Hall of Celestial and Terrestrial Union
The Hall of Celestial and Terrestrial Union is located between the Hall of Heavenly Purity (Qianqinggong) and the Hall of Earthly Tranquility (Kunninggong). These three halls make up the center of the Inner Court of the Forbidden City. Unlike most of the Forbidden City which was built in 1420 by Emperor Yongle (who served from 1402 to 1424), it was established and built later. Built in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) during the reign of Emperor Jiajing (1522-1566).
The name of the hall was adopted from The Book of Changes, it literally means “union of heaven and earth”, and figuratively means “peace and harmony of the whole nation”. The Book of Changes is also known as the Classic of Changes, or more commonly in both the West and the East, as the I Ching, or Yi Ching. The I Ching is one of the most influential texts in the world; it is one of the oldest texts in the world, and it is the oldest Chinese classic at an age of over 2000 years.
Emperor Shunzhi (who served from 1644-1661) of the Qing Dynasty placed an iron sign- forbidding the entry of eunuchs into politics- in this hall.
The Hall of Celestial and Terrestrial Union was restored in 1665 and again in 1669. It was rebuilt after a fire in 1798, and exists now as it was built then.
Storage of Royal Seals
In 1748, during the Qianlong Emperor’s rule (1736-1796), the emperor put 25 jade royal seals (called “bao”) in this hall. These seals were used by the royal cabinet to exert power within the forbidden city. The seals enabled the exercise of various actions, from the promulgation of writings, seals for the command and honor of his vassals, and another seal for military actions. These seals could be used by the royal cabinet, but only with the permission of the empress. They were placed in damask silk-covered boxes. They are still located in their original place in this hall.
The celebration of the birthday of the empress was called Qianqiu during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912). The Empress would come to the Hall of Celestial and Terrestrial Union to receive congratulations and homage from high-ranking court ladies and the emperor’s concubines. The same courtesans and concubines would also pay homage to the Empress during the Spring Festival and on the Winter Solstice.
Other activities of the empress in this hall included preparations before presiding over ceremonies honoring the Silkworm God and the practice of sericulture (raising silkworms for the production of silk).
The Hall of Celestial and Terrestrial union also contains 2 great clocks.
The newest of the 2 clocks is the Big Chime Clock. It was built in 1798 by Emperor Jiaqing (serving from 1796 to 1820). It is an enormous wooden pavilion clock, 5 meters high, and with 3 levels. The clock has functioned for over 200 years, and still chimes.
The older clock is a bronze clepsydra. The clepsydra was invented in China over 3,000 years ago, and measures time via the dripping of water. The water clock exhibited in this hall was built in 1745 during the reign of Emperor Qianlong. It remains one of the only known clepsydras that is well-preserved.
The Hall of Celestial and Terrestrial Union looks like the Hall of Central Harmony in shape and style, and it is also the smallest of the 3 halls of the Inner Courtyard of the Forbidden City. It stands between the Palace of Heavenly Purity and the Palace of Earthly Tranquility.
The shape of the hall is square, and the roof is angled up to a central point, like a pyramid. A spherical pinnacle tops the roof.