Attend The Grand Wedding of the Guangxu Emperor

Follow the wedding ceremony through the Outer Court and discover the unique traditions of an Imperial wedding

By The Palace Museum

Album Leaf from The Grand Wedding of the Guangxu Emperor (Guangxu dahun tu) (Qing dynasty) by Qingkuan (surname Zhao, 1848–1927) and other paintersThe Palace Museum

The year of the wedding
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The grand wedding of the Guangxu Emperor (r. 1875–1908) was held near the end of the Qing dynasty (1644–1911).

The wedding ceremonies
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Due to the artistic efforts of the Imperial Household Department’s vice-director Qingkuan (surname Zhao, 1848–1927) and other painters, the opulence of the wedding ceremonies was realistically depicted in the album The Grand Wedding of the Guangxu Emperor (Guangxu dahun tu), in which the nuptials held in the outer court are shown with brilliant colors in vivid detail.

The album leaf of the grand imperial wedding
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This album comprises a wealth of resources for research into the imperial wedding ceremonies of the Qing dynasty. The paintings afford an unrivaled view of the Forbidden City’s primary architecture as decorated with lanterns and other ornamentation for the Guangxu Emperor’s wedding.

Album Leaf from The Grand Wedding of the Guangxu Emperor (Guangxu dahun tu) (Qing dynasty) by Qingkuan (surname Zhao, 1848–1927) and other paintersThe Palace Museum

As part of the ceremonial proceedings known as "bestowing the title of Empress on the bride" (ce li), on the twenty-sixth day of the first lunar month of the fifteenth year (1889) of the Guangxu reign, the very day of the wedding ceremony, after greeting to the empress dowager, the emperor ascended to the Hall of Supreme Harmony (Taihe dian) ,

where he personally conducted a formal inspection of the gold album (jince) and gold seal (jinbao) for use in the official appointment and dispatched the selected envoy (shijie) to carry the gold banner (jinjie) used to lead the bridal entourage.

The Hall of Supreme Harmony
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Take a look around at the Hall of Supreme Harmony today

Album Leaf from The Grand Wedding of the Guangxu Emperor (Guangxu dahun tu) (Qing dynasty) by Qingkuan (surname Zhao, 1848–1927) and other paintersThe Palace Museum

The envoys left the Gate of Supreme Harmony
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The principal and assistant envoys then led the entourage bearing the imperial insignia out the Gate of Supreme Harmony (Taihe men) followed immediately by the Dragon Pavilion (Long ting) containing the gold album and gold seal.

The Phoenix Palanquin
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The Phoenix Palanquin (Feng yu) of the empress was carried by sixteen men.

The Gate of Supreme Harmony
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Wander around the Gate of Supreme Harmony

The Inner Golden Water Bridges
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and cross the Inner Golden Water Bridges with the Phoenix Palanquin (Feng yu) of the empress

Album Leaf from The Grand Wedding of the Guangxu Emperor (Guangxu dahun tu) (Qing dynasty) by Qingkuan (surname Zhao, 1848–1927) and other paintersThe Palace Museum

The entourage exited through the Meridian Gate
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The entourage exited through the Meridian Gate (Wu men) and Gate of the Great Qing (Daqing men) towards the residence of the bride's family.

Album Leaf from The Grand Wedding of the Guangxu Emperor (Guangxu dahun tu) (Qing dynasty) by Qingkuan (surname Zhao, 1848–1927) and other paintersThe Palace Museum

The entourage began its course to the Forbidden City
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After the official appointment ceremony was held at the empress’ residence, the entourage would began its course to the imperial palace.

The empress’ route towards the Forbidden City through the front gate—the Meridian Gate (Wu men).

Album Leaf from The Grand Wedding of the Guangxu Emperor (Guangxu dahun tu) (Qing dynasty) by Qingkuan (surname Zhao, 1848–1927) and other paintersThe Palace Museum

The empress passed through the Meridian Gate
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The empress and her host then passed through the central portal of the Meridian Gate (Wu men) with the sounding of bells and drums.

