|The Hall of Supreme Harmony 太和殿 (Tàihé Diàn) and the two halls north of it, stand on a bar-bell shaped three-tier dais. The Hall of Supreme Harmony is 88.32 feet high, 114.93 with the dais, and is the tallest building in the Forbidden City. Until modern times, it was the tallest building in Beijing.
At the top of the building, at each end of the roof ridge, are two dragons facing one another. They are 11.15 feet long and weigh 4.74 tons.
The Hall of Supreme Harmony was built in 1420 under the reign of Yongle. About three months after it was finished, Beijing was hit by enormous tunderstorms. Lightning struck the new hall and burnt it to the ground. Many of the ministers who had objected to the move to Beijing from Nanjing saw this as a sign that they should return to Nanjing. They made the mistake of arguing with Yongle and pointing out the great drain the new city was on the treasury. Many were imprisoned and the Hall of Supreme Harmony was immediately rebuilt.
When first built it was known as the Hall of Golden Chimes 金銮宝殿 (Jīnluán Bǎodiàn). The Jiajing Emperor (r. 1522-1566) renamed it the Hall of Imperial Supremacy 皇极殿 (Huángjí Diàn). When the Qing Dynasty assumed control in 1644, they chose to emphasize "harmony" rather than power, and thus changed the names of many of the buildings. They also added Manchu characters to the plaques on the buildings. When Yuan Shikai 袁世凯 was contemplating establishing his own dynasty after the revolution of 1911, he had the plaque on the Hall of Supreme Harmony and other Outer Court buildings repainted to remove the Manchu characters.
At that time Puyi 溥仪 (Pǔyí, 1906–1967) was still living in the Inner Court of th palace. He was the last emperor to be elevated to the throne in the Hall of Supreme Harmony in 1908. It is said that he cried and asked to go home during the ceremony. He abdicated at the age of six in 1912. He left the Forbidden City in 1924.
Last update: January 2010
© Marilyn Shea, 2009