West of Longzong Gate (Gate of Great Ancestors) outside the inner court of the Forbidden City is Cining Palace (Palace of Kindness and Tranquility), which used to be where the empress dowager lived in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) and was called Renshou Palace (Palace of Benevolence and Longevity) in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). The Ming emperor Jiajing first had it built for his mother empress dowager Jiang in 1536, and the palace was renovated as the residence of the empress dowager during the reign of Qing emperors Shunzhi, Kangxi and Qianlong.
As the oldest emperor and empress dowager in Chinese history, Emperor Qianlong and his mother lived for 89 and 86 years respectively. And Emperor Qianlong was indeed a filial son. The following are some proofs.
Emperor Qianlong had Shoukang Palace (Palace of Longevity and Good Health) built for his mother Empress Dowager Chongqing in the first year of his reign, and paid visits to her every one or two days.
Emperor Qianlong had Cining Palace rebuilt, changed the one-storey single-eave main hall to a two-storey double-eave one and moved the resting hall backward to form the one we see today.
Every year Emperor Qianlong together with the courtiers and his wives would hold a grand birthday party for his mother at Cining Palace and the emperor himself even danced sometimes to entertain his mother. On the wall in an east room of Shoukang Palace hangs an important picture which Emperor Qianlong had painted on his mother’s 80th birthday.
A precious picture which Emperor Qianlong had painted on his mother’s 80th birthday is hung on the north wall of the east room in Shoukang Palace. [Photo by Wang Shuang/Qianlong]
At first the back hall of Shoukang Palace was not connected to Beiweifang and Emperor Qianlong had a corridor added to link the two places so that the empress dowager could go to Beiweifang without being exposed to the weather.
Besides, Emperor Qianlong also wrote many poems to praise his mother and you can find them in the showroom of Shoukang Palace today.
Poems written by Emperor Qianlong to show his respect for his mother. [Photo by Wang Shuang/Qianlong]
The scented rosewood cabinet in Shoukang Palace is said to be the largest one of its kind kept in Palace Museum. [Photo by Wang Shuang/Qianlong]
The tourmaline court beads in the scented rosewood cabinet in Shoukang Palace. [Photo by Wang Shuang/Qianlong]
A gold cup and saucer in Shoukang Palace. [Photo by Wang Shuang/Qianlong]
The back hall of Shoukang Palace. [Photo by Wang Shuang/Qianlong]