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Changyin Pavilion

Located in the Ningshou Palace (the Palace of Tranquility and Longevity) in the Forbidden City, to the east side of Yangxing Study (Study of the Cultivation of Nature), Changyin Pavilion is best known for its Grand Theater Building. First built in 1771 in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), the grand theater building is 20.71 meters in height, and 685.94 square meters in total area. It features three tiers of tilted eaves and stages, namely, Fu Stage (Happiness), Lu Stage (Fortune) and Shou Stage (Longevity), from top to the bottom.

Resembling that of Dehe Garden in the Summer Palace, the Grand Theater Building in Changyin Pavilion has trapdoors in the ceiling for fairies to descend, as well as on the floor for demons to surface. Wells and ponds were sunk under the ground stage, with machinery drawing water up to the stages when needed.

The Shou Stage is the main performing stage, with the Fu Stage and the Lu Stage seldom used except when performing dramas of gods and spirits. Opposite the stage is a two-storey building called Yueshi Building, where the emperors, empresses and imperial concubines watched the play. The Yueshi Building is surrounded by two-storey buildings respectively in the east, west and north. Female court attendants and ministers could watch the play in corridors along the side buildings. Behind the Yueshi Building is the Hall for Birthday Celebrations.

The Grand Theater Building in Changyin Pavilion is the largest in the Qing palace. In ancient China, enjoying the theater was the major entertainment in the imperial palace. Plays were put on stage during festivals like the New Year, the Beginning of Spring, the Lantern Festival, the Dragon Boat Festival, the Seventh Evening of the Seventh Moon, the Mid-autumn Festival, the Double Ninth Festival, the Winter Solstice, the New Year's Eve, as well as important celebrations like the enthronement of the emperor and the birthday party of the emperor or the empress.

According to historical data, Empress Dowager Cixi went to see a play in the Changyin Pavilion during every festival, accompanied by the emperor, the empress, the emperor's concubines, princes, dukes and ministers. In the tenth year (1884) of Emperor Guangxu's reign, Empress Dowager Cixi celebrated her fiftieth birthday. To please her, the emperor spent 110,000 liang of silver to purchase costume and stage properties for plays held in the Changyin Pavilion. 

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