This hall was the principal residence of the emperor in the Ming and early Qing dynasties, where the son of heaven slept and worked. Later in the Qing dynasty, events were held here such as the 'Banquets for a Thousand Elders', which saw Emperor Kangxi and subsequently Qianlong invite retired officials from around the empire to dine with them, in a grand display of filial piety.

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1. Hall of Union

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The middle of the three outer halls, the Hall of Union was the place for the empress to receive greetings from her high-ranking subjects during major…

2. Forbidden City

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Enclosed by 3.5km of citadel walls at the very heart of Beijing, the Unesco-listed Forbidden City is China’s largest and best-preserved collection of…

3. Palace of Earthly Tranquillity

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This palace was originally the residence of the empress, and in later times became the imperial couple’s bridal chamber (they only spent the first two…

4. Palace of Eternal Longevity

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One of the six western palaces in the Forbidden City, this was the residence of various empresses and imperial concubines. The Chongzhen Emperor (1628…

5. Palace of Great Benevolence

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One of the six eastern palaces in the Forbidden City, this was a residence of imperial concubines. Emperor Kangxi, most exalted of the Qing emperors (or…

6. Gate of Heavenly Purity

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The Gate of Heavenly Purity was the main portal between the outer and inner courts of the Forbidden City. Note the pair of gilded bronze lions guarding…

7. Palace of Celestial Favour

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One of the six eastern palaces, this dates from 1420, and was used as a residence of imperial concubines. Today it houses a museum displaying a range of…

8. Hall of Mental Cultivation

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In the late Qing dynasty, the Hall of Mental Cultivation was where empress dowagers Cixi and Cian took charge of the state affairs behind a screen, when…