Hall of Supreme Harmony

Forbidden City & Dongcheng Central

One of the Three Great Halls, this is the most important and largest structure in the Forbidden City. Built in the 15th century and restored in the 17th century, it was used for ceremonial occasions, such as the emperor’s birthday, coronations and the nomination of military leaders.

In its time, the Hall of Supreme Harmony was the tallest building in Beijing – nothing was allowed to be built higher (although the Drum and Bell Towers were actually taller). It sits atop a three-tiered marble platform mimicking the Chinese character for king (王, wáng).

Inside the hall is a richly decorated Dragon Throne (龙椅, Lóngyǐ), from which the emperor would preside over trembling officials. The entire court had to touch the floor nine times with their foreheads (the custom known as kowtowing) in the emperor’s presence. At the back of the throne is a carved Xumishan, the Buddhist paradise, signifying the throne’s supremacy. Today you can only view it from the outside, if you muscle your way close enough through the throng of onlookers.