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Hall of Central Harmony

The Hall of Central Harmony is one of the three halls composing the Outer Court of the Forbidden City in Beijing. Zhōng Hé Diàn (中和殿), in Chinese, the Hall of Central Harmony primarily served as a lounge where the Emperor would rest before and between various ceremonial activities.

History

Hall of Central Harmony

Hall of Central Harmony

The Hall of Central Harmony was built during the reign of Emperor Yongle in 1420, and was originally called Hua Gai Dian (The Sky Hall). After burning down during the reign of Emperor Jiajing (1522-1566) it was rebuilt and named Zhongjidian (Central Hall). Emperor Shunzhi (1644-1661) of the Qing Dynasty brought the imperial household to live in the Forbidden City and renamed the hall Zhonghedian (Central Harmony Hall/Temple). The Chinese characters Zhong (中) and He (和). Mean central harmony, and it is evidenced by the location and construction of this hall- along the central axis of the Forbidden City, the other two Great Outer Halls, and having a symmetrical internal design. Various Emperors used the Hall of Central Harmony in basically the same ways. It served as a resting lounge for the emperor while ceremonial and celebratory preparations were made at the Hall of Supreme Harmony. Both the Ming (1368-644) and Qing (1644-1912) Dynasties used the hall for the same purpose- the emperor would receive worship and homage, as well as prepare speeches at the Hall of Central Harmony before departing to another hall to perform the ceremonies. During the Temple of Agriculture Sacrificial ceremony, before he went to plow the land and sew seeds himself, the Emperor would examine the tools he was to use in the Hall of Central Harmony.

In the Qing Dynasty, the Qing Family Tree was compiled every seven years, and it was in this hall that the emperor would perform the rite of genealogy and review the new family tree. Occasionally, the emperor would meet with ministers to offer them food and small gifts in the Hall of Central Harmony.

The hall’s appearance is mostly unchanged since it was reconstructed in 1627 by Emperor Tianqi (1621-1627). It has survived 3 different fires, and some of its printing and design from its original construction and reconstruction is still visible.

Architecture

Of the three great halls of the outer court, the Hall of Central Harmony is the middle hall, and the smallest. Located between the Hall of Supreme Harmony and the Hall of Preserved Harmony, the Hall of Central Harmony only occupies 583 square meters, and is shaped like a square, 24.15 meters on each side, and 29 meters tall. The building is built like a pavilion, and has gold-plated bronze spire called a baoding, on the roof, designed to shine brightly in the sun. Surrounding the hall are 9 corridors which are paved with golden bricks. Inside, there are nine rooms in total. The roof is internally decorated with golden dragons, and on the steps leading to each of the rooms are carved pictures of cloud dragons. Rain drains to outside pipes in the shape of dragon heads at the base of the hall, so it appears that the dragons spurt water from their mouths when it rains.

In the central room of the hall of Central Harmony, two sedan chairs called Jian Yu were placed on either side of the throne. Jian Yu were a type of shoulder carriage carried by four to eight people, and they were used by the emperor to travel around the Forbidden City.

Additionally, on each side of the central throne were a pair of golden unicorns. These mythological beasts, called “luduan” in Chinese were believed to speak multiple languages and be capable of traveling 9000 kilometers in a day. The two statues served as sandalwood burners, and were placed around the throne as a sign of the emperor’s great wisdom and capability. Ultimately, the Hall of Central Harmony’s balanced, symmetrical construction is designed to convey Confucius’ Golden Mean ( also called The Doctrine of the Mean)- a system of guidelines for achieving universal peace and harmony.

History Tour with China Travel

Take your time to enjoy the One-Day In-Depth Forbidden City Tour with China Travel:

  • Our English-speaking expert guide will lead you to explore this largest imperial palace in the world and give you comprehensive explanations with pictures.
  • You will see all important sites and discover the hidden history of Chinese imperial life.
  • This in-depth Forbidden City tour takes about 5 hours while common Forbidden City tour only lasts about 2 hours.
  • In the afternoon, you’ll visit Jingshan Park to have a bird's eye view of the Forbidden City and watch sunset.