This hall was the residence for Empress Dowager Ci'xi, after it was burnt down in 1860 by the Allied Anglo-French Force, it was reconstructed in 1889. Every year from April to October, the Empress Dowager would leave the Forbidden City and live here in this hall until she died.
The hall is divided into four sections, many of the treasures used by the Empress Dowager are on display here.
- The east outerroom was the place Ci xi used to have her breakfast and tea.
- The east inner room was her dressing room and a place for her to take a rest.
- The west outer room was the place where she handled state affairs and sign documents.
- The west inner room was her bedroom
You can see the two big procelain bowls there. They were used to contain fruits, which weren't meant for eating but for the fragrance, and the fruits were changed quite regularly. On the ceiling of the sitting room hangs an electirc chandelier installed in 1903, the first electric light ever introduced to China.
The large table in the center of the hall is for the Empress Dowager to have her meals. For each meal, about 128 eunuchs, cooks and tea servants attended, to her every wish in the 8 big courtyards, more than 100 rooms. Each meal, she had more than 30 kinds of porridge, over 50 kinds of rice or noodles, a choice of 128 courses of her imperial kitchen was subdivided into five ureaus, each was in charge of something special, like the bureau of cakes or the bureau of vegetables etc.
The Empress Dowager had a fixed routine for meals: breakfast at 6:00 a.m, lunch at 12:00, dinner at 6:00 p.m, besides, she would also have some tea.
Forty-eight people in this hall alone waited on her, in the Summer Palace, more than 1,000 people were always ready to satisfy her every wish.
You can also see two Guangdong embroidery pieces on both sides, on your left is a phoenix among 100 birds while the one on your right is a peacock displaying its full plumage. The phoenix is considered to be the Queen of all birds while the peacock is the most beautiful among all birds. The Empress Dowager wanted to get both, the power of a phoenix and the beauty of a peacock.
Speaking of embroidery, four famous places in China de-serve special attention: Guangdong, Hunan, Suzhou and Sichuan. Each one is specialized in some special subjects: flower and bird, mountain and river in Guangdong, lion and tiger in Hunan, cat and gold fish in Suzbou and carp and panda in Sichuan.
In front of the Hall of Joyful Longevity is a pair of bronze deer, a pair of cranes and two big bronze vases, these were homonyms with the Chinese words which mean "Universal Peace".
A point of peculiar interest is that within the garden is a big strange looking rock, there's a story about this rock, a Ming official called Mi Wanzbong was fond of the rock and wanted to keep it in his own gardens Mi was very erudite in the six arts and he spent nearly all of his money to ship the rock from Fangshan to his garden. Finally, Mi Wanzhong got bankrupt and deserted the stone by the roadside of Liangxiang, 30 Km away from Beijing.
Emperor Qianlong saw it on the way back from his south tour and ordered that it be moved to the Summer Palace. In order to put the rock at its present site, the Gate of Joyful Longevity had to be torn down to give way for the rock, and because of this, Emperor Qianlong's mother also complained because she considered breaking the gate was something not very auspicious.
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