The Hall of Dispelling Clouds
On the central axis of the Summer Palace lies the hall of Dispelling Clouds. It was built in 1750 and rebuilt in 1889, and the present name was also given then.
Also on the central axis to the south is the Gate of Dispelling Clouds. In its front are a pair of bronze lions and twelve strange looking rocks. The lions, as usual, are auspicious animals to ward off evil spirits. While the twelve rocks, when examined carefully, look like twelve animals, everybody in China today is believed to be born into one of the animal signs, namely, rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, pig. These twelve rocks were supposed to be treasures in another garden, but moved here under the order of the Empress Dowager.
Further south is the archway of the Summer Palace, on which many auspicious inscriptions are written to compare the Hall of Dispelling clouds to the Palace in the Heaven.
Inside the Hall of Dispelling Clouds are many gifts from the ministers and foreign envoys to Empress Dowager Ci'xi for her 70th birthday celebration. Among the exhibits, the most notewdrthy was the portrait painting of Ci'xi by a noted American painter when Ci'xi was 61 years old. there were altogether 3 of her portrait paintings, the one she was most satisfied is now exhibited in Washington Museum in the U. S.
This hall is the place where the Empress Dowager used to celebrate her birthday on the 10th day of the 10th lunar month.
Preparation of her birthday usually started about half a year in advance. Special officers were appointed to be in charge of the ceremony. Lanterns and colorful ribbons were hanged everywhere in the Palace, plays were put on for eight consecutive days in the Grand theatre of the Garden of Virtuous Harmony. Many rituals had to be rehearsed before the ceremony, even the Emperor and Empress had to participate. On her birthday, all the important civil and military officials had to stand outside the archway and kowtow to her, she would be in the hall of Dispelling Clouds to receive the greetings and congratulations.
The Empress Dowager was really a spendthrift. According to historical records, she spent about 10 million taels of silver for her both birthday celebrations, about one sixth of the annual income of the whole country at that time!