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Hall of Central Harmony (Zhonghedian)

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One of the three major halls in the outer court of the Forbidden City, the Hall of Central Harmony (Zhonghedian) is situated between the Hall of Preserved Harmony and the Hall of Supreme Harmony. It was built in 1420 in the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644) and given the name 'Huagaidian'. Later it was destroyed in a big fire and was renamed 'Zhongjidian' after the reconstruction. In the Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1911), its name was again changed into ‘Zhonghedian’ from The Doctrine of the Mean, with the connotation that everything should be done neutrally and appropriately so that every party can be satisfied.

Hall of Central Harmony, Forbidden City
Hall of Central Harmony, Forbidden City
Square out of the Hall of Central Harmony
Square out of the Hall of Central Harmony

In the Hall of Central Harmony, the emperor would have a rest before holding ceremonies in the Hall of Supreme Harmony where he received homage from his officials and ministers. On every Spring Equinox, the emperor would check the seeds and farming tools in this hall before heading for the Altar of the God of Agriculture (Xiannongtan) to hold the farming ceremony. Ahead of an important sacrificial rite to the Temple of Heaven, the Temple of the Earth or some other places, the emperor would also read and release the elegiac addresses in this hall. In the Qing Dynasty, the royal genealogy would be revised every ten years. After the revision was complete, an approval ceremony was held by the emperor in this hall. Sometimes, the emperor would call in and dine the officials here, too.

The Hall of Central Harmony is square in shape, with an architectural area of 580 square meters (694 square yards). It was covered with yellow glazed tiles and a golden roof. There are doors opened on four sides of the hall, in front of which there are stone steps with the imperial road carved with cloud and dragon patterns in the middle. The outer eaves of the hall were decorated with patterns of golden dragons interspersed with colored decorative paintings. There is a golden throne in the hall, in front of which are standing two golden unicorns, a kind of imaginary mythological animal. It’s said that they could travel 18,000 li (5,592.3 miles) daily, understand many kinds of languages, and know what would happen in the future. They were set beside the throne to symbolize the emperor’s great insight and wisdom and to be used as incense burners. There are also two sedan chairs laid in the hall for the emperor to move around in the Forbidden City.

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