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The Historical Information of the Decorative Polychrome Painting in the Hall of
Mental Cultivation Complex, Forbidden City

Hong Yang a*, Jiawei Xie b and Lifang Ji a

a Department of Ancient Chinese Architecture, the Palace Museum, Beijing, China
b Beijing University of Civil Engineering and Architecture, Beijing, China
* Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT  This paper analyses the decorative polychrome painting of architectural members (caihua) that has survived in the Hall of Mental Cultivation (Yangxindian) in the Forbidden City, Beijing. Beginning with the Yongzheng emperor, the Hall of Mental Cultivation was the residence and centre of daily governance for Chinese emperors. Combining information gained through on-site surveys and scaled drawings executed during a recent conservation project with evidence from historical records and other sources, this study finds that the remaining decorative polychrome painting can be dated to four different historical phases: the reign of the Jiajing emperor; the late Ming and early Qing dynasties; the reign of the Qianlong emperor; and the late Qing Dynasty and beginning of the Republic of China. It reveals that the designs of decorative polychrome painting on architectural members are closely related to changes in the functions of the buildings and imperial use. As part of an investigative conservation project, the study aims to provide a reliable basis for the conservation and repair work in the next step.

KEYWORDS  historical information, decorative polychrome painting of architectural members (caihua); Hall of Mental Cultivation (Yangxindian); Forbidden City; caihua under the Ming, caihua under the Qing

Received December 22, 2017; accepted Feburuary 27, 2018.

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