities at Jiangshan Hall and Sheji Hall

Since its construction, the eunuchs would come to burn incense in the two halls every day, until the last emperor Puyi of Qing Dynasty (1644 – 1911) was driven out of the Forbidden City in 1925. From its construction in 1656 to 1925, the incense inside the two halls had never died out. In addition, on the first and 15th days of each lunar month, the imperial bodyguards would come to the Jiangshan and Sheji Halls to burn incenses before the sunrise, under the leadership of the imperial guarding minister.  

Further reading:
Hall of Supreme Harmony (Taihedian): The Largest Palace in the Forbidden City

- Last updated on May. 25, 2021 -
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