Begun in 1626, the Imperial Palace (沈阳故宫, shěnyáng gùgōng) is a vastly scaled-down replica of Beijing’s Forbidden City. Located in what was the centre of the old city but is now largely shopping malls (bus #237 comes here from the South station), the complex divides into three main sections. The first, the Cong Zhen Dian, is a low, wooden-fronted hall where the Qing dynasty was proclaimed and which was used by ministers to discuss state affairs. Beyond here, in the second courtyard, stands the Phoenix Tower, most formal of the ceremonial halls, and the Qing Ning Lou, which housed bedrooms for the emperor and his concubines. In the eastern section of the complex, the Da Zheng Dian is a squat, octagonal, wooden structure in vivid red and lacquered gold, with two pillars cut with writhing golden dragons in high relief. Here, the emperor Shunzhi was crowned before seizing Beijing – and the empire – in 1644. Just in front stand ten square pavilions, the Shi Wang, once used as offices by the chieftains of the Eight Banners (districts) of the Empire, and now housing a collection of bizarrely shaped swords and pikes. Take time to wander away from the groups amid the side palaces, and note the Manchu dragons in bas-relief, unique to this palace.
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