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The Hall of Happiness and Longevity

2016-03-15 15:04:43Share:

  The Hall of Happiness and Longevity was the residence for empress dowager. During the time when Emperor Qianlong’s mother stayed here, this building was a two storied building. After it was rebuilt in 1889, Empress Dowager Cixi lived here from April to October every year during the rest of her lifetime.

 

The Hall of Happiness and Longevity, Summer Palace, Beijing

 

  It consists of four chambers. The east outer-chamber was the breakfast room and tearoom for Empress Dowager Cixi; the east inner-room was her bedroom and the west outer-room was the room for her to read and sign the documents.

 

  In the center of the Hall of Happiness and Longevity, there is a large, long table, at which Empress Dowager Cixi had her meals everyday when she was here. During each meal, 128 courses would be served, of porridge alone, there were 30 kinds, as well as all kinds of rice, steamed bread, noodles and other food. A great deal of money was spent on her meals. The money spent on a single meal could be enough to feed 5,000 peasants for one day.

 

  A pair of big porcelain plates on each side of the long table for holding fruit. The fruit was not for eating but was there for its fragrance.

 

  A plaque hung above the table with four Chinese characters “Ci Hui Yi Zhi” meaning, “loving-kindness from the emperor’s mother and many thanks to his mother for the happiness given by her.”

 

  In each corner surrounding the table, there are four incense burners shaped with nine peaches. They are known as, “big incense burner with nine peaches” because the peach is a symbol of longevity and immortality.

 

  The fish table (for raising fish) was inlaid with sandalwood and ivory, and was there for Empress Dowager Cixi to watch the fish while having tea, cakes and cookies.

 

  There are two embroideries placed on either side of this hall. One is a peacock displaying its full plumage; the other one is a phoenix among 100 birds.

 

  The chandeliers hanging up in the middle of the ceiling in the hall of happiness and longevity were presented by the Germans. Installed in 1903, they probably are one of china’s earliest electric lights. In 1903, the German merchants shipped the power generating equipment to Beijing, hoping to make a big fortune. But Empress Dowager Cixi was strongly opposed to the installation of the electric lights in Beijing. Finally, the merchants found a way by turning to bribery. Li Lianying, the most favored eunuch of Empress Dowager and the chief eunuch in the palace, was given a lot of money. Finally, Li Lianying succeeded in making Cixi change her mind, and at last she was persuaded to have the electric lights installed in the summer palace.

 

The Hall of Happiness and Longevity, Summer Palace, Beijing

 

  The power station was installed in the courtyard of Wenchang Pavilion, southeast of the Summer Palace, and then the electric lights were installed in the Hall of Happiness and Longevity. Ever since then, the electric lights have been officially used in china.