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The Imperial Palace Museum
Outer Court (Wai Chou) - East
- Hall of Literary Flowers (Glory) (Wen Hua Dian ; 华殿) -
(1) Introduction
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Introduction to the Hall of Literary Flowers (Wen Hua Dian ; 华殿) :
The Palace complex of Literary Flowers is situated in the eastern outer court of the Forbidden City (Gugong), the Palace Museum in Beijing and is the main structure of that part of the Palace. The main Hall of the complex is Hall of Literary Flowers (Wen Hua Ge) but their are several adjoining buildings as well as as several other structures scattered around it.

The Hall of Literary Flowers (Wen Hua Dian ; 华殿) is also often mistakenly named the Hall of Literary Glory.

The main historical interest of this Hall and complex is not in its early period when it was in use as the living and learning Palace of the Ming Emperors favorite son's, a place of his own, but of its glory days during the Qing Dynasty when it was a major Imperial Study dedicated to the classics, a Library for the highest Government and Officials, and less
Directions to the Palace complex of Literary Flowers (Wen Hua Dian) - How to Get There :
The complex of the Hall of Literary Flowers (Wen Hua Dian) and adjoining buildings is the main
Architecture of the Hall of Literary Flowers (Wen Hua Dian) :
The architecture of the complex of the Palace of Literary Flowers is as follows. The complex faces the east-to-west causway that connects all structures of the three southernmost couryards of the current Palace Museum.
To the the north of it is a large space beyond of which, at quite a distance walking, lies the exercise and archery field, plus the three abodes of the south, the quarters reserved for the Imperial Children.
To the north-east outside of the north gate of the Eastern Outer Court were the housings of the Imperial Stables and to the east lies the western axis of the "Forbidden City" beyond which stands the Qing Dynasty Annals Hall set against the inside of the Outer Wall of the Palace, just above and north of the East Flowery Gate (Dong Hua Men) (which now serves as an entrance to the Palace).
At the south of the complex stands the obligatory southern main ceremonial gate, the Gate of Literary Flowers (Wen Hua Men).
To the south of this Gate and across the east-to-west causeway stands the "Inner Cabinet", a complex of Hall reserved for the use of the Ministers of the Cabinet of the Emperor a.k.a. the Highest Officials within the Nation.
To the south-west along the east-to-west causeway stands the East Gate of Harmony (DongHe Men) giving acccess to the southernmost central courtyard of the Outer Court, the one decorated with the five marble bridges leading across the "Jade Belt", the "Golden Stream" that flows through the outer courtyards.

After walking up to the complex via the east-to-west courtyard and entering through the Gate of Literary Flowers one finds oneself within a slightly rectangular courtyard and faced immediatly with the main Hall of Literary Flowers (Wen Hua Dian). To the east of this courtyard is the main gate leading into the adjacent and separately enclosed Hall of the Hereditary Soul (Chuan Xin Dian).
On the opposite western flank of this outer courtyard stands a side-hall which held a portion of the library kept at the Palace of Literary Flowers. Mind you, this is however NOT the famed Pavilion of the Source of Literature (Wen Yuan Ge) where the cultural treasure of the "Kangxi Library" was kept. The main library and Pavilion of the Source of Literature is situated at the north and back of the Complex beyond the main Hall of Literary Flowers (Wen Hua Dian).

The main Hall of Literary Flowers ( Wen Hua Dian) is a 工-shaped structure with a lobby connecting the front and back halls. The Hall of Literary Flowers itself is the front one of these rooms, with its doors facing south. It measures five bays wide and three bays deep and is covered by a single-eaved roof with yellow-glazed tiles. The back hall of the adjoining rooms is the Hall of Significance and Respect (Zhujingdian), a structure similar to the front Hall of Literary lowers but less deep. Additionally, there are side buildings, the Hall of Benevolence (Benrendian) in the east and the Hall of Righteousness (Jiyidian) in the west. On the east side of the conjoined halls, there is a small courtyard where there is a well and a Pavilion named Chuanxin Hall which was the place for worshipping Confucius before the Classics Colloquium Ceremony.
History of the Hall of Literary Flowers (Wen Hua Dian):
The complex of the Hall of Literary Flowers (华殿) was first built in 1420 AD as a part of the original Palace of the early Ming Dynasty (1368 AD - 1644 AD). In the early period of the Ming Dynasty the Hall was in use as the Palace reserved for the (designated) Crown Prince, who was to live and study eagerly at this Palace complex. For this reason, at the time, the Hall of Literary Flowers and adjoining buildings have roofs of green glazed tiles, signifying their lower than Imperial status.
At the same time of the early years of the Palace during the Ming Dynasty, the Emperor lived in the Palace complex of Martial Valor (Wu Ying Dian) which does have yellow glazed roof tiles and according to the geomantic plan of the larger Palace balances the "growing aspect" (Yin) of his beloved but immature Son with the "active" Yang element of Supreme Harmoniousness across the central axis of the Palace and City. The idea was to bring the young Crown Prince as close to the running of the Government as possible before the dying of the Emperor took place, thus stablizing the power transition process greatly, however the idea seems to have backfired.

