Palace of Heavenly Purity

Palace of a Peaceful Old Age

South of the Hall of Mental Cultivation is the former site of the Imperial Kitchen. The Qing emperors usually took two main meals a day, breakfast at around 6:30 am and lunch at 12:30 pm, with lighter repasts in the afternoon and evening. Each formal meal consisted of as many as 108 dishes served on plates of gold, silver, jade, enamel and porcelain set on several dozen tables, many well out of the emperor's reach, as well as out of sight. As a result, many were not replaced at every meal and within a few days grew quite stale. Several restaurants near the Forbidden City did a vigorous trade in palace leftovers spirited out of the palace by the men who worked in the kitchen, not all of whom were eunuchs. While no rooms were specifically designated as dining rooms in the Forbidden City, as mentioned above, most imperial repasts were served in the familiar surroundings of the Palace of Heavenly Purity and the Hall of Mental Cultivation.

This would be the time to see the specialized collections of jade, porcelain and bronzes displayed in the halls off the north- south alley directly east of the Palace of Heavenly Purity.

To continue the walk: Leaving the courtyard that separates the ceremonial and residential quarters, walk east through the raised gate, go down the incline and bear left into the courtyard where the hall contains a wonderful collection of Chinese and European clocks, some of the cherished playthings of the Qing emperors. This is the Hall of Ancestral Worship (Fengxian Dian), where the spirit tablets of the deceased Qing emperors and empresses were kept.

From here we visit the large group of buildings in the northeast corner of the Forbidden City, the Palace of a Peaceful Old Age (Ningshou Gong), which now houses extraordinary collections of exquisite gold and silver objects, dragon robes made with precious stones, an emperor's saddle—actually a selection of the household effects and personal sacred objects belonging to the Qing rulers. This part of the palace was originally built to accommodate the emperor's parents, as well as the empress and the highest-ranking concubines.