Harmony, which is the central hall of the Inner Court of the Palace of Peaceful Old Age used as an exhibition space.
This page was last updated on: June 26, 2017
Inside the spacious Hall of Harmony.
As with all other halls within the Palace, being it in the outer- or inner courts, the art objects and decorations found within varied according to their different functions and statusses.
The various items exhibited within the current day Hall of Harmony at the Palace of Peaceful Old Age were taken from various Palaces, buildings and also bed chambers found in the Inner Court of the Palace. As one can see, the objects were usually made of gold and silver, or jade or crystal, and carefully crafted and adorned with various gems, pearls and precious stones. Items destined for the Royal Court naturally, were carefully handmade and usually carry auspicious signs or symbolic messages of wishes for prosperity and happiness.
As the Qing Emperors, who ruled not only over Manchuria and China but over Mongolia and later also (in name) Tibet, were all adherents to the Tibetan style of Buddhism, one wil find many objects related to this important side of State affairs on display within this hall.
The Official schematic Map of The Forbidden City, by The Palace Museum.
A gold filigree Tibetan styled mandala adorned with turqoise gems dated to an unidentified reign period of the Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1911 AD).
The Imperial Palace Museum
Palace of Peace & Longevity
(12) Hall of Harmony (YiHe Xuan)
Interiors & Exhibitions
This page was last updated on: June 26, 2017
My Great Web page
Find DrBen and ChinaReport on Facebook with the latest from www.drben.net.
A double cup (receptacle) shaped alike two fish cut from clear and flawless crystal. Dating to an unidentified reign period of the Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1911 AD).
A precious crystal Sigong wine vessel dating to an unidentified reign period of the Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1911 AD).
An immaculately crafted golden Buddha statue adorned with gold filigree figurines and an abundance of turqoise stones, pearls and other gems as displayed in plexiglass casing which also allow for the appreciation of the original wood paneling of this Palace Hall. Nanmu and other tropical hard woods set the time within the interior of this hall.
The treasures as they are found in the various exhibitions seen in the Palace Museum, especially those found in the Hall of Harmony were usually designed and produced by the Imperial Workshops - a renowned institute which was housed on the grounds within the red walls of the "Forbidden City". Only the best craftsmen, carpenters and traditional artists were recruited and allowed to work there, producing the finest works exclusively for the use of the Imperial Household, who were not merely the rulers, but in fact the owners of the State and the Manchurian Empire.
Although presented as private objects and gifts, being token items in such important affairs as the ruling of a vast multi-ethnic state the territory of which extended far into Central Asia, in reality most of the items were intended to reinforce show loyalty and so reinforce existing political ties, alter deals, or even buy office and status.
As most visitors will be able to tell, virtually no expense was spared when it came to matters of the high court and the currying of favors with the most powerful and richest man on the entire continent if not just the whole world. Therefor all objects are made of the most precious metal; gold, or other precious, luxurious, rare and preferably exotic materials all of course lavishly adorned with pearls, gems, jade and other jewels.
Not only were the the items crafted by superior artists and craftsmen, as one will find - several of the Manchu Emperors, although officially steeped in the traditions of a Chinese Court, were eager "modernists". As a result, several of the bejewelled items on display are also representative of the latest technologies available to the Imperial Court at that time. Influenced, among things, by Jesuit Christian Priest advisors as well as western gifts from arriving diplomatic mission various some of the exhibits are not merely objets d'art but inside house mechanical devices and inner workings.
Having first received a world map from the Jesuit Father Matteo Ricci (a map ironically based in part on lost information from the Ming Era Chinese maritime age), the interest of the Chinese in the Europeans was greatly raised and subsequent Emperors would be quite fascinated with map depictions and globes. Representing the important European knowledge infusions of the time, the Hall of Harmony includes a magnificent golden globe showing all continents in outlines and cities marked with pearls, an item most likely presented to the great Kangxi Emperor (Reign: 1661 - 1722 AD) or his grandson the Qianlong Emperor, the latter having been known as the richest man in the world at that time.
Other European derived marvels may be found in the previously "Secret garden of the Qianlong Emperor", as well as the very worthwhile "Clocks and Watches Museum" which is not part of the Palace of Peaceful Old Age but is found relatively nearby.
A large golden vat in the shape of a lotus flower, its closeable lid covered and topped by a large golden Buddha in the Burmese style.
