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Hall of Supreme Harmony:
Iconic building and focal point of the Forbidden City

Updated: Oct 08, 2018 Print


Façade of the Hall of Supreme Harmony [Photo/Official Weibo account of the Palace Museum]

Perched across the invisible central axis of the City and seated on a three-tiered balustraded terrace of white marble, the Hall of Supreme Harmony (Taihe dian) radiates solemnity and dignity. It is the best preserved and largest of all the vermillion-wall yellow-tile-roof pre-modern wooden-framed buildings in China. It was originally built in 1420, but the current structure dates back no farther than 1697, a replacement for the one destroyed by fire in 1679. The form of the hall, along with its lavish interior and exterior decoration, speaks of the Hall's supremacy in the architectural hierarchy. The installation inside and outside the hall demonstrates the legitimacy of the emperor’s rule. During the Ming (1368-1644) and the Qing (1644-1911) dynasties, the Hall was the venue for grand rituals and ceremonies. The name of the hall - supreme harmony - inscribed in the blue plaque hanging high on the façade, indicates the sociopolitical ideal adopted by the Qing rulers of harmonious coexistence under heaven. On 15 August 1945, the surrender ceremony of the northern China war zone by the defeated Japanese army took place in front of the Hall of Supreme Harmony.



The hall of Supreme Harmony precedes the other two major halls in the southern realm of the Forbidden City, known as the Outer Court (wai chao). They dominate an enclosed area where significant rituals were observed and grand ceremonies held. The white marble terrace supporting the three halls resembles the form of the Chinese character for "earth" (tu, 土) - one of the Five Elements occupying the central area of the universe. That the three main halls were built on a terrace of such a shape indicates that the imperial palace was deemed the center of the world.

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