Outside of the Gate of Terrestrial Tranquility is Yuhuayuan, the Imperial
Garden. Constructed during the Ming dynasty in 1417, it is rectangular
in shape and covers approximately 12,000 square meters. This was a private
retreat for the imperial family and is the most typical of the Chinese
imperial garden design. There are some twenty structures, each of a
different style, and the ways in which they harmonise with the trees,
rockeries, flower beds and sculptural objects such as the bronze incense
burners both delight and astonish visitors. It is a worthy tribute to
the art of the designers that so much can be achieved in so small a
Qin'andian, the Hall of Imperial Peace is the dominant building in the
garden and occupies the central position. Surrounded by a wall, it dates
from the 15th Century. Growing in front of the hall is a four hundred
year old pine tree. Known as the Consort Pine, it symbolises the harmony
between the Emperor and Empress. The door to the hall is protected from
evil spirits by two gilded unicorns. Inside the hall prayers were offered
up to the Taoist God of Water, Zhenwudadi, for the protection of the
Forbidden City from destruction by fire.
At each of the four corners of the garden there is a pavilion. These
symbolise the four seasons. The Pavilion of Myriad Springs is the most
famous and occupies the eastern corner. Built in 1535 and restored during
the Qing dynasty, as its name implies, it is this pavilion that symbolizes
Located in the north-east is Duixiushan, Gathering Beauty Hill is a
little artificial mountain with a cave. Yujingyuan (Pavilion of Imperial
View) sits on top of the mountain. Emperors would climb up to the pavilion
on the Double Ninth Festival to enjoy the scenery with the royal family.
Visitors will see some of the footpaths are paved with varied patterns
of coloured pebbles, symbolising good luck and fortune. The more observant
visitor will find a group of pictures depicting shrews punishing their
husbands. It seems strange that such pictures should appear in the imperial
garden in feudal China at a time when male dominance and more especially
the omnipotence of the emperor prevailed!
At the northern end of the garden is Shenwumen, the Gate of Divine Might
and the rear exit from the Forbidden City.
Having visited all the sites on the east and west sides of the Inner
Court, you may leave via the Gate of Divine Might.
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