Each item, after having been presented as a gift to the Emperor, then became a ritual item thought to be embued with certain spiritual energies. The items thereafter not merely served as spectacularly lavish decorations but also served in various court rituals such as those for the various ancestral spirits, religious ceremonies and such occassions as the reconfirmation and celebration of Confucian values such as filial piety. Needless to say, those who had gone through the incredible expense not to mention the patience and ritual of presenting a gift to the Emperor would be immensely honored and proud upon receiving word that the Emperor had involved their gift object in an important ritual. The status derived from such an event becoming public knowledge would be substantial, which is what court procedure and politics were really all about.
Mind you, although the ultimate honor of the Emperors ritual usage might not be achieved, all political goals might be served. On top of this, the Emperor usually responded with a gift to a gift, and in case one was lucky and appeciated enough the return gift may be of far greater material value than the original gift, thus enriching the donors considerably in every respect.
The exhibition at the Hall of Harmony includes a number of especially rare and spectacular gift items that span throughout the Qing Dynasty Era. Most visibly on display are the items representing the important ethic relations with the restive Tibetan people (and other foreign groups) refelecting the multi-ethnic nature of the Manchu Empire, an aspect of that Era that the ruling Chinese Communist party loves to highlight for political reasons, specifically the holding of claims to the territory of the Nation of Tibet.
In addition, although not explained in much detail there is some attention for the later International relations developed during the Qing Dynasty, most prominently reflected by the presence of various European made or inspired gift objects. Relations with the South East Asian Nations also receive some attention.
A shining golden Chinese styled pavilion, displaying 6 Buddhist deities in Tibetan styled windows and roof adornments. Decorations are gold filigree pearl enamel and turqoise stones. Unknown reign period of the Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1911 AD).
As the Salt Trade, the so called Tea and Horse Trade, and slightly later on the International export of tea through Mongolia to Central Asia and Russia were the economic affairs of the utmost importance in the heydays of the Qing Dynasty, the relations with the important ethnic groups of the Tibetans and the Mongolians took a precendence in the official affairs of the Qing Court and the Manchu Aisin-Gioro clan.
In fact, although this is NOT found advertised anywhere in the Palace Museum, even today, the most important peoples in the daily lives of the Imperial Family were not the lowly Han Chinese but more or less, almost everyone else in the Empire but the simple Han Chinese, the far majority of whom were mere peasants and would continue to be such for several more centuries.
Although today, different idea's may be the popular rule, under the Manchu Flag, society was neatly layered and divided, among things by race and ethnic background.
Naturally, at least in eastern Societies of the day, the first and foremost race were those who had conquered the Nation and rule supreme. These were the Manchu people, a small minority as compared to the Han, who's ruling family was designated as "Aisin-Gioro" which translates (from Manchu) as "Golden Race". Next in line, reflecting past loyalties as
well as economic positions and realities, were the Mongolians, closely followed by the Mongolian people. The Tibetans and Mongolians, united in their similar (nomadic) cultures as well as adherence to Tibetan-Lamaist Buddhism were regarded more or less on par with the Manchu and thus they were allowed to fill in many of the available positions at the court and in the all important Imperial Capital City of Beijing.
All others, basicly the sedentary non-nomadic peoples of the Empire were clearly seen as inferior weaklings and as such, the various little brown men of the south, the Islamists and the Han, who filled the bottom rank of the ladder, were thrown together in a heap. The Islamic people who were considered to be (partially) of foreign descent were seen as convenient traders. In case of the Han people however, they were quite literally the expendables, an overwhelming mass of people who were usefull minions, soldiers and laborers of the State.
As the Manchu had made clear from the get go and the very start of their rule over the Han Chinese, they were indeed a foreign people and the divisions in the new Manchu led society were not merely made through subtle social processes but also via a direct racial seggregation forced on the people of Beijing, and on others throughout the rising new Empire. As one will find, under the Manchu Rule Han citizenry were evicted from the Inner City and had to relocate to the outer districts beyond the defensive walls, with written permits needed for anyone expecting to enter within the walls through the city Gates.
(Read more in: "History of Caishikou, Xuanwu District"). Otherwise put, the valued Manchu and Mongolian families were shielded not only by walls, but aslo by protective layers of the less important citizenry.
Although they would do so far less than their Mongolian predecessors of the Yuan Dynasty (1271 AD - 1368 AD), in general the Manchu kept a far distance socially and physically from the general Han populace and would do so to the bitter end of their Dynasty in 1911 AD.
Under the Manchu Rule, Manchu, Tibetans and Mongolians would rule the Empire with only a by role for the many Han peoples. As one may see reflected in the collection shown at the Hall of Harmony, various religious objects with clear Tibetan and often Burmese aspects were given as gifts, representative of the diplomatic relations of various Tibetan and Mongolian tribes and peoples to the Emperor.