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Six Western Palaces

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Hall of the Supreme Principle (Taijidian)
Hall of the Supreme Principle (Taijidian)

The Six Western Palaces are a group of buildings to the west of the three palaces in the Inner Court of the Forbidden City. During the Ming and Qing dynasties, they were inhabited by the wives and concubines of the emperors in. They include Palace of Gathering Elegance (Chuxiugong), Palace of Earthly Honor (Yikungong), Palace of Eternal Longevity (Yongshougong), Palace of Universal Happiness (Weifugong), Palace of Eternal Spring (Changchungong) and Hall of the Supreme Principle (Taijidian). In the late Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1911), the Emperor Dowager Cixi modified to the buildings in this palace area according to her wishes. Thus, the Six Western Palaces are not the same as the corresponding Six Eastern Palaces which mostly kept their original structures.

The Palace of Gathering Elegance is the most lavish palace in the Six Western Palaces area, since Emperor Dowager Cixi had always lived in this palace up until the time she was appointed Worthy Lady Lan. It was also in this palace that she gave birth to Emperor Tongzhi. She spent much money renovating this palace and returned her chamber here on her 50th birthday. The inscriptions on the wall of the veranda are the congratulatory words from the ministers. At the bottom of the steps leading to the front of the palace are a pair of dragons and a pair of deer. It was unusual that dragons appeared in the Six Western Palaces because dragons were reserved for the emperor. The interior was elegantly decorated with mahogany-made screens, court fans carved with magnolias patterns and recessed-leg tables with flanges. 

Palace of Gathering Elegance (Chuxiugong)
Palace of Gathering Elegance (Chuxiugong)
Palace of Eternal Longevity (Yongshougong)
Palace of Eternal Longevity (Yongshougong)

At present, the Palace of Universal Happiness is used for displaying historical materials about Emperor Dowager Cixi attending to state affairs. The Palace of Eternal Longevity has been made an exhibition hall depicting the daily life of the Qing Dynasty concubines.

Besides the six main palaces, visitors can also have a look at Tihe Hall which was the dining hall of Emperor Dowager Cixi, and the Hall of Manifest Compliance which was the chamber of Emperor Dowager Ci’an and the Office of Grand Council.

There are many spooky stories about the Six Western Palaces. Two of the most popular ones are that during thunderstorm one might see the shadow of a woman who was bending to pick something up and  that sometimes one could hear women crying at midnight. However, these tales have never been scientifically verified.

 Go to the Next Attraction: Palace of Gathering Elegance 

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