The green glazed roof tiles of the Hall of Literary Flowers and adjoining structures were replaced in the year 1522 AD, the 15th year of the reign of the Jiajing Emperor (Reign: 1522 AD - 1566 AD) of the Ming Dynasty. Afterwards the Emperor himself took it into use, albeit as a Hall of Abstinence not to be used too frequently. It is noted, that even at this time occassionaly the Emperor would receive his Officials at this Hall.

The original hall of Literary Flowers was ruined at the end of the Ming Dynasty Reign during the take-over of the Palace by the hostile forces of Li Shimin and subsequently the Manchu who established the Qing Dynasty in 1644 AD. The Hall was only rebuilt later during the Reign of the Kangxi Emperor (1655 AD - 1722 AD) of the Qing Dynasty when it become the home of a huge scriptures library.

During this time of the Qing Dynasty (1644 AD - 1911 AD) the Hall of Literary Flowers began to take up it important literary functions.
During the entire Era the papers (questions and answers) for the Imperial Examination Exams were ritually presented to the Emperor at this important hall precisely two days after the ending of the last session of these all important exams. The placing of the papers, which had been reviewed by his high officials ultimetaly had to be approved by the Emperor himself. In order to announce his decision he would make a circle in red ink upon each of the three papers which he judged to be the very best. Sunsequently, the new "Jinshi" - the highest rank of Confucian Scholarship were announced at the Hall of Supreme Harmony,  after which, at the end of the Ceremony the "Jinshi" were allowed the high honor of traveling along the south axis of the Palace from the throne Hall, out of the Central opening of the Gate of the Meridian (Wumen) and so onwards out of the Palace, in order to go and spread their knowledge and help the people and the Empire.

Apart from the described usages, throughout both the Ming and the Qing Dynasties, the Hall of Literary Flowers was also often used to give official Banquets.
According to the Book "Forbidden City in Beijing" by Zheng Zhihai and Qu Zhijing, at there were no fixed dates for the banquest at first. However starting the Zhengtong Reign of the Ming Dynasty, banquets started to be held at the Hall of Literary Flowers no less than three times a month, although they do note that they did not occur that frequently during the "hot summer months and cold winter months". At the same time, the custom was to make sacrifes to the Ancestors and Emperors of all previous Dynasties by visiting Imperial Ancestral Shrine on the day before the large banquet itself.

Much later, in the year 1685 AD, The Kangxi Emperor of the Qing Dynasty (Reign: 1661 - 1722 AD) made the 8th day of the second month of the year the set date for a banquet which included lectures and literary excercises. This ceremony was also known the "reading reports ceremony". The lectures at the banquet were given by 8 Manchu Officials and 8 Han Officials, in order to honor the mutual cooperation. Instead of offering to the Ancestors and Emperos on the day previous to the day of the Banquet, now the offerings and ceremonies were dedicated to the Master, Confucius as the Manchu had a preference for his teachings, which helped subdue the multitudes of Han Chinese into subservience to their Manchu Overlords.

Apart from having the 16 lecturers called upon while having a banquet on day of the year, throughout the periods of the Ming and Qing dynasties, the Classics Colloquium Ceremony was held at the Hall of Literary Glory twice a year in spring and in autumn. Before the ceremony, the emperor had to write a theory to explicate his give-and-take from the Four Books and Five Classics., which he was then to explain to his humble officials during this lenghty ceremony.
The day also included the studying on "the Four Books (the Great Learning, the Doctrine of the Mean, the Analects of Confucius, and the Mencius) and Five Classics (Classic of Changes, Classic of Poetry, Classic of Rites, Classic of History, and Spring and Autumn Annals)".
While in session, the emperor had to compose reports in Chinese once and in Manchu once, during which the civil ministers listened with their knees down to the floor. If the emperor deemed this necessary, he would order the civil ministers to debate with him on the subject at hand. At regular intervals, all attending would be offered a cup of green tea in order to rest the mind and refresh. At last, at the end of the lengthy ceremonies, the emperor would take the civil ministers to the Pavilion of Literary Profundity (Wenyuange) at the back of the complex to give them the opportunity to read from and look in the many unusual books inside this vast library, which was considered a high honor as well as a very rare opportunity, all of which served as special encouragement to those who were lucky enought to have been invited to attend the ceremony in the first place.

