Black and white photograph showing a view across the moat surrounding the Forbidden City with the wall of the Palace in the foreground. On the far side of the moat there are two pavillions surrounded by a wall. Two buildings sit atop Coal Hill in the distance to the right of the image.
Coal Hill (Mei shan) also known as Prospect Hill (Jing shan), was located immediately north of the Forbidden City. The hill is artificial, formed from the earth removed when constructing the moat around the Forbidden City during the reign of the Ming Emperor Yongle. It is said that during the Liao dynasty a large amount of coal and charcoal was stored here to be used in case of emergency; coal, therefore, forms the foundation of the hill and gave rise to its name. The hill has a geomatic function to guard the imperial palaces against evil influences coming from the north. In the Ming dynasty it was known as Hill of Ten Thousand Years ('Wansui shan'). In the Qing dynasty it was popularly called Coal Hill ('Mei shan') or Prospect Hill ('Jing shan'). The hill has five pavillions, one on top of the summit and two on each of the western and eastern shoulders that were built in 1758, the 16th year of the reign of the Manchu-Qing Emperor Qianlong. The park was used by ladies and officials of the court. (Arlington and Lewisohn, 'A guide to Old Peking', pp. 123-125.)
This is one of a large number of photographs that were taken by Hedda Morrison (1908-1991) during her years of residence in Peking (Beijing), China 1933-1946.
Exhibited in 'Peking: 1933-1946 - A photographic impression', Menzies Library, Australian National University, 17-30 June 1967.
Gift of Mr Alastair Morrison, 1992