The central portal of the Meridian Gate
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The central portal of the Meridian Gate was reserved exclusively for the emperor, and the empress was permitted to pass through that distinctive gate in the Phoenix Palanquin only during the grand wedding ceremony.

The Meridian Gate: the southern entrance to the Forbidden City
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The Meridian Gate, more commonly known as Five-phoenix Tower (Wufeng lou) because of the five pavilions on top, is the southern entrance to the imperial palace.

The centre passage-way was reserved solely for the emperor
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The centre passage-way was reserved solely for the emperor. Officials went in and out through the east gate, and members of the royal family used the west gate.

Panorama of the Meridian GateThe Palace Museum

Grand ceremonies
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When the emperor held grand ceremonies, drums and bells in the main gate's tower were struck, to maintain imperial dignity. Every year the official lunar calendar was issued from here in a special ceremony.

Album Leaf from The Grand Wedding of the Guangxu Emperor (Guangxu dahun tu) (Qing dynasty) by Qingkuan (surname Zhao, 1848–1927) and other paintersThe Palace Museum

The empress passed through the Gate of Supreme Harmony
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After entering the central portal of the Gate of Supreme Harmony (Taihe men)

The palanquin was led towards the Middle Left Gate
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the palanquin was led towards the Middle Left Gate (Zhongzuo men) at the Square of the Hall of Supreme Harmony (Taihe dian).

The Square of the Hall of Supreme Harmony
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Stand in the Square of the Hall of Supreme Harmony

The Middle Left Gate
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Follow the empress towards the Middle Left Gate (Zhongzuo men)

Album Leaf from The Grand Wedding of the Guangxu Emperor (Guangxu dahun tu) (Qing dynasty) by Qingkuan (surname Zhao, 1848–1927) and other paintersThe Palace Museum

The three great ceremonial halls
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The entourage entered the area of the three great ceremonial halls, passing by the Hall of Central Harmony (Zhonghe dian) and the Hall of Preserving Harmony (Baohe dian).

The colossal geometrical terrace
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Stop here and have a look at the colossal geometrical terrace below the Three Great Halls

Album Leaf from The Grand Wedding of the Guangxu Emperor (Guangxu dahun tu) (Qing dynasty) by Qingkuan (surname Zhao, 1848–1927) and other paintersThe Palace Museum

The Gate of Heavenly Purity
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The Phoenix Palanquin arrived at the Gate of Heavenly Purity (Qianqing men).

The envoys withdrew from the ceremony
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The principal and assistant envoys had completed their mission and, along with the grand minister of the Imperial Household Department and the Imperial Guardsmen, withdrew from the ceremony.

The empress was then taken to the residential inner court
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The empress was then taken to the residential inner court. The Guangxu Emperor in his dragon robe had already been waiting for her in the west warming chamber of the Palace of Heavenly Purity (Qianqing gong).

Wedding Chamber at the Palace of Earthly Tranquility (Kunning gong) (2016) by The Palace MuseumThe Palace Museum

The emperor then proceeded to the nuptial chamber
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The emperor then proceeded to the nuptial chamber in the Palace of Earthly Tranquility (Kunning gong).

The Gate of Heavenly Purity
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The Gate of Heavenly Purity (Qianqing men) is the principal entrance to the Inner Court (nei ting) of the Forbidden City.

Gate of Heavenly Purity by Yu NingchuanThe Palace Museum

Flanking the south face of the Gate of Heavenly Purity are glazed tile screens.

Credits: Story

Yuan Hongqi, “Riding the Dragon to Wed the Phoenix with the Goodness of Two Families: The Great Wedding Ceremonies of the Qing Emperors” (Chenglong peifeng erxing zhi hao—Qingdai huangdi de dahun liyi) Forbidden City no. 4 (2019): 27–47.

“Auspicious Presentation of the Dragon and Phoenix: Weddings of the Qing Emperors” (Longfeng chengxiang: Qingdai huangdi de hunyin), online exhibition directed by Ren Wanping, The Palace Museum, https://www.dpm.org.cn/topic/wedding_index.html.

Translated and edited by Adam J. Ensign

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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