-- Garden of Virtue and Harmony --
Located to the north of the Hall of
Benevolence and Longevity, this garden, covering an area of 3000sqm, mainly
consists of the Theatre Building and Hall of Nurtured Joy.
The theatre building, constructed in 1892 with a cost of 1.6 million taels of silver, is
the largest stage in China at the time. The stage is three-storied with a
height of 21m and width of 17m. Performances could be staged simultaneously on
three levels. The three levels are connected by trap-doors, which provide
convenience for actors to appear and disappear. A winch was installed on the
top level, through which performers, settings and props could be lowered and
raised. At the bottom of the lower floor, a deep well and five ponds were set
to strengthen acoustic resonance and supply water for special effects. In the
course of the performance, a grand water scene could easily be produced when
necessary on the stage.
When there were plays on show, Empress Dowager
Cixi often sit in the Hall of Nurtured Joy to watch the performances. While
Emperor Guangxu would sit outside the door since the hall was only open to
concubines and female guests.
Around the stage are seven exhibition
rooms, in which many national treasures as well as the daily articles of the
Empress Dowager Cixi are on display. Among this exhibits, a vintage Benz is
worth the whistle. Engineers from German concluded that it was a
second-generation Benz made in 1898. As the first car China imported, it was
presented to Cixi as a gift by Yuan Shikai, a wily
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