At various times after the death of the Kangxi Emperor (1722 AD) the Banquet and lecture was often given not at the main Hall, but at the Gate of Concord to the East of the Hall of Literary Flowers or in the side-chambers of the Hall of Literary Flowers. The system of lecturing the emperors in the Hall of Literary Glory continued throughout the further years of the Qing Dynasty, but the ceremony became even grander. It is known that the Qianlong Emperor, the grand son of Kangxi, attended no less than 49 grand lectures each, each including a spectacular ceremony with snacks and abundant tea.
In the beginning of the year 1782 AD in the second half of the Reign of the Qianlong Emperor (1735 AD - 1796 AD), the designated site for the important yearly Banquet and Lectures were once again moved, this time to adjacent Pavilion of the Source of Literature (Wen Yuan Ge), which stands to the south-east of the main Hall of Literary Flowers.

A much lesser known fact about this Palace Complex of the Forbidden City is that many tea parties, of the many held in the Imperial Palace took place at the Hall of Literary Flowers (Wen Hua Dian, the Hall of Literary Glory). As early as the Ming Dynasty, it became an important rite for tea to be served in the Hall of Literary Glory when the emperors listened to lectures.
Other of these abundant tea parties were held in other parts of the Palace, such as at the Chonghua Palace (the Hall of Double Glory) or the Hall of Heavenly Purity (Qian Qing Dian) of the Palace of Heavenly Purity (Qian Qing Gong) in the Inner Court.
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Hall of Literary Flowers (Wen Hua Dian) Today :
Between the years 2007 and the fairly recent year 2011 the eastern outer court to which the East Gate of Harmony and the Hall of Literary Flowers belong was under reconstruction while the interiors of the Halls of the Palace Complex of Literary Flowers (Wen Hua Dian) underwent lengthy renovations and restorations.
Today, open to the public it attracts many visitors curious of the parts of the Palace Museum that have been hidden from the public eye for so long. The Hall of Literary Flowers itself has been turned into a small museum of Pottery of the Dynasties of the Past and is also known as the "Pottery
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Partial overview of the southernmost central courtyard of the Outer Court of the Forbidden City, featuring the Golden Stream (or "Jade Belt") and among things the East Gate of Unified Harmony visible on the right of this image.
importantly, in use as Banquet Hall with serious Literary Conotations.

The Hall of Literary Flowers lay in disrepair for a long time, but after lenghty renovations it has been opened to the public in the year 2011 and can now be visited.
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structure of the South-Eastern section of the Forbidden City known as the "Eastern Outer Court". It stands among greenery in what is largely a wide open garden like space and as such it is fairly easy to find and identify for any visitor to the Palace Museum.
To get to the Palace of Literary Flowers one can essentially choose from two routes, which are remarkably different in character.
The shortest route is probably the Eastern Route which leads through the recently opened entrance of the East Flowery Gate (Dong Hua Men). This route is short and leads past subservient buildings of the Palace along the east-to-west causeway of the Outer Court, directly to the main south Gate of the Complex of Literary Flowers. Although delightful to stroll in the early morning when visitor numbers are still low, the eastern route does not reveal the full grandeur of the Imperial Palace.
The Southern route however does.
Travel the route through the main south Gate of the Meridian (Wu Men) and from there directly eastward to the East Gate of Harmony (Dong He Men) and from there the short walk over to the palace complex of Literary Flowers adjacent in order to get a proper taste of the main ceremonial route of the Palace that leads along the central axis northward to  the throne room of Supreme Harmony (Taihe Dian). Although you will turn eastward first,
at least you will have felt the sense of awe that touched every visitor to the Palace Museum, as it was intended by the creators and builders of this largest Royal Palace on Earth.
(Read more in: "Earliest History of the Palace Museum").
After admiring the "Golden Stream" and passing through East Harmony Gate on your last leg of the route to the Hall of Literary Flowers, the scenery will change from the nearly all stone facade of masses of white marble, paved courtyards and giant red gates into the soothing tranquility of a Garden and your mood and impressions will change accordingly. Have a browse about the stunning and recently renovated complex of Literary Flowers and perhaps later, return to the Central Axis and Route to see more of the astounding "Forbidden City" beyond.
The Hall of the Hereditary Soul stands in a courtyard to the east of the Hall of Literary Flowers (Glory). It was used for the divination of- and tributes to the memorial tablets of the Legendary Ancestors and first historic Emperors of the early Chinese Civilization (such as the mythical Yellow Emperor and the Xia Dynasty) that supposedly led up to the Shang Dynasty (1766 BC - 1121 BC) and the Zhou Dynasty (1121 BC -221 BC). To be exact: according to ancient agreement these are the immortal "Three August Ones", the "Five Sovereigns", and further the "sage Emperors of the three royal dynasties", the sage Confucius and the Duke of Zhou, the founder of the Zhou Dynasty.

