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Palace of Established Happiness (Jianfu gong)

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The Palace of Established Happiness (Jianfu gong) is located on the west side of the Six Western Palaces in the west passageway of the Inner Court. Constructed in the seventh year (1742) of the Qianlong reign (1736–1795) during the Qing dynasty (1644–1911), the palace is located on a long, narrow strip of land formerly occupied by the Heavenly Western Five Abodes (Qian xi wusuo) and Western Four Abodes (Xi sisuo). The area was repaired in the seventh year (1802) of the Jiaqing reign (1796–1820).

The Palace of Established Happiness is a narrow south-to-north oriented courtyard measuring approximately twenty-one meters from east to west and over 110 meters from south to north. From south to north, beginning with the Gate of Established Happiness (Jianfu men), the entire palace is a series of main structures, namely the Hall of Controlling Time (Fuchen dian), Palace of Established Happiness (Jianfu gong), Pavilion of Favorable Breezes (Huifeng ting), and the Bower of Tranquil Ease (Jingyi xuan), in four sub-courtyards.

The Gate of Established Happiness is the main entrance to the palace. Located at the south end of the palace at the center of the palace wall, the gate leads north into the first of the palace’s sub-courtyards with the Hall of Controlling Time, behind which is the Palace of Established Happiness. The two structures are connected with a path through the courtyard. The rear eaves of the hall and the front east and west ends of the portico of the palace are connected via a covered walkway encircling the courtyard.

The Palace of Established Happiness measures three bays (jian) wide and three deep. The curved-top hip and gable roof is covered with yellow-glazed tiles and trimmed with green-glazed tiles. Elaborate wood brackets (dougong) are found under the eaves. Under the front and rear eaves, open bays are fitted with four-leaf hexagonal latticework doors. The secondary and end bays under the front eaves have latticework windows atop low walls while brick walls are found below the rear eaves. The interior main bay and secondary bays are divided by ornate multi-leaf partitions in an interior structure known as “one bright, two dark”. The rear columns of the main bay are fitted with partitions under the eaves to form an enclosed bay with a throne, above which is found a plaque inscribed by the Qianlong Emperor that reads “Not Overstepping Principle” (Bu wei wu xian). With a core pattern known as lantern-brocade (denglong jin), each leaf of the partitions is covered with black lacquer embellished with gold outlining and fitted with silk gauze. The apron and ornamental panels are exquisitely embellished with auspicious polychrome images. The two secondary bays on the east and west, respectively, have a raised platform (kang) delineated with a decorative trim-partition (kangzhao) and an apportioned part of the bay marked off by an openwork partition with an entrance (called luodi zhao), both of which are covered in red lacquer and embellished with gold outlining. The apportioned area inside the openwork partition in the west bay is dedicated to ancestral offerings. The building has paper decorated with floral roundels on the walls and dropped ceiling. Accomplished with the most advanced craftsmanship, the interior of this palace is brilliantly diverse and represents the finest of interior design within the Forbidden City. The covered walkways on the east and west side of the courtyard north of the building lead to the third sub-courtyard, whose primary structure is the Pavilion of Favorable Breezes. The red wall north of the pavilion delineates the south side of the northernmost sub-courtyard, which contains the Bower of Tranquil Ease and the Tower of Illuminating Wisdom (Huiyao lou) and provides access on the west side to the west garden—also known as the garden of the Palace of Established Happiness.

This palace was devised originally as a place in which the Qianlong Emperor could retire from governance and monitor the country’s affairs as emperor emeritus, but the plan was not realized for various reasons. That emperor was especially fond of this palace and would often retreat to its courts for recreation. He personally wrote many poems dedicated to the palace, including Poetic Exposition on the Palace of Established Happiness (Jianfu gong fu) and Poem on the Red Pear Blossoms of the Palace of Established Happiness (Jianfu gong hong lihua shi). The Qing court stipulated for the emperor to personally write the Chinese character for fortune (fu) in this palace on the first day of the twelfth lunar month to prepare for celebrating the lunar new year. The Xianfeng Emperor (r. 1851–1861) dined with the imperial honored consort in this palace. For a time, the spirit tablets of Empress Xiaodexian and Empress Dowager Cian (i.e., Empress Xiaozhenxian) were displayed here. The palace architecture has been preserved in good condition.

Chinese entry by Su Yi
Translated and edited by Adam J. Ensign and Zhuang Ying

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