The Forbidden City

The Forbidden City, by Geremie R. Barmé, London: Profile Books/Cambridge, Ma.: Harvard University Press, 2008.

Chapter 3: Rise and Decline

The Crystal Palace with its planned, although unrealised, subterranean aquarium. [Photo: GRB]

A plafond ceiling. [Photo: GRB]

The Hall of Supreme Harmony during reconstruction, May 2006. [Photo: GRB]

pages 48-49 Much was written about such subjects in the popular histories that proliferated following the end of the Qing dynasty. Such speculative stories trawl dynastic and popular accounts to answer such questions as whether the Shunzhi Emperor's mother married his uncle, if Shunzhi became a monk, whether Yongzheng was assassinated and how the Empress Dowager Ci'an really met her end. For a collection of these stories based on Republican-era publications, see Su Baodun, Ming Qing yi'an yu Beijing (Beijing: Beijing Yanshan Chubanshe, 2000). See also Arthur W. Hummel, ed., Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period (1644-1912) (Washington: United States Government Printing Office, 1943) for the entries on Fulin (the Shunzhi Emperor, 1638-61), pp.255-59; his concubine Dong E (Donggo, Empress Xiaoxian, 1639-60), pp.301-302; his mother the Xiaozhuang Empress (Borjit Bumbutai, Hsiao-chuang Wen Huang Hou, 1613-88), pp.300-301; and, his uncle Dorgon (1612-50), pp.215-219. For a detailed account of the early years of Qing rule, see Qingshi biannian (Beijing: Zhongguo Renmin Daxue Chubanshe 1988), vol.1.

pages 49-50 Jonathan D. Spence, Emperor of China: Self-portrait of K'ang-hsi (New York, 1974), p.98.

pages 50-53 These details come from Qingchao yeshi daguan, digested in Taisuke Mitamura, Chinese Eunuchs: The Structure of Intimate Politics, mentioned in the notes for the previous chapter, pp.112-113.

pages 55-56 In 1909, the Lingzhao Xuan, known variously as the Crystal Palace (Shuijing Gong) and the Western-style Building of the Water Palace (Shui Dian Xiyang Lou) was erected on the site of the Palace of Prolonged Happiness (Yanxi Gong). It remained unfinished at the time of the fall of the Qing dynasty. In June 1931, two-storey cement and steel vaults were built around the forlorn Crystal Palace for the safekeeping of museum treasures. These were opened to the public in 2005. In recent times the eastern wing of the buildings has featured the work of the remarkable artist Gong Xian (1619-89) and his disciples, as well as other exhibits of Ming and Qing painting.

page 57 For some details and insightful discussion of the Kangxi Emperor's working relationship with these scientifically competent missionaries, see Catherine Jami, 'Imperial Control and Western Learning: The Kangxi Emperor's Performance', in Late Imperial China, vol.23, no.1 (June 2002), pp.28-49.

pages 60, 65-66 For details regarding the imperial garden palaces to the northwest of the walled city of Beijing, and their fate, see the 'Garden of Perfect Brightness' edition of China Heritage Quarterly, Issue 8 (December 2006) at

page 63 Heated chambers or partitioned rooms (nuange'r) are mentioned in The Story of the Stone (or The Dream of the Red Chamber). See Zhou Ruchang, et al, eds, Hongloumeng cidian (A Dictionary of The Dream of the Red Chamber) (Guangzhou: Guangdong Renmin Chubanshe, 1987), p.427. They also feature in the Imperial Mountain Lodge. My thanks to John Minford for bringing the Manchu obsession with nuange'r to my attention.

pages 69-70 Regarding Heshen and his acts of architectural lese-majesté involving the Forbidden City, see my essay 'Prince Gong's Folly', reprinted with modification in the 'Princely Mansions' edition of China Heritage Quarterly, Issue 12 (December 2007) at under Features.