Spot The Sacred Animals In The Imperial Palace

Ever wondered why they are there?

By The Palace Museum

The bronze lion on the east side of the Gate of Supreme HarmonyThe Palace Museum

Lions

Lion symbolizes the majesty of the emperor, and also has sacred and auspicious meanings. There are 7 pair of lions in the Forbidden City.

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

Guardian lions at the Gate of Supreme Harmony

The Gate of Supreme Harmony is one of the most important place for holding political events in the Forbidden City, and is guarded by a pair of bronze lions, one female and one male.

The male guardian lion

The male lion puts his right pawn upon an embroidered ball, representing supremacy. 

The female guardian lion

The female has a cub under her left pawn which stands for prosperity.

Ten figurines on the roof corners of the Hall of Supreme Harmony - 2The Palace Museum

Dragons

The dragon is a divine beast that is respected by Chinese people, and is also a symbol of the spirit of the Chinese nation. For thousands of years, emperors have regarded the dragon as a symbol of power and dignity. 

The Hall of Supreme Harmony and the terrace below the three Great Halls feature over 10,000 dragons.

Dragon spouts (chishou, lit. “chi-dragon head”)The Palace Museum

Dragon spouts

The dragon spouts (chishou, lit. “chi-dragon head”) installed around the three-tiered sumeru-terrace of the Hall of Supreme Harmony (Taihe dian) are used as drainage spouts to prevent water accumulation around the hall. 

During torrential rains, water cascades from the mouths of the over 1,000 dragon spouts in an impressive display.

A pair of bronze crane and tortoiseThe Palace Museum

Cranes

On the terrace of the Hall of Supreme Harmony, which was luxuriously balustraded, you will see a pair of bronze cranes

Tortoises

and a pair of bronze tortoises.

They were put there to expect everlasting rule and longevity.

The endpiece on the uppermost roof ridge on the Hall of Supreme HarmonyThe Palace Museum

Ridge beast

The endpiece, known as a ridge beast (dawen, lit. “great osculation”), on either side of the uppermost roof ridge on the Hall of Supreme Harmony (Taihe dian) is the largest found on extant ancient architecture. 

Ten figurines on the roof corners of the Hall of Supreme Harmony - 2The Palace Museum

Towering 3.4 meters high and weighing 4.3 metric tons, the endpiece consists of thirteen individual glazed-tile components.

Ten figurines on the roof corners of the Hall of Supreme Harmony - 1The Palace Museum

Ten figurines

The 10 figurines at each of the roof corners of the Hall of Supreme Harmony distinguish it as superior to other ancient buildings.

There are nails under the figurines that fix the glazed tiles on the eaves ridge.

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