Office of the Privy Council used to be the Office of the Privy Council, set up during the reign of Yongzheng (1723-35), the third Qing emperor. The Office of the Privy Council assisted the emperor in dealing with routine military and political afairs. Although this place does not attract much attention now, it played a very important role in the history of the Qing Dynasty.
The six courtyards to the west, formally inhabited by imperial concubines, now hold an exhibition presenting a picture or of the Qing Dynasty palace life. The Hall of Manifest Origin and the Palace of Eternal Spring, where the Dowager Empress Cixi once lived as a concubine, have been left in their original condition. To the south and southeast of the two are the Hall of the Supreme Pole and the palace of Eternal Longevity, also inhabited by imperial concubines. To the north are four more apartments for imperial concubines, the Palace of Universal Happiness, the Palace of the Queen Consort, the Hall of Manifest Harmony and the Palace for Gathering Elegance, where the last emperor’s wife (puyi’s wife) lived. At present these are exhibition halls for Qing arts and handicrafts. The Western six palaces refer to the Palace of Everlasting Life, the Palace of Queen Consort, the Palace of Gathering Elegance (Concentrated Beauty) the Palace for Eternal Spring, the Palace of Universal Happiness, and the Palace of Eternal Longevity.
Beyond the “Western Road” of the Forbidden City lies the “Outer Western Road” consisted a group of large-scale Buddhist temples. These buildings include the Rain Flower Pavilion (family hall for worshipping Buddha), the Hall of Flowers and the Palace of Benevolent Peace, the Palace of Longevity and Health, and the garden of Benevolent Peace where the dowager empresses retired to be cared for in their old age. During the Ming and Qing dynasties, the Palace of Benevolent Peace served as the living quarters of the emperor’s mother. Princesses would also hold their marriage ceremonies here.