The Hall of Benevolence and Longevity, first built in 1750, was the main hall of Summer Palace. It was originally call “Qinzheng Hall” and then changed to “Renshou Hall”(Hall of Benevolence and Longevity) during the reign of empror Guangxu.The words “仁寿”, which translate as ‘Benevolence and Longevity’, were taken from the Analects of Confucius, to imply that the emperor who applied a policy of benevolence would live a long life.
Like the Hall of Supreme Harmony in the Forbidden City, this hall houses a red sandalwood throne carved with nine dragon design-the symbol of supreme power. Behind the throne is a red sandalwood screen, on the mirror 226 characters of the word “Longevity” were written, with 100 bats in the background to symbolize happiness and longevity, because the word “bat” is homonyms with the word happiness in the Chinese language, very often bat designs were used to indicate happiness. The big character “Longevity” was believed to be written by Empress Dowager Ci’xi.
In front of the hall, there are bronze phoenixes and dragons, with hollow abdomens. When incense was burnt inside, they would smoke, adding aroma to the atmosphere during the ongoing court in the hall. In the courtyard, four unusual stones, dark in color and with holes, represent the four seasons of the year. To the north of the hall, visitors may observe a well, Yannianjing (Well of Prolonging Life). Empress Dowager Cixi is said to have recovered from sunstroke after drinking the water from the well and bestowed on it the name.