Furthermore, after the death of the weak Emperor Xian Feng (Reign: 1850 AD - 1862 AD) the Palace of Mental Cultivation became the location where the Empress-Dowagers would oversee the reign of the succesive child Emperors, Tong Zhi (Reign 1862 AD - 1874 AD), Guangxu (Reign: 1875 AD - 1908 AD), and finally Pu Yi (1908 AD - 1912 AD) from behind a screen, during what has become known as the "Period of the Reign Behind the Curtain". At his crowning as Emperor the Place of Mental Cultivation became the throne hall annex the private residence of the "Last Emperor", Pu Yi and the Palace contains the Hall where the abdication of the Dynasty was signed in January of 1912, as well.
In simplere terms, in the second half of the Qing Dynasty, this building was the most important of all Palaces, after the main throne Hall, the Hall of Supreme Harmony.
As a result of this status in history its one of the best decorated and more presumptious Palaces within the confounds of the "Forbidden City", the Palace Museum of Beijing and several fascinating stories are attached to its buildings.
The architecture of the Palace and Gates is sublime and as can still well be appreciated, no costs were spared for its creation. Thus, a visit to the Palace of Mental Cultivation offers one the sight of one of the highpoints of Chinese Palace architecture and will lend one a greater appreciation of the former greatness of the Palace.
The Palace of Mental Cultivation (Yang Xin Dian) - How to Get There :
The Palace of Mental Cultivation is part of the Inner Court (Nei Ting) which roughly makes up the northern one third of the Imperial Palace. Within the Inner Court it is stands to the immediate south of the complex of the "six western palaces" over which it is superior.
In the clearest of terms, the most important argument for not going through the north gate is that the north route is also the most confusing route. Another reason to choose the south route is for esthetics.
Get your tickets to gain free roam within the Palace Museum and head on your way southward through the inner darkness of the ShenwuMen and underneath the bright glaze of the "Chastise Obience Gate" (Chun Cheng Men). You are now inside the garden and stand underneath the glazed redness of the "Chastise Obience Gate" where lies your first decision point lies. That is, there are two directions to choose from here. The wrong option is the head eastward and pass underneath the "Hill Of Soaring Elegance". The correct route to the Palace of Mental Cultivation
Architecture of The Palace of Mental Cultivation (Yang Xin Dian) :
The architecture of the Palace of Mental Cultivation must be considered as in synchronisation with the surrounding structures of the Palace (the Purple Forbidden City), the Imperial City around it and even of
Above & Below: Ceramic decoration depicting flowers and plants set within a duck pond as seen on the screen wall i/t outermost court of the Palace of Mental Cultivation.
Above: Map of all structures found in the Imperial Garden of the Palace Museum (Forbidden City) - The Chastise Obience Gate stands in the South and the Gate of Tranquil Earth in the North. The Square structure in the center represents the Palace of Imperial Peace.
Gate of Tranquil Earth
Chastise Obiendece Gate
Lodge o/t Nourishment of Nature
Palace of Imperial Peace
Hill of Soaring Elegance
West Long Corridor
East Long Corridor
leads in the opposite direction of the Hill of Soaring Elegance, heading southward and westward through the Garden and its Many pavilions.
Once inside the extensive gardens, make your way to the South-western corner. Here, partially obscured from all to easy view by abundant rockeries stands the "Lodge of the Nourishment of Nature" with adjacent to it, another colorfully decorated glazed gate. This Glazed Gate is the south-western Gate of the Palace Gardens (Yu Huan Yuan) and it gives access to a very long connecting corridor which passes further southward with gates and exits along both of its sides.
This is the correct route to take.
Pass from the Palace Garden into what is known as the "Western Long Corridor" and simply head southward until reaching the last and southernmost of all Gates on the rightand side (the west). This is the outermos Gate which gives acces to a narrow but surpisingly well decorated
THE SOUTHERN ROUTE:
The Southern Route is to the Palace of Mental Cultivation is slightly simpler to execute. In case of entering through Gate of Meridian Gate (Wu Men), simply keep walking north along the main central line of the Palace until reaching the"elevated white marble "Dragon Platform". Climb up the platform and keep to the west and (facing north) left of the Three Central Gates. Upon reaching the Hall of Preserving Harmony (Bao He Dian), follow the path through a minor glazed in the red wall adjacent the building to enter into the realms of the Inner Court. From the back of the Centrals Halls it is just a short way to the Palace of Mental Cultivation. Behind the Hall of Preserving Harmony lies the giant central square of the Inner Court, which has three gates on its northern side. One giant decorated gate in the center and two far lesser gates on each side there-of. Simply cross the giant entrance square, and choose the left Gate. The Left gate gives access to the southern expanses of the "Western Long Corridor". The current day main entrance to the "Palace of Mental
the entire city of Beijing. That is, when overviewing any map or satellite image of the Imperial Palace it becomes clear that the Palace of Mental Cultivation is built as yet another of those cities within a city. The Palace of Mental Cultivation is surrounded on all sides by its own red enclosure walls, within which the Main Hall centrally positioned and surrounded by all accompanying structures that are part of the Complex.
