Initially built by Emperor Qianlong for his mother to watch operas, this theater with its two-storey stage was named the "Hall for Listening to Orioles" because in old times, people often compared beautiful voices to the singing of orioles.
The ancient Chinese liken the warble of an oriole to beautiful songs and melodies, hence the name. The hall used to be a theater. When the Great Theatre Building was completed, it served as a residence for imperial concubines. Zhenfei, the concubine of Emperor Guangxu, was put house arrest here after the 1898 Reform Movement failed because she was strong supporter of the Reform.
It was burned down by the Anglo-French Allied Forces in 1860 and was rebuilt during the reign of Emperor Guangxu. Before the completion of the Great Stage in the Garden of Virtue and Harmony, the Empress Dowager often watched operas and held banquets here. Now, the hall serves as a restaurant specializing in imperial court cuisine and has become famous for having received over a hundred foreign leaders.
Now the hall is one of the most famous restaurants in China, featuring imperial dishes and desserts. It is a must for many foreign visitors to have lunch here when they come to Beijing. More than one hundred heads of state worldwide have dined here and the late Premier Zhou Enlai has held banquets here in honor of state guests.