Forbidden City

-- Xiliugong (Six Western Palaces) --

Palace for Gathering Elegance used to be the palace where notorious Cixi ever lived. Xiliugong, (The Six Western Palaces), lies to the north of Yangxindian (The Hall of Mental Cultivation). They form a group with three palaces on either side of an alley that runs from north to south. They are some of the original buildings erected within the Forbidden City and are named as follows: Yongshougong (Palace of Eternal Longevity), Yikungong (Palace of the Queen Consort), Chuxiugong (Palace for Gathering Elegance), Taijidian (Hall of the Supreme Pole), Changchungong (Palace of Eternal Spring) and Xianfugong (Palace of Universal Happiness). Each palace has its own courtyard, a front hall, a rear hall and annexes which were dwellings for the emperor's wives and concubines. From feudal times, the emperors of China practised polygamy but reports that they had as many as three thousand wives are doubtless an exaggeration. They did have many wives and concubines and these palaces were necessary to house them all. The buildings are displayed to the public with their untouched and original settings.

Along the alley, the emperor's women ever lived in courtyards. Chuxiugong (Palace of Gathering Elegance) is the most famous of the six since the notorious Empress Dowager Cixi lived here for a long period. Cixi exercised power from behind the throne by her dominating influence over a weak emperor. She spent a huge amount of money upon the refurbishment and decoration of the palace, making it the most luxurious for the celebration of her 50th birthday in 1884. Visitors see it as it was at that time and the delicate furnishings and fine decorations now on display were all originally used by Cixi.

Two finely cast bronze dragons and two bronze deer stand on stone plinths outside this palace.

Go northeast to Yuhuayuan (Imperial Garden).

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