Qianlongs Private World
Aside from the Great Wall, the Forbidden City in Beijing is no doubt China’s most famous landmark. From the thousands of tourists who visit the ancient city each day, it is hard to imagine that the imperial precinct was completely off-limits to the general public until 1925, relatively recently considering the city’s 500-year history. Even after its gates were opened to the public following the reign of Pu Yi, the country’s last emperor, the Forbidden City remained largely unknown to the outside world as a result of China’s political isolation. It shouldn’t be surprising then that vast areas of the site, which covers some three-quarters of a square kilometer, remain hidden from view, with more than 1,000 buildings—many untouched since imperial times—awaitingdiscovery. Such was the case with Qianlong’s Lodge of Retirement, an eighteenth-century jewelbox tucked away in the northeast quadrant of the Forbidden City. Today, the lodge is the subject of a multimillion-dollar conservation initiative, undertaken by WMF in partnership with the Palace Museum, Beijing. Commissioned by Qianlong in 1771, the two-story lodge was built for the Qing Dynasty emperor’s anticipated retirement in 1796. Qianlong vowed that “if the Heavens blessed him to be on the throne for 60 years,” he would retire out of respect so as not to outreign his beloved grandfather Kang’xi, China’s longest-reigning emperor.