|The Hall of Supreme Harmony 太和殿 (Tàihé Diàn) is the most important building in the Forbidden City. It actually was used rarely, being reserved for the most important occasions. The business of government was conducted in offices and small halls and gates, most commonly in the Inner Court. The three palaces of the Outer Court were dedicated to ceremony.
The celebration and observances required by the Longevity Festival, the New Year, and the Winter Solstice were held, in part, in this hall. The enthronement of the emperor, as well as his wedding, were conducted in the Hall of Supreme Harmony. On such an occasion the square in front of the hall, which is about 30,000 square meters, was filled with officials and contingents from the military in ornate silken robes. Each group would carry large banners to proclaim their presence. Musicians would play bells, chimes, drums, and other instruments with the music that accompanied the particular rite.
Until the late 1700s the Imperial Examinations were held here. The candidates were assigned numbers. Depending on whether they had an odd or even number they would file into the Forbidden City by the far western or far eastern doors of the Meridian Gate. They would be seated at small desks surrounded by drapery to prevent copying. Examiners would present the questions and they would write until exhausted. At the end of the exams they would exit the palace to await the news of the results. Successful candidates would be invited to return to the palace and the Hall of Supreme Harmony where they would be presented with their papers. The three top scholars would be announced at that time and they would be received by the emperor. These three would exit the Forbidden City using the center doors and bridges.
Last update: January 2010
© Marilyn Shea, 2009