Its courtyard has an inner gate as well as an outer gate, which lead southward into a broad well-paved east-west avenue which has a Gate to the East and the West. In the far past, the West Gate was the most preferred of the outer gates, wheras today's visitors all enter through the minor eastern gate which leads into the spectacular "Western Long Corridor".
After laying sight upon the central southern square of the Inner Court, people are usually unexpectedly and pleasantly suprised, however by the time of their passing through the southern gate of the "western long corridor" and entering into the labyrinth of walls and gates of the private residences they are falling under the charm of the palace and feel impressed with this new realm, so different from those rather
corridor that leads past subservient minor buildings up to the Main Ceremonial Gate of the Palace of Mental Cultivation.
Above: Access Gate from the central southern square of the Inner Court to the "Western Long Corridor" as seen from the Back Platform of the Hall of Preserving Harmony (Boa He Dian). On the Left and West of the Gate some of the yellow roofs of the Palace of Mental Cultivation can be seen.
Enter into the southern stretch of the Western Long Corridor. The first gates lead East to the courtyard of the Palace of Heavenly Purity (usually closed off) and left and West to the Palace of Mental Cultivation, Yang Xin Gong(=Palace).
outer court. But a hint of the Splendor of the within of the Palace of Mental Cultivation is begotten at what by all means, serves as today's main acces Gate. Situated across the Western Gate of the enclosure of the Hall that served as Throne Hall previous to the year 1723 AD of the Yongzheng Reign of the Qing Dynasty (1723 A.D. - 1735 A.D.), this Gate is large and Looming, with blood red doors set within the large square Frame of a Large Square Englazed Gate decorated with flowers and crowned by its own roof with yellow tilings. Above the red doors a wooden frame carrying the name of this Gate in both Chinese and Manchu signs.
Upon entering through this outermost gate
bleak open spaces
immediately confronted with the elaborate and excellent Feng Shui arrangements of the Palace. As in ancient China the believe was that "Bad Spirits" could only move in straight lines, a screen wall is constructed here to block the immediate lign of sight to what lies within the Mental Cultivation Palace, and those entering must move around it get a broader view of their environs. Some sense of the treasures that may yet be discovered beyond here is given by the first class ceramic screen of imperial golden tiles, which delicately frames the scene of a lush duckpond within its center.
Screen Wall at the eastern outer gate of the Palace of Mental Cultivation decorated with first rate ceramic tiles glazed in a bright Imperial Yellow.
Move past the screen and into a much wider open court enclosed by small eunuchs quarters and subervient buildings beyond which, in the bright center, stands a gate more magnificent than the one just passed. All is colored in a warm and welcoming red, whereas the dark and lush green of surrounding trees breaths the comfort of mother nature.
Feeling once more elevated one gladly examines each detail while walking onwards towards the Main Ceremonial South Gate giving access to the actual Palace. The Court itself, very long and quite spacious is suprisingly devout of pompous art, dieties or other decorations that might distract from the serenity of the surroundings. Instead, the
The doors of the Main South Entrance Gate are bright red and beset with 9 rows of 9 golden studs each, signifying a Palace of the Highest Imperial Rank and Importance.
To see more of the unique architecture of the Palace of Mental Cultivation one has to move beyond this Gate and into the Main South Court.
As one will find, on first glance the Main Gate appears to be a double gate, due to the fact that immediatly behind stands a large wooden screen door, which can be opened or shut according to necessity. When the Emperor arrived to his Palace the doors could easily let through his large sedan chair upon which he was carried about.
