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Palace of Earthly Tranquility

Kung Ning Gong (坤宁宫 in Chinese), the Palace of Earthly Tranquility, is one of the three main halls of the Inner Court of the Forbidden City in Beijing. It was the residence of the Empress during the Ming Dynasty. During the Qing Dynasty, the Manchu rulers used it for Shamanistic worship practices. Throughout the Qing and Ming dynasties, two rooms of the palace were still reserved for use on the Emperor’s wedding night.

History

Palace of Earthly Tranquility

Palace of Earthly Tranquility

Built in 1420, during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), by Emperor Yongle (reigning from 1402 to 1424), the Palace of Earthly Tranquility was originally the residence of the Empress of China.

Grand banquets were also held in this hall on the Spring Festival. Both the Emperor and the Empress would attend large occasions on the first and the fifteenth of each month.

The Manchu

From the Yongzheng Emperor (serving from 1723-1735) forwards, the hall was converted for shamanist worship by the Manchu leaders. The front of the hall was filled with shrines, spiritual icons, prayer mats, and a kitchen where sacrificial meat was prepared for ceremonies.

The Manchu were very religious, and their beliefs necessitated much sacrifice. Thus, they converted the 4 west side rooms of the palace to places of worship, where they could offer sacrifices to their shamanist deities. In one of the four front rooms (the third from the East) there were two cauldrons for cooking meat for their sacrifices, which were prepared each morning and evening.

Wedding Ceremonies

The two east rooms of the Palace of Earthly Tranquility were reserved for use on the Emperor and Empress’s wedding. One room was used as a ceremony room, and the other was used as the bridal suite.

The walls of the room were painted red (an auspicious color in Imperial China) and the lanterns emblazoned with the words “double happiness.” The front screen of the room also had an auspicious Chinese character. The marriage bed and canopy were both exquisitely embroidered in order, the canopy decorated with 100 playing children, representing the fruitfulness of the Emperor’s union. All of these decorations added up to create feelings of warmth and happiness for the newly-weds.

The Emperor and Empress only lived in the hall for several days after their marriage, after which the Emperor would retire to the Hall of Mental Cultivation or Palace of Heavenly Purity, and the Empress would live in another residence within the Forbidden City. Emperors would only occupy this hall if they were married while they were reigning, not before they took power. Because of this, only three emperors of the Qing Dynasty lived in the Hall of Earthly Tranquility- because they ascended to the throne at an early age and were not yet married at the beginning of their reign.

Architecture

The Palace of Earthly Tranquility is the north-most hall of the three main halls of the Forbidden City’s Inner Court, behind the Hall of Celestial and Terrestrial Union, and the Palace of Heavenly Purity. It is a double-eaved building (meaning it appears to have 2 roofs, one on top of the other), and is 22 meters high. It is flanked by two side buildings, just like the Palace of Heavenly Purity, but smaller.

Behind the palace is the Gate of Earthly Tranquility, flanked by the duty room of the imperial eunuchs, and the duty room and dispensary (apothecary) of the imperial doctor.

The Palace of Earthly Tranquility has been rebuilt and remodeled several times. It was rebuilt in 1605 because of the fires of 1514 and 1596. In later years, it underwent many restorations.

Today, the palace bridal suite is still decorated with furnishings from the marriage of the grand wedding of Emperor Guangxu, the penultimate emperor of the China, who ruled from 1875-1908.

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.