The six western palaces (Xiliu Gong) and the six eastern palaces (Dongliu Gong) are located symmetrically on each side of the three main halls of the inner courtyard. These twelve palaces were the residence of the many wives of the emperor because polygamy was legitimate in the feudal times of China and therefore the emperor had to have an official wife, the empress, and concubines. Each palace consists of a separate courtyard which has an entrance hall, a back room and adjoining rooms.
The furniture that the visitor sees on the spot are largely original elements. We can see mainly furniture of the eighteenth century that have the characteristic of having a particularly busy decoration. We can make an analogy with the European baroque style.
The six western palaces, as their names suggest, are located west of the inner courtyard, also known as the six western palaces. With the pavilion of culture of the spirit at its south, this area contains six palaces:
- The Palace of eternal longevity (Yongshou Gong),
- the Palace of earthly honor (Yikun Gong),
- the Palace of accumulated purity (Chuxiu Gong),
- the Hall of the supreme principle (Taiji Dian),
- the Palais du printemps éternel (Changchun Gong),
- the Palace of universal happiness (Xianfu Gong).
Among these palaces, the Palace of Eternal Spring is famous for its fresco entitled "A dream of red mansions". This title is that of a very well-known Chinese novel, the fresco became very popular towards the end of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). Empress Dowager Cixi loved to read it, which brought this fantastic fresco to be painted. The palace of accumulated elegance, which served as a dwelling place in Cixi, is very elegant. Wanrong, the last Empress of the Qing Dynasty, lived here too. A dressing table, an ivory boat and other rare items are on display here.