Hall of Union and Peace (Jiaotaidian) is one of the three palaces in the in Inner Court of the Forbidden City. The name 'Jiaotai' means the union and harmony of the earth and heaven. It is located in between the Palace of Heavenly Purity (Qianqingong) where the emperor lived and the Palace of Earthly Tranquility (Kunninggong) where the empress lived. It also indicates that the emperor and the empress should live in harmony and respect each other. In the Ming and Qing dynasties, the empress would receive tributes from the emperor's concubines, the princesses, the princes and dukes on New Year’s Day and her birthday in the Hall of Union and Peace.
Hall of Union and Peace is square-shaped and smaller than the Hall of Central Harmony (Zhonghedian). The ceiling of the hall was painted with caisson patterns and an entwining dragon with a pearl in its mouth. The floor was paved with golden bricks. A throne is situated in the hall, behind which there is a four-leaved screen inscribed with Emperor Qianlong’s handwriting. On the beam above the throne was a board was engraved with the Chinese characters ‘Wu Wei’ (non-action).
In the west wing of the hall stands a large chiming clock built in the third year of Emperor Jiaqing’s reign (1796 - 1820). In ancient China, the time told by this clock was the standard time of the imperial palace. The bell is about 6 meters (19.7 feet) high, regarded as the largest ancient desk clock still in existence in China. It was crafted by the Qing Imperial Workshops based on the mechanical principles from western countries. The housing of the chiming clock is a Chinese-style, garret-like three-storey wooden cupboard, with a height of 5.8 meters (19 feet). There is a small ladder at the rear of the housing for climbing up to wind the clock. Though over 200 years, the clock is still in excellent working order.
Apart from the large chiming clock, the bronze clepsydra is another fine treasure in the Hall of Union and Peace. It is actually an ancient time piece, or clepsydra. As early as three thousand years ago, the Chinese had invented a timekeeping method by water dripping. Although made in 1745, the bronze clepsydra is still well-preserved.
25 Imperial Seals
The unique treasure in the Hall of Union and Peace is the 25 imperial seals also known as '25 Bao'. There are 25 big boxes on both sides of the throne which hold the 25 imperial seals. Currently, there is nothing in the boxes, since the seals have been moved to the Treasure Gallery. The seals were controlled by the Cabinet and were allowed to be used after getting permission from the emperor. Every seal had its special usage in the ancient times. For instance, 'Huangdi Zhibao' was used for issuing imperial edicts and declaring the Jinshi (third-degree scholar) name-list. 'Zhifa Zhibao' and 'Mingde Zhibao' were used for commanding and awarding the court officials. 'Zhiyuliushi Zhibao' was used for military affairs.
There is a story about the number of seals. At first, the seals added up to 39. Later, Emperor Qianlong reduced the number to 25 which were considered heaven numbers. He hoped he would be blessed by the Heaven by doing so, and the Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1911) could exist for 25 generations. It is such a shame it did not come true, because the Qing Dynasty met its doom after 10 generations.
Go to the Next Attractions: Palace of Earthly Tranquility