|The Gate of Tranquil Longevity 宁寿门 (Níngshòu Mén) and the Palace of Tranquil Longevity have so many translations that it is a wonder that you can find them. Among others you will find it called: "Peace and Longevity", "Peaceful Old Age", and "Aging Peacefully". To make life even more interesting the Hall of Imperial Supremacy 皇极殿 (Huángjí Diàn) was once called the Palace of Peace and Longevity, Ningshou Gong, but was renamed in 1776 and the name transferred to another hall chosen by Qianlong for his retirement.
The Gate of Tranquil Longevity faces the Nine Dragon Screen and the entire complex was renovated to serve as a retirement palace for Qianlong. The dragon screen was built to deflect evil spirits from the door of the gate. Inside the gate there are gardens and palaces to support his retinue independently.
Within his new home, Qianlong had a small stream constructed in the shape of a serpent. Cups of wine were floated on the stream during a drinking game. If you got the wine you either had to compose a poem or down the wine. Drinking games are many and varied in China. Some are based on reciting the classics, some are based on answering quotes, and some are strategy games. One strategy game which is familiar to many people is "paper, scissors, stone". Paper, scissors, stone is still played as a drinking game today. Whoever loses tosses back a shot. The drinking games played by Qianlong’s retinue were much more literary. Qianlong was a scholar and poet in his own right and loved to challenge his prowess (and show off a bit) with poetry, literary games, and competitions.
The square in front of the Gate of Tranquil Longevity was used as a formal reception area after the time of Qianlong. Foreign dignitaries would gather here before being ushered in for an audience. Empress Cixi received foreign representatives on the occasion of her 70th birthday in the Hall of Imperial Supremacy. The guests would have gathered here to be formed into a formal line of precedence.
Last update: January 2010
© Marilyn Shea, 2009