When the Emperor held audience, the doors would remain open to welcome the Important dignitaries and guest. In this setting, the harmonious symetry of the lines of the view are extened to third line,
Overview of the southern- and outermost court of the Palace of Mental Cultivation.
superb estethics of this entryway are entirely achieved through the work of the structural lines of the surrounding Palace buildings, and the interplay of various painted colors and well designed gates with their elaborate and colorful ceramic tilings. To the majesty of surroundings are added the appearance of two modestly sized but wild and golden Chinese Lions, the sign of the Imperial Presence of the Emperor. The Gate is flanked by two large lanterns and a Ritual Jade Disc enclosed in a worked bronze frame stands opposite on its white marble pedestal. Two more minor gates are added on each side facilitating access for the servants to the Inner Courtyard of the Palace of Mental Cultivation beyond.
To the West of the Gate are yet more facilitating buildings, which supposedly served as storage rooms and the stations of those
eyes. In this setting the wooden screen wall behind the main gate creates an easily guarded front room, beyond which access is less easily gained.
History of The Palace of Mental Cultivation (Yang Xin Dian) :
Starting with the Reign of the YongZheng
The Resplendent outermost court of the Palace of Mental Cultivation with its brilliant red glows and harmonious architectural arrangements.
Emperor of the Ching Dynasty (1723 AD), this Palace, the Palace of the Cultivation of the Mind was the Imperial reigning Palace. No longer were the central Halls used for this purpose. In Sequence, 8 Emperors resided here, these being the Yongzheng Emperor, the Qianlong Emperor, the Chai Qing Emperor, the Dao Guang Emperor, the Xian Feng Emperor, the Tongzhi Emperor, the Guanxu Emperor and then The Xuan Tong Emperor - Pu Yi lived here and handled State Affairs within these Quarters.
This was also the Palace of the Famous "Reign Behind a Curtain".
The Palace was last inhabited by China's "Last Emperor" Aisin-Gioro Pu Yi for whom this place of great splendor was selected as his main residence. It remained his "home within the palace" throughout his life, continuing after his early 1912 abication until the very day of his expulsion from the Palace in 1924. The Front Hall of the Palace of Mental Cultivation is the location where the Emperor discussed court business with his mandarins. The emperor would summon his ministers to consult with him on state affairs in the central part of the front hall. Books containing instructions for a new emperor on how to
rule over his empire would be placed in a bookcase behind the throne.
The Main Hall of Mental Cultivation has a front and a rear hall, which served as the emperor's bedroom.
In the East Warmth Chamber, the notorious Empress Dowager Cixi, attended to state affairs sitting behind a curtain. The
Details of the decorations of the Main South Gate of the Palace of mental Cultivation, its Lanterns and Golden Lions, and the view beyond.
chamber is displayed as it was in her time. From behind this yellow curtain she corruptly ruled China for forty-eight years. Firstly as regent and domineering mother of her son and subsequently as regent to her adoptive nephew. In the West Warmth Chamber, emperors from Yongzheng to Xianfeng held private audiences with their ministers either for consultation or the issue of secret orders. The small house in the west end is named Sanxitang (Hall of Three Rare Treasures), so called because Emperor Qianlong collected and held three outstanding calligraphy masterpieces by Wang Xizhi, Wang Xianzhi, and Wang Xun, three masters in Chinese calligraphy. Plaques written by Emperor Qianlong are still displayed here.
ranking as common servant eunuchs within the Palace Halls. There is no sign of western Gate that historically existed on this side.
View of the Ceremonial Main South Gate of the Palace of Mental Cultivation, which during most of the Qing Dynasty served as THE Gate to Emperors audience Hall.
formed by the steps of a white marble platform with a small sized dragon slab positioned in the center.
However, when privacy was required and the Emperor was in residence, the inner doors would be shut creating a fully fledged screen door equally good for "keeping out the bad spirits" as keeping out prying
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There is a central connecting lobby between the front and rear halls. There are five imperial bedrooms, one in the center and the other four flanking it. Off the courtyards to the east and west of the rear hall, are temporary lodgings which were provided for empresses and concubines respectively when they were summoned to attend the Emperor. They were expressly forbidden to come here except upon invitation by the emperor.
On February 12th, 1912, following the final coup of the Revolution of 1911 led by Dr. Sun Yat-Sen, Emperor Dowager Longyu presided over the last cabinet meeting of the Qing Dynasty. Forced to abdicate, she signed the formal Declaration of Abdication here. However, the imperial family was permitted to continue to live in the Inner Court until 1924 when they were driven out by General Feng Yuxiang.