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Shenyang Imperial Palace

The Shenyang Imperial Palace, one of the two most intact imperial group-buildings ever existing in China, is located at Shenyang City, Liaoning Province. It enjoys equal popularity as the Forbidden City. The Shenyang Imperial Palace was built in 1625 by Nurhachi when the Manchus declared Shenyang to be their capital. When Shenyang was in the control of the Japanese aggressors in the 1930s, the name of the palace was changed into Fengtian Palace Museum. On August 5, 1986, it was finally settled down as the Shenyang Palace Museum.

The Shenyang Imperial Palace has a history of 400 years and a cluster of palaces surrounded from east, middle and west sides, the layout of which appears to be natural, sublime and imposing. It is very similar in design to the Forbidden City in Beijing but slightly smaller and has more than 300 buildings covering an area of 60,000 sq meters.

Upon defeating the Ming (1368-1644), the Manchus moved their court to Beijing and Shenyang became the accompanying capital mainly for emergency uses. The palace was enlarged and improved over the years; and while its layout has the traditional Han style, it also blends Manchu (Man nationality), Mongolian and Han style art.

The main structures were started in 1625 by Nurhachi and completed in 1636 by his son, Huang Taiji. Straight through the main gate at the far end of the courtyard is the main architecture on the east axis, the octagonal Dazhengdian (Hall of Great Affairs) with its coffered ceiling and an elaborate throne, built during the reign period of Nurharchi. It was here that Emperor Shunzhi was crowned before setting off to cross the Great Wall in 1644.

On the central axis is the Chongzheng Hall, where Abahai attended to his political affairs; behind is the three towers Fenghuanglou (Phoenix Tower), and Qingninggong (Palace of Celestial Peace) in which Abahai and his concubines lived -- construction of these structures were completed during the reign period of Huangtaiji (the 8th son of Nurharchi).

In the courtyard in front of the hall are the Banner Pavilions, formerly administrative offices used by tribal chieftains. They now house displays of 17th and 18th-century military equipments, swords, and bows. The central courtyard west of Dazheng Hall contains a conference hall, some living quarters, and some shamanist structures. The courtyard to the western fringe is a residential area added on by Emperor Qianlong in the 18th century, and the Wenshu Gallery to the rear housed a copy of the Qianlong anthology.

The front part of the Imperial Palace was built on the ground, while the rear part was on a 4-meter-tall support; showing a link to the customs of the Manchus who lived on mountain slopes.

Differing from the Palace Museum in Beijing, the Shenyang palace widely uses the five-color glazed tiles and its gables are made of bricks. Meanwhile it boasts of a double-heating system by using "kang (heatable brick beds)" and heatable floors. For example, there are "Wan Zi Kangs" in the west four rooms of the Qingninggong. The kangs are connected to each other in the south, west and north sides. This reflects the old living customs of the Manchus.

Famous for its strong characteristics of the Man nationality and its abundant cultural relics, the Shenyang Palace Museum now functions as a museum and exhibits a huge collection of ivory and jade art crafts, musical instruments, furniture, and Ming and Qing paintings. For instance, "The Tiger-veined Double-Edged Sword" is the most famous among all artifacts used by Nurhachu, the first emperor of the Qing Dynasty. "The Nurhachu's imperial jade seal" is square in shape with a dragon-buttoned ribbon on it. The seal face is carved with Man and Han languages, which are intricately laid out with power and grandeur. There are also such valuable cultural relics as waist sword, bow and arrow, "imperial jade seal, "jade belt" and the chimes, bells, etc.  

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