china edition


Forbidden City - Nine Dragon Screen

Facing the Gate of Imperial Supremacy in the Hall of Jewellery is the famous Nine Dragon Screen, the best of its kind and the biggest in China. Originally, there were altogether 3 Nine Dragon Screens in China, the oldest one is located in Datong city, Shanxi Province. It was built during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Another was built in Beihai Park which is within walking distance from the Forbidden City, during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). The one you see here was built in 1771 during the reign of Emperor Qianlong, it is 6 m high and 31 m long. The most recent additon to the Nine Dragon Screen family was the one built inside the Xijiao (West Suburb) Park in Wuxi City, Jiangsu Province in 1985.

Nine Dragon Screen

Looking carefully at every individual dragon and you will find something unusual about the screen. Yes, The third dragon from the left is a different colour on its bottom.

Legend has it that this Nine Dragon Screen was made up of 270 glazed tiles. The day before Emperor Qianlong's inspection, one tile (the bottom of the third dragon) suddenly fell down. Since there was very little time left, and everyone would be beheaded if one part was left broken, as a last resort, a carpenter made a wooden one to look exactly like the original. Fortunately, the emperor did not discover the discrepancy and the lives of all the craftsmen were saved. That is why the bottom of the third dragon from the left is a different color.