|On the left, you can see the raised promenade that leads from the Gate of Heavenly Purity 乾清门 (Qiánqīng Mén) to the Palace of Heavenly Purity 乾清宫 (Qiánqīng Gōng). On the far left of the terrace, you can see the grain measure, and on the right, the sundial.
The symbolism provided the proper backdrop for both formal administrative occasions and more solemn occasions. During both the Ming and Qing dynasties all emperors lay in state in the Palace of Heavenly Purity. If they died elsewhere, they returned here for an official mourning period. They were then moved to a hall on Jingshan Hill to the north of the Forbidden City and a date was arranged with the astrologers for a procession out to the tomb. Thirteen Ming emperors are buried in tombs located about 30 miles north of Beijing. Six Qing emperors are buried in the Eastern Qing Tombs about 78 miles to the northeast. Four emperors are buried 87 mile to the southwest in the Western Qing Tombs. The Qing emperors gave up the Manchu tradition of cremation when they assumed the rule of China.
The rites surrounding burial and death were an integral part of every other rite and ceremony. Filial piety includes the honor of ancestors and the duty to provide a proper burial and trip to the afterlife. The customs and beliefs are not too different from Western practices. However, the Chinese have maintained connection with their ancestors over thousands of years. Even a commoner knew his family tree.
Last update: January 2010
© Marilyn Shea, 2009