The Emperor's Private Paradise: Treasures from the Forbidden City

February 1–May 1, 2011

Cultivating Spiritual Harmony

Buddhism, which came to China from India about two thousand years ago, is based on the fundamental tenet that life is suffering. However, Buddhists believe that by practicing a variety of rituals and following a code of ethical behavior, one can reach a state of enlightened nirvana, thus escaping from the endless cycle of rebirth. The Shakyamuni Buddha, who lived in India about 500 B.C., first expounded these concepts based on Indian beliefs.

A devout Buddhist, the Qianlong Emperor performed a daily regimen of ritual practices, and at least five structures and rooms within the Qianlong Garden were specifically devoted to Buddhist worship, including the Supreme Chamber for Cultivating Harmony (Yanghe Jingshe). In a poem, the emperor noted that another such space, the Building for Enjoying Lush Scenery (Cuishanglou), was so dedicated because it was so beautifully located among rockeries.