Introduction to the Palace of Imperial Peace (Qin'An Dian) -
The Palace of Imperial Peace (钦安殿) is the center structure of all 20 structures found within the Imperial Garden (Yuhuan Yuan) of the Forbidden City in Beijing. It is also the northernmost, and the largest structure within the garden, and the only building within its realm to be enclosed by its very own purple walls.
Situated exactly on the north-south axis of the Forbidden City as well as the city around it it was of extreme importance and thought to be imbued with various sorts of magical powers. Thus it carries the features of the highest Imperial Dignity such as the nine times nine nails in its front gate of "Imperial Peace" and can be recognized by its lavish and exquisite decorations as a place of extraordinary brilliance.
Contrary to what one might expect, this central Palace was not an important building used in the life of the Emperor as
Palace of Imperial Peace (Qin'An Dian) , How to get There -
To find the Palace of Imperial Peace from there, after entering the North Gate simply carry on walking southward along the central axis to pass through Chastity and Obiedence Gate (Chun Cheng Men) which brings you into the garden at a location which faces the back wall of the enclosure of the Palace of Imperial Peace. This is a one minute walk.
To enter the enclosure, walk around the purple walls of the enclosure and follow the main pedestrian route which leads through its highly decorative south gate, Tianyi Men, or the "One Heavenly Gate".
The access road leading from the Gate of Earthly Tranquility along the Central Axis of Palace and city to the South and Main Gate of the Palace of Imperial Peace.
Standing Dragon Stele Stone inside the courtyard of the Palace of Imperial Peace.
Architecture of the Palace of Imperial Peace (Qin'An Dian) -
The Hall of Imperial Peace and its enclosure are not part of the Imperial Palace as it was built in 1420 A.D. but were added at a later time, in 1535 during the Jiajing Reign of the Shizong Emperor (1522 A.D. - 1566 A.D.). The structures were built exactly upon the central axis of the city of Beijing and the huge Imperial Palace (Forbidden City) which lay within it. It is the only building in the garden to be surrounded by its very own protective screen walls. Except for its eye catching exception, the "One Heavenly Gate" which gives access to its inner court, the outer walls of the Palace of Imperial Peace are chalked in bright red, the "purple" that the Forbidden City was famous for.
In the south of the enclosure on the central axis of the Palace sits the "One Heavenly Gate (Tianyi Men ; 天一门)" which is built out of clear grey brick and has its own roof of glazed yellow tiling.
The One Heavenly gate itself is raised on its own marble platform and has a modest central white marble stairway leading up to it. Its thick main red door, made of two parts, is studded with nine rows of nine thick golden studs (or nails), 81 altogether which identify the building as being of the highest
such, however it was in use as an in-house shrine dedicated to Zhenwu, the Daoist God of Water. In principle, the Emperor would come to the shrine four times a year, at the beginning of each new season, to bring offerings to Zhenwu, and beg him to spare the land and its people from disastrous flooding(s), which were a regular phenomenon and scare throughout Chinese history.
An overview Map of the Yuhuan Yuan Garden showing all main structures within. Do not be confused the Northern Chun Cheng Men Gate is at the bottom of the image whereas the southern Gate of Earthly Tranquility is shown at the top.
Palace of Imperial Peace
Gate of Earthly Tranquility
Chastise Obience Gate
Hill of Soaring Elegance
Hall of Literary Elegance
Pavilion Tne Thousand Autumns
Pavilion Tne Thousand Springs
Lodge ot Nourish-ment
Pavilion of Crimson Snow
Pavilion Ushering in the Light
yellow glazed ceramics which function is to ward of evil spirits.
In total the structure of the Palace of Imperial Peace serves to reinforce the positive "Feng Shui" of the entire garden forming its central feature.
To begin with, the Palace stands in an important location in the north of the Garden in a Central Position with its back to Chastite and Obedience Gate. In this position its enclosure walls squarely face the Gate's opening, thus blocking the way for anyone and more importantly anything passing through the Northern Gate to enter within the confines of the Garden.
