Baohedian of Forbidden City
Architecturally, this hall has no supporting pillars in its front part, something typical of Ming architecture.
Announcing the function of the Hall of Preserving Harmony
In the Qing Dynasty, banquets were given on New Year's Eve in honour of Mongolian princes and high-ranking officials. The Hall Preserving Harmony was used as a banquet hall to entertain the princes and envoys of the Mongolian and other nationalities on Lunar New Year's Even. During the Qing Dynasty, it was the place for the imperial examinations held once every three years. Three hundreds scholars from all over the country came to this hall and took the exams that lasted three days and three nights.
Details of the imperial examination
The civil service exams in china started in the Han Dynasty (206BC-220AD), and served the purpose of recruiting Confucian scholars to be ministers and high officials, but later it was suspended. The system resumed in the Tang Dynasty and lasted until 1905.
In the Ming and Qing dynasties, there were three levels of exams: the county and prefectural level, the provincial level and the national level. The national level exam was presided over by the emperor himself. The three scholars who passed the exam with the best score would get honorable titles. They would have the honor to ride on horses through the streets and go through the central gate of the palace. This was deemed the greatest honor for scholars in the past.
This was the biggest stone carving in the palace in the Ming Dynasty, and it was recarved during the reign of Qing emperor Qianlong. The stone slab is 16.75 meters long, 3.07 meters wide, 1.7 meters thick and weighs about 250 tons. It was quarried from Fangshan District, 70 kilometers southwest of Beijing, and the transportation required twenty thousand people. Can you imagine how they managed to carry such a guge stone all the way to the palace without modern means of transport? In winter they sank wells along the way, and poured water on the ground to make a road of ice. And in summer, they used rolling logs instead. The work at that time brought tremendous hardship to the laboring people.
The magnificent stone dragon carving in Forbidden City, Beijing
Behind the Hall of Preserved Harmony, in the centre of the stairway, is a huge marble relief of nine dragons playing with pearls. It is the largest stone sculpture in the Forbidden City. Sculpted originally in the Ming dynasty, it was re-sculpted in the Qing dynasty. During these dynasties, anyone who was caught touching this holy stone would receive the death penalty! The huge stone was hauled into the palace all the way from Fangshan, a distance of some 70 kilometers from Beijing. This difficult task took about a month employing twenty thousand men and thousands of mules and horses. Weighing about 250 tons, the marble slab is 16.57 meters long, 3.07 meters wide and 1.7 meters thick. It had to be dragged along the ground and it is said that a well was dug every 500 meters so that water could be pumped onto the road to facilitate transportation! Can you imagine that?
Ready to go into Gate of Celestial Purity (Qianqingmen) the gate of the Inner Court? Go north!