Happiness and Longevity Hall

  Happiness and Longevity HallThis big rock in its strange shape was discovered in Fangshan Mountains near Beijing. An Ming official named Mi Wanzhong was fond of it and wanted to keep it in his garden inside the present Beijing University. Having spent all his money to ship it he finally gave it up halfway and left it by the side of the road near Liangxiang, 30 kilometres southwest of Beijing. Qing Emperor Qianlong saw it on the way back from his tour south of the Yangtze River, and ordered that it be moved to Beijing.

  These are bronze vases, vats, deer and storks, two of each kind, symbolizing universal peace.
  Magnolia, flowering crab-apple and peony are grown in this compound.
  On the left, the deer, especially the spotted variety, is an emblem of longevity, because it is said to be the only animal which can find the lingzhi fungus of immortality.

  The hall was Empress Dowager Cixi’s residence. After it was rebuilt in 1889, she lived here from May to October every year during the rest of her lifetime.

  In the east outer room, she used to have breakfast and tea.
  The east inner room was her dressing room.
  The west inner room was her bed room and in the west outer room she used to read and sign documents.
  In the centre of the hall is a large table, at which she had her meals. For each meal, there was a choice of 128 courses and over 50 kinds of rice, bread, noodles and other food. Of porridge alone, there were 30 kinds. The money spent on a single meal would have been enough to feed 5,000 peasants for a day.

  The big porcelain bowls were used to hold fruit, which was not meant for eating but for smelling.
  More than one thousand people waited on her in the garden. In this hall alone 28 ladies-in-waiting and 20 eunuchs attended to her every wish.
  The aquariums were used for keeping and showing fish and water plants.

  On your right you can see a peacock displaying its full plumage; on your left a phoenix among one hunderd birds. It is said that pea-cock is the most beautiful among all birds while phoenix is the queen of birds. The Empress Dowager compared herself to peacock and phoenix. These two pieces were made in Guangdong Province. There are four famous embroideries in China. The other three are made in Hunan, Suzhou and Sichuan. Guangdong embroidery is noted for mountain, water, flower and bird; Suzhou enbroidery is noted for cat and gold fish; Sichuan embroidery is well-known for carp and panda; Hunan emboidery specializes in tiger and lion.

  The chandeliers hanging from the ceiling were China’s first electric lights installed in 1903. The palace had its own power station.
  Yongshou Room(Longevity Room)
  Yongshou Room or Longevity Room used to be the residence of court eunuch manager Li Lianying at the end of the Qing Dynasty. The residence has recovered its original decoration after renovation. The most eye-catching features are the chairs covered with yellow silk. It is said that Li dared not sit on the chairs on which Empress Dowager Cixi had sat and therefore covered them all.

  A colourful group of sculptures, made up of about 300 clay figurines, shows the guards carrying flags and weapons when Empress Dowager Cixi and Emperor Guangxu went from the Forbidden City to Summer Palace, vividly exposing the historical facts of how the imperial family put the eunuchs to work.

  The exhibitions showing the lives of eunuchs in the Qing Dynasty, for example, generalize the birth, development and decline of the feudal eunuch system and expose its cruelty and savagery.

  Li Lianying was born in Hebei Province. When he was young, he was a peddler. Later he was put into prison. After he was released, he changed job, and became a shoe-repairer. When Emperor Xianfeng was in power (1851-1861), he castrated himself and worked in the Qing Court. Li Lianying made himself a pet of Empress Dowager Cixi because he was good at inventing distinctive hairstyles for the Empress. From a eunuch working in Combing Room, he was promoted to the superintendent of all eunuchs in the Forbidden City. In 1886, dispatched by Empress Dowager Cixi, he went to Tianjin together with a prince of the Qing Court to inspect the Navy. Working in the Court for more than 50 years, he meddled in political affairs and accumulated a large sum of money. After Empress Dowager Cixi died, he left the Forbidden City and passed away soon afterwards.

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