Inside the same courtyard upon which the Hall of the Hereditary Soul looks out is a well which used to be famous for its sweet tasting waters. Of all the 72 water wells available within the Forbidden City, the best one is located in the eastern courtyard of the Hall of Literary Flowers near the Pavilion of the Hereditary Soul.
Starting in the year 1652 AD of the then emerging Qing Dynasty, this well was the location where offerings to the Daoist "God of the Well" were made each year. Regardless of its sweetness however, the Emperor never drank the water from this well. That is, ever since the Reign of the Qianlong Emperor (1735 AD - 1796 AD) of the Qing Dynasty the Emperors always drank and used spring water from Mount Yuquan, which is situated in the western hills (now suburbs of Beijing). (Read more in: "Gate of Divine Military Might (Shenwu Men)".
Gallery". According to the Palace Museum the Pottery Gallery has an area of 1,770 square meters, and an exhibition counting 429 pieces of pottery treasures, including almost all the important pottery breeds in its development thus highlighting the extraordinary refinement of Chinese Pottery through the ages.
Huh? What was that: read?
Cannot you fools see that I am eating?
This is some good China Chow, I'll say ..
Located behind and to the north of the central Hall of Literary Glory is the Pavilion of the Source of Literature (Wen Yuang Ge), which used to be the home of the Imperial Library.
(An abreviated version of this Library, a synopsis, was kept at the "Hall of Literary Elegance" (Chi zao Tang) in the Imperial Garden (Yu uan Yuan) in the Inner Court of the Forbidden City. Read more in: Imperial Garden (Yu Huan Yuan)).
This building was however not an original part of the complex but was added at a much later time, in the year 1774 AD during the Reign of the Qianlong Emperor (1735 AD - 1796 AD) of the Qing Dynasty.
This Pavilion was built in the style of the famous Tianyige Pavilion in the southern harbor city of Ningbo in Zhejiang Province. After its construction the Pavilion was reserved for storing the largest and most famous Library ever compiled in China, the Siku Quanshu, or "Complete Library of the Four Treasures of Knowledge" as well as the equally large "Collection of Works from the Past and Present".
This enormous Library was stored inside Pavilion of the Source of Literature until well after last Emperor Pu Yi was forced out of the Palace in 1924 AD. Eventually, with the threat of further Japanese invasions into north China looming, the entire library of priceless books was packed up, crated and later shipped by train from Beijing to Nanjing. From there it traveled further along with the retreat of the Nationalist Troops of Generalissimo Chiang Kai Chek to Chongqing, and in 1948/49 finally to Taipei in Taiwan, where it is now part of the Imperial Collection of the "2nd Palace Museum".

In front of the Pavilion is a square pond spanned by three bridges which cross the so-called "Golden River", the geomantrically auspicious Jade Belt that is strung across the Forbidden City complex.
The Pavilion of the Source of Literature has the appearance of a two story building, however in reality it has three stories. The "Forbidden City", the sacrosanct Palace of the Emperor, had the highly symbolical number of 9999 and a half rooms. This last half room is found at the western end of the Pavilion of the Source of Literature.
1) Gate of Literary Glory & South Court
2) Hall of Literary Glory Interior
3) West Side Hall of Literary Glory
4) East Side Hall of Literary Glory (not available)
5) Hall of the Source of Culture and Literature (Imperial Library of the Ming Era)
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