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Forbidden City
Hall of Supreme Harmony 太和殿

The sundial 日晷 (rìguǐ) on the terrace of the Hall of Supreme Harmony 太和殿 (Tàihé Diàn) is both practical and symbolic. Coupled with the grain measure on the other side of the terrace, it means that the emperor stands for justice and fairness. The grain measure set the standard for measurement and the sundial symbolizes that the emperor is in touch with the heavens and sets the calendar. The calendar and time keeping was one of the great responsibilities of the throne. Because the Chinese used a combination of lunar and solar time, the calendar needed to be recalculated to make the complicated predictions possible about the positions of the planets, the moon, and the sun. The ability to predict solar eclipses with precision showed that the emperor truly had the Mandate of Heaven and was in touch with the gods. In Chinese timekeeping, the day was divided into twelve segments rather than twenty-four. Each of the segments had a distinct name.

China Index >> History of Beijing in Pictures >> Forbidden City >> Hall of Supreme Harmony

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Last update: January 2010
© Marilyn Shea, 2009