Wed, August 06, 2008

Prince Gong's Mansion

2008-08-06 08:07:43 GMT2008-08-06 16:07:43 (Beijing Time) China Daily

Prince Gong's Mansion is Beijing's largest and the best preserved princely mansion of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) and is located at Qianhai Xijie to the north of Shichahai. This fine example of ancient Chinese architecture with its cultural connotations is important not only for its aesthetic value but as an asset to those who wish to study the lifestyle of the privileged classes in the feudal society of a bygone era; it also has an interesting history.

The mansion was constructed around the year 1777 and was originally the private residence of Heshen. A member of the imperial guard, the handsome and intelligent twenty-five year old Heshen came to the attention of the Qing Dynasty Emperor Qianlong (1736-1796). Before long Heshen was promoted to positions