The Palace of Prolonging Happiness (延禧宫)
Perhaps the most curious building within the Forbidden City’s walls, the Western-style Palace of Prolonging Happiness is an architectural oddity found in possibly the last place you’d ever expect to see such a structure. It’s also had one of the most eventful histories of any building here.
Originally, way back in 1420, the palace conformed to the Forbidden City dress code, but met a fiery end in 1845. It remained in ruin until 1909, when work began on the Western structure you see today; the initial concept was to create a 'crystal palace', whose glass walls were filled with water and an assortment of aquatic life – so, essentially, a three-storey fish tank – but given budget restrictions, the project was abandoned. In 1917, the palace was also hit by a falling bomb during an air strike.
After all these twists and turns, the 'Prolonging Happiness' title doesn’t seem so fitting, but it’s certainly one of the most intriguing structures within the walls. Its surrounding galleries now host temporary exhibitions.