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Hall for Ancestral Worship:
A place lost in time with antique clocks

Updated: Oct 08, 2018 Print

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Entrance to the Gallery of Timepieces [Photo/en.dpm.org.cn]

It used to be a sacred venue where emperors communicated with their ancestors, although there is another shrine to the southeast of the Forbidden City exclusively dedicated to ancestral worship – the Ancestral Shrine (Tai miao, now the Beijing Working People’s Cultural Palace, or Laodong renming wenhua gong). Spiritual tablets and portraits of imperial ancestors were placed and hung in the Hall as objects of worship. Sacrificial ceremonies or burnings of incense were held on significant days respectively in the front and rear chambers of the Hall. Nowadays, it has been converted into the Gallery of Timepieces, where you could easily be lost in time amid more than 200 fantastic clocks and watches of various styles and exquisite workmanship. Selected from the Qing imperial collection and datable to as early as the 18th century, they consist of commissioned works by the Qing Imperial Workshop (Zaoban chu) installed inside the Forbidden City and tributes either made at local manufactories in Suzhou and Guangzhou or purchased by the custom office of the port city of Guangzhou from foreign firms with appropriate provenance in England, Switzerland, France, Japan, and the United States. The clocks were not only instruments for the imperial family to keep time, but also highly decorative furnishings and sources of entertainment. Many clocks are designed with mechanical movements playing melodic tunes, which strike synchronistically. According to the official website of the Palace Museum, a performance of a selected group of clocks is given every day at 11:00 and 14:00. The Gallery charges 10 yuan for admission.

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Nearby

The Hall for Ancestral Worship is a relatively independent if not isolated enclosure. Outside it on the west side, lavatories and a cafeteria providing coffee, snacks, and Chinese-style light-meals are within a minute's walk from the entrance of the Hall. It is on the approach from the central route to the Area of the Palace of Tranquil Longevity, where the Treasure Gallery and the Qianlong Garden reside.

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