|The Hall of Preserving Harmony 保和殿 (Bǎo Hé Diàn) was completed in 1420 under the reign of the Ming Emperor Yongle 永乐. It was dedicated as the Hall of Scrupulous Behavior 谨身殿 (Jǐnshēn Diàn). The name was changed in the 1500s to Establishing Supremacy 建极殿 (Jiànjí Diàn). Finally, when the Qing Dynasty assumed power, they changed the name to agree with the theme of harmony between heaven and earth and it was given its present name. It was very important to the Qing administrators and regents to emphasize harmony, not only as new rulers of a still rebellious land, but also to quiet the strife and competition among the tribes of the Manchu people. Words have power, even when they are common and in the background. In Chinese, words have strong associations with particular classics and great poetry. The choice of a name is something that must be considered carefully. The first name of the hall was an obvious response to the corruption of the previous dynasty and a promise to heaven and the people to do better. The change of name to emphasize power was made by a mature country with the view of serving as the greatest power among neighbors.
The promise of the Qing to observe Confucian values, implied by the name, was both a promise and an actuality. While the new names were written in both Chinese and Manchu scripts, the names were Chinese. While the Chinese consider the Manchu to be foreigners or barbarians, the Manchu didn't feel that way. They had ruled northern China under the Jin Dynasty and when they moved north to escape the Mongols, they maintained most of the structures and traditions from that period. They did not feel that the Mandate of Heaven belonged only to the Han Chinese. They were Manchu and proud of it, but their culture was intertwined with Chinese culture, traditions, and philosophy.
Last update: January 2010
© Marilyn Shea, 2009