An introduction to the Forbidden City's Jianfu Palace Garden

Updated 2017-11-08 16:33:58 Global Times

Located in the northwest corner of the Forbidden City, the Jianfu Palace Garden is some 4,074 square meters in size. It was first built during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) in 1740, during the reign of the Qianlong Emperor. Due to its location, it was also called the West Garden.

Consisting of various structures which include a palace, hall and storied building, the Jianfu Palace Garden was one of the Qianlong Emperor's favorite places. A prolific poet and art collector, he wrote many poems about it and stored a number of treasures from his collection there. Later emperors used the garden to hold ceremonies on the first day of the twelfth month of the Chinese calendar, during which time they would write calligraphy works to greet the coming new year.

In 1923, the garden was destroyed in a fire, the cause of which remains unknown. Reconstruction started in 2000 with the help of the China Heritage Fund in Hong Kong. It took five years to finish the project. Since then, the Jianfu Palace Garden has served as the meeting venue for honored guests from abroad and academic research activities.

Over the years, it has received former U.S. president George H. W. Bush and his wife, as well as curators from the Louvre Museum, the British Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Room of three treasures

The Sanxi Tang, or Hall of Three Wishes, was the personal study of the Qianlong Emperor. It is located in the western part of the Hall of Mental Cultivation, which served as the living quarters for Ming (1368-1644) and Qing dynasty emperors.

Today, a calligraphy work featuring the three characters that make up the room's name written by the Qianlong Emperor himself still hangs on one of the walls.

Literally translated, sanxi means "three hopes" - a literati hopes to become a virtuous man, a virtuous man hopes to become a sage, and a sage hopes to someday come to understand the workings of Heaven. The basic message of sanxi served as a form of encouragement for the emperor to continue to improve himself.

In ancient China, the character for "hope" also represented the word for "rarity" or "valuable." Hence, sanxi can also mean three treasures - in this case it refers to the three treasured works by the famous ancient calligraphers Wang Xizhi, Wang Xianzhi and Wang Xun that Qianlong once stored in this room.

After the collapse of the Qing in 1911, two of these calligraphy works were taken from the room. The third was eventually removed in the 1930s when the Palace Museum collection was removed from the Forbidden City to keep it from falling into the hands of invading Japanese forces. This work is currently stored at the National Palace Museum in Taipei.

The other two works were recovered in 1951, when they were purchased from a collector in Hong Kong by the Chinese government and returned to the Palace Museum.

About the Forbidden City

Located in central Beijing, the Forbidden City served as the royal palace throughout the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties, and is currently the location of the Palace Museum, which was first established in 1925.

Enlisted as one of the first batch of China's national-level key cultural heritage sites in 1961 and by UNESCO on its World Heritage Site list in 1987, the Forbidden City is viewed as a major historical and cultural symbol of China.

The palace is one of the most often visited sites by Chinese travelers and foreigners visitors to Beijing. In 2016, it had received as many as 16 million visitors.

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