As in traditional Chinese beliefs bad spirits and rotten influences descended from the north upon the hapless Chinese Peoples, they had to protect themselves against these. Among things they did so by building all buildings facing the sun and their gates leading to the south. Thus, good Feng Shui was created and a family could expect to live in peace and free of disease and misfortune. This general thought is replicated throughout the entire Palace and the Palace of Imperial Peace is one of the examples of structures that are built
Hall of Imperial Peace
One Heavenly Gate
One of the Golden Chinese Unicorns that guard the "One Imperial Gate (Tianyi Men)" with the ceramic decorative screen as a backdrop (Photo: January 2000).
Imperial Rank of Importance under which it was established as the highest Daoist shrine of the Court.
In front of the "One Heavenly Gate" stand two medium sized golden Chines unicorns of unusual design guarding its entrance. Adjacent the gate the surrounding walls are decorated with decorative screens made of glazed ceramic tiles depicting two white crane birds which seem to circle each other while flying among the clouds. Four more crane birds can be seen in the corner of the screen.
Once past the "One Heavenly Gate (天一门)" and within its courtyard one is faced with a miniature version of a Chinese temple courtyard, meaning that adjacent the Gate there are two small wooden towers to the east and west, respectively used as drum- and bell-tower. In addition, a small glazed tiled pavilion used to burn silks during sacrificial offerings, stands in the east of this court. A Dragon Stele and usual decorative stones can also be found within the small court and garden in front. Facing the Hall of Imperial Peace stand 400 year old pine tree and a cypress with entwined branches. Known as the "Loving Couple" they symbolize the harmony between the Emperor and Empress.
The 4-meter-high (13-foot-high incense) burner also found in this little enclosed garden is the biggest bronze incense burner in the Forbidden City. Its six smoke outlets are in the shape of two dragons playing with a ball.
A central path leads up to the Hall of Imperial Peace, which like its outer gate, sits on its own marble platform - the sumeru terrace- with balustrades engraved with dragon motifs. The head stones of the balustrades are carved with the motif of a phoenix frolicking among clouds, however the head of each corner support is decorated with the
Close ups of the ceramic screen found adjacent the "One Imperial Gate (Tianyi Men)" of the Palace of Imperial Peace (Photo: January 2000 - December 2013).
History of the Palace of Imperial Peace (Qin'An Dian) -
Subsequently, during both the Ming- and the Qing Dynasties, the building was in use for the worship of the Lord Zhenwu, according to Daoist legends the God of Water, but also the God of the North
Tiles of the footpath within the small court of the Palace of Imperial peace carry decorations refering to water, such as this crab (Photo: November 2005).
and the "God of Black". Altogether he was the supreme ruler, the King if you will, of the Taoist house of Gods and a the statue of the King of Xuan Wu, made of gilded bronze, used to be enshrined inside the main Hall.
As all previous Emperors had been inclined towards Buddhism, and the State has been built on Confucianism and Legalism, there was no Daoist building or shrine within the Palace Walls. The Jiajing Emperor Shizong however, was Daoist and in his Imperial Dignity, naturally he sacrificed directly
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A Tile with a motif that symbolizes the four quadrants of the universe (Photo: November 2005).
to Zhenwu. He also introduced the God of Black to his immediate "family", converting his wife and concubines to the worship of
the "God of Black".
During the time of the Jiajing Reign, The Chinese empress and concubines burned sticks of incense or red candles on the two monthly holidays of the moon calendar (the first and fifteenth day of every month in the lunar calendar) if they hoped the god would fulfill their wishes. Moreover, the Hall of Imperial Peace was used not only by empresses and concubines but also by the whole imperial family because the Taoist assemblies were held in the Hall of Imperial Peace during both the Ming Dynasty and the Qing Dynasty (1644 AD - 1911 AD).
In principle, the Emperor would come to the shrine four times a year, at the beginning of each new season, in order to pay hommage, offer sacrifice and pray for Lord Zhenwu to be merciful on the Empire and the people and spare them from disastrous floodings. Meanwhile, throughout the year, the shrine would be kept active by eunuch servants offering daily incense.
During the succeeding Qing Dynasty (1644 A.D. - 1911 A.D.), in addition to the normal 4 yearly offerings, every year at Spring Festival (the New Year) an altar was set up within the couryard of the Hall of Imperial
to serve this protecting role. In case, because the "evil spirits" are thought only to be able to travel in straight lines, they could not "navigate" beyond the massive red wall of the Palace of Imperial Peace and had to remain outside of the peaceful garden realm.
In ancient Chinese beliefs of geomancy, the north was not only associated with bad spirits that emenated down and caused ill effects, according to the five elements theory the north was also the magnetic direction associated with the element water.
Thus, Feng Shui wise speaking, this building in the North of the Palace Garden was found very auspicious and was chosen the most appropriate place in which to worship the God of Water, an element which as such was in itself a requirement for a good balance of Feng Shui.
Speaking according to the ancient magical theories, offering sacrifice to the God of Water in this location was alike appeasing the spirits of the North whereas at the same time it served to control the waters of the Palace and was further translated across the entire Empire and earth upon which mankind lived. Its whole process, "influencing" and "balancing"the waters, led to the further overal energizing of the garden surroundings and the innermost core of the Emperors Realm, the reflection of Heaven on Earth. It was all very mystical.
Illustrating the importance of this process, for the entire duration of the inhabitation of the Palace (1420 A.D. - 1924 A.D.), during both the Ming and the Qing Dynasties, the building was in use for this very purpose, namely the worship of the Lord Zhenwu (Zhenwu Dadi), the God of Water according to Daoist legends and also the Supreme Ruler of the Daoist Realm of Deities.
Third and not least, the offerings at the Shrine, blessed the Palace with the
Dragon slab of the central ramp leading up to the Sumeru terrace of the Palace of Imperial Peace (Photo: November 2005).
Imperial Dragon among the Clouds.
Two side-stairs and a central ramp leading up to its door. In the middle of the central ramp sits a miniature dragon carved slab, altogether mimicking the decorations of the larger Halls of the Inner Court and the Outer Court positioned to the South along the Central Axis.
The Hall of Imperial Peace itself measures "five bays" wide and "3 bays" deep. The roof is covered with yellow glazed tiles and is decorated with carved overhanging eaves. On the top, in the middle of the roof of the Hall sits a golden knob emphasizing the divine nature of this building, while the corners of the main door of the hall are decorated with unique hornless dragon-shaped heads made of
benevolence of the God of the element of water, which, in the highly superstitious world of the feudal Chinese, was exactly what was needed to help prevent a fire at the Palace, which was an all too familiar occurence. As the central symbol of all the grandeur and dignity of the Emperor, the Palace must be protected at all times. This, as it was thought was one way.
To complete the architectural arrangements of the Palace of Imperial Peace within the Gardens, four pavilions representing the four seasons are placed on the left and right flanks of the Hall of Imperial Peace. These are Fubiting (Jade-green Floating Pavilion) and Chengruiting (the Pavilion of Auspicious Clarity) in the south. Slightly to the north are the Fubiting (Jade-green Floating Pavilion) and Chengruiting (the Pavilion of Auspicious Clarity). Both are square pavilions over a pond, with open roofed corridors on their southern sides.
Peace, and the Emperor would come down to burn incense and sacrificial silks to pay hommage to the gods seeking insurance against powerful crop killing rainstorms, disastrous river floods and other water related natural disasters. During other major rituals throughout the year court mandarins would perform various rituals to honor and appease the Lord Zhenwu.
All of this was of the utmost political importance, as he who ruled the powers of nature through the rituals at these altars was the one who could be considered truly in ownership of the "Mandate of Heaven", which were the heavenly powers bestowed upon the ruler by the Heaven's themselves. Ignoring the Altars was thought extremely
dangerous, and at any rate, it was politically unwise.
The Official schematic Map of The Forbidden City, by The Palace Museum.