During a 1773 renovation of a northeastern section of the Forbidden City, a Nine Dragon Screen was added to provide privacy for Emperor Qianlong’s retirement villa. Such screens can be found throughout China in palaces and gardens, each depicting nine different Chinese dragons in their carved reliefs. It is thought that evil sprits must travel in straight lines, so the Nine Dragon Screen is believed to serve the additional purpose of denying entry to evil spirits.
Each of the nine dragons on the wall are depicted playing with a pearl in the ocean. If you look carefully at the white dragons, one of them has a piece of wood on its stomach. According to local legend, the artisan responsible for the wall added the wood to replace a piece of broken glazed tile to meet his deadline. The gold dragon in the center of the screen is meant to represent the emperor.