Hall of Preserved Harmony (Baohedian)
In 1789, the midpoint of the Qing dynasty, Emperor Qianlong decided the final stage of the Palace Examination should be transferred from the Hall of Supreme Harmony to the Hall of Preserved Harmony. This was the highest level of the nation-wide imperial examination system and the emperor would honour the top ten successful candidates by reading the papers they had submitted.
|Huge Stone Carving|
Huge Stone Carving
Behind the Hall of Preserved Harmony, in the centre of the stairway, is a huge marble relief of nine dragons playing with pearls. It is the largest stone sculpture in the Forbidden City. Sculpted originally in the Ming dynasty, it was re-sculpted in the Qing dynasty. During these dynasties, anyone who was caught touching this holy stone would receive the death penalty! Weighing about 250 tons, the marble slab is 16.57 meters long, 3.07 meters wide and 1.7 meters thick. The huge stone was hauled into the palace all the way from Fangshan, up to 70 kilometers from Beijing. This difficult task took about a month employing twenty thousand men and thousands of mules and horses. It is said that a well was dug every 500 meters along the way and the well water was poured on the ground so as to form an icy road which could facilitate land boat transportation.
Next: Here tourists have three choices:
Continue to tour along the central axis: go north across the Qianqingmen Square to see the Gate of Heavenly Purity (Qianqingmen), the entrance to the Inner Court.
Go east through the Gate of Great Fortune (Jingyunmen) to see the Hall for Ancestry Worship (Fengxiandian), which houses the Clock and Watch Gallery. If time permits, one can explore further east to the Palace of Tranquil Longevity (Ningshougong), a large building complex where the Treasure Gallery is located.
Go west through the Gate of Great Ancestors (Longzongmen) to explore the Palace of Compassion and Tranquility (Cininggong).
Further Reading: Virtual Guide of Forbidden City