|There are three sets of stairs leading up to the veranda on which the Hall of Supreme Harmony 太和殿 (Tàihé Diàn) stands. The central stairway has a three section stone engraving of dragons playing with a pearl, the symbols of the emperor's power and care for the unity of China. The emperor's sedan chair would be carried over this stone ramp during processions and formal ceremonies. So, the only people who could use the central stairway were the emperor and the lowliest of the eunuchs serving in the palace! The emperor would ride in a sedan chair to the Gate of Supreme Harmony where he would change to a wheeled carriage pulled by six to eight men. While most emperors rode horses, at least when the were younger and fit, they did so to hunt or go to battle. It was not considered appropriate in a procession or a public appearance.
Note: This is not "the" famous stone stairway. Most of the main buildings have stone dragon carvings on the central stairway.
Last update: January 2010
© Marilyn Shea, 2009