Code: FC04

Forbidden City along the Outer Eastern Route

Consisting of a cluster of buildings at the northeast corner of the Forbidden City, the Outer Eastern Route features a large variety of precious treasures in addition to the imposing royal architectures built in the reign of Emperor Qianlong (1736 - 1795) of the Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1911).

Forbidden City, Beijing

Forbidden City, Beijing

Walking westward along the passageway behind the Palace of Tranquil Longevity, you will get to the Garden of Qianlong Emperor (Qianlong Huayuan), which consists of four small courtyards with the first one open to visitors. With its tranquil environment, ingenious layout, exquisite pavilions, corridors and terraces, as well as green pines and cypresses you will have a sense of exhilaration that it always brings to visitors.

The starting point is the Gate of Conferring Blessings (Xiqing Men), with a short walk to the Hall for Ancestral Worship (Fengxian Dian) in the Eastern Route. Upon entering you will see the famous Glazed-tile Nine-Dragon Screen (Jiulongbi) on your right hand side. Composed of 270 glazed tiles, it is the most delicate of the three existing ancient nine dragon screens in China. The screen vividly shows an overwhelming scene of nine dragons in different postures playing with pearls, on a background of blue clouds and green water. If you look closely, you will see that there is a dull part at the lower abdomen of the third white dragon from left. This is because in 1772 when the screen was constructed, one of the original glazed tiles was accidentally smashed into pieces by a craftsman. As all the craftsmen were threatened with capital punishment, one of them hit up an idea of replacing the original one with a carved and painted piece of wood. This ingenious idea saved their lives as no one saw any difference. As time went on the paint on the wood faded away and it shows the original color of wood.

Forbidden City, Beijing

Forbidden City, Beijing

Next you will pass through the Gate of Tranquil Longevity (Ningshou Men) to arrive at the Hall of Imperial Supremacy (Huangji Dian). This hall was built in imitation of the Hall of Supreme Harmony (Taihedian) and the Palace of Heavenly Purity(Qianqinggong) on the Central Axis as a place where Emperor Qianlong could hold ceremonies after his abdication. During the reign of Emperor Kangxi and Qianlong a grand banquet named One-thousand-old-men Banquet was held four times. The last banquet, and biggest, was given by Emperor Qianlong in the Hall of Imperial Supremacy in 1796 when he was 86 years old. There were 3,056 old men aged over 60 years, the eldest one participating in this banquet was 106-year-old. Following on from here you then move to the wing rooms of the Hall of Imperial Supremacy. The east wing rooms are now the exhibition halls of the Treasure Gallery. The room in the south exhibits 23 delicate utensils used by the Emperor and Empress, including valuable articles made of gold, silver, porcelain and Jade. The room in the north has stone drums, each of which weighs about one ton. They are plain in appearances, but they are indeed extraordinary, not only is every drum engraved with inscriptions but they are the earliest examples on stone-drum in China. The west wing rooms house the Treasure for Amusement and Ornaments for the Emperor and Empress.

The Palace of Tranquil Longevity (Ningshou Gong) is at the back of the Hall of Imperial Supremacy. Built in 1689, it has a distinctive Manchu style. Today many precious culture relics are housed here, but it is not open to public.

Forbidden City, Beijing

Treasures in Forbidden City, Beijing

Walking along the passageway behind the Palace of Tranquil Longevity westward for a short while, you will get to the Garden of Qianlong Emperor (Qianlong Huayuan), which has four small courtyards with the first one being open to visitors. How would you like to be surrounded with tranquil environment, ingenious layout, exquisite pavilions, corridors and terraces, as well as green pines and cypresses? No doubt, you will have a sense of exhilaration as it always brings to visitors.

After that, you can leave for the Pavilion of Pleasant Sounds (Changying Ge) from a passageway at the east side of the Garden of Qianlong Emperor. With a height of 20.71 meters, the three storey pavilion is the largest in the Forbidden City. The three storeys are named "Fu Platform", "Lu Platform" and "Shou Platform", symbolizing happiness, wealth and longevity, respectively. Remarkably, the special design of a well and some ponds under the stage strengthens the sound effect. Operas were performed here on significant festivals for the royal family during the Qing Dynasty.

The Hall of Viewing Opera (Yueshi Lou) stands opposite to the Pavilion of Pleasant Sounds for the royal family members to enjoy the operas. There are wing rooms for courtiers on east and west sides. Nowadays the Hall of Viewing Opera has the first floor opened to public with costumes, properties and special mock-ups of the Qing Dynasty imperial operas on display.

Forbidden City, Beijing

Forbidden City, Beijing

The stately Hall of Spiritual Cultivation (Yangxing Dian), west to the Pavilion of Pleasant Sounds, was meant to be Emperor Qianlong's bedroom after his abdication. Emperor Qianlong held banquets many times here during his reign. Now it has been turned into an exhibition hall of the Treasure Gallery displaying 11 valuable cultural relics of imperial etiquette system. These collections introduce the sacrificial rites, enthronement, wedding, imperial inspection, diplomacy, and funeral in ancient times.

Go further north and you will find the Hall of Joyful Longevity (Leshou Tang). Since 1889 after emperor Guangxu came into power, Empress Dowager Cixi lived in this hall. She sometimes met the courtiers and received the diplomatic ministers of other countries here. Now it is open to public as the exhibition hall of the Treasure Gallery displaying 26 exquisite furnishing of the royal family.

Beyond the Hall of Joyful Longevity unfolds the Bower of Well-nourished Harmony (Yihe Xuan). Both the east and west walls were carved with Emperor Qianlong's finest handwriting. It is another exhibition hall of the Treasure Gallery, and displays 14 religious items used by the royal family.

Treasures in Forbidden City, Beijing

Forbidden City, Beijing

You will get to a small courtyard northwest of the Bower of Well-nourished Harmony after exiting from its Moon Gate and walking through the corridors behind. The Well of Concubine Zhen (Zhenfei Jing) is in this courtyard. As the favorite concubine of Empeor Guangxu, Concubine Zhen was an intelligent and clever lady who showed support to Guangxu's reform. And because of this she was confined to a small house by Empress Dowager Cixi after the failure of the Reform of 1898. In the war of 1900 when invaders intruded into Beijing, Empress Dowager Cixi asked a eunuch to drown Concubine Zhen into the well before she escaped to Xian. At that time, Concubine Zhen was only 25 years old.

Your visit to the Outer Eastern Route of the Forbidden City is complete. You can leave from the Zhenshun Gate of the courtyard to reach the Imperial Garden, and then leave the palace from its north gate.

 More Routes: 
Forbidden City along the Central Axis 
Forbidden City along the Western Route
Forbidden City along the Eastern Route
 
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