Summer Palace

-- Hall of Benevolent Longevity --

A bronze dragon was placed in front of the hall, symbolizing the supreme power of the royal family. Entering the garden from East Palace Gate and turn right, one would see the magnificent Hall of Benevolent Longevity.

Originally named the Hall of Industrious Government, the hall was first built in 1750 and is the main hall in the Summer Palace. It was the place where Empress Dowager Cixi and Emperor Guangxu took charge of state affairs. In 1860, when the Anglo-French allied forces invaded Beijing, the original building was burned down. In 1890, the hall was rebuilt and renamed as Hall of Benevolent Longevity by Emperor Guangxu.

In front of the hall, bronze animals, cauldrons, dragons and phoenixes were placed, in which one called Kylin is the most attractive. With a body covered with fish scales, the legendary animal has a dragon's head, lion's tail, deer's antlers and ox's hooves. No wonder Chinese people often called it "Sibuxiang" (Four Unlikenesses). Dignified and statedly, they add more solemnity to the hall.

With a body covered with fish scales, Kylin, a legendary animal, has a dragon's head, lion's tail, deer's antlers and ox's hooves. Once enter the hall, the first thing come to your eyes is a red sandalwood throne carved with nine dragons, which is the symbol of supreme power. By the side of the throne, two big fans made of peacock were put up to give a solemn atmosphere. In the Song dynasty, two eunuchs would hold the fans, but in the Qing dynasty, the two fans were fixed by the side of the throne.

Behind the throne is a red sandalwood screen, on which 226 Chinese characters meaning "longevity" were written with 100 bats in the background, symbolizing happiness and longevity. A tablet is hung above the throne, on which is an inscription meaning those who show benevolence in the government of the people will live a long life.

Besides, some incense burners in various shapes were placed in the hall. In formal occasions, incense would be burned inside them.

The two side chambers were prepared for the emperors to rest and receive officials on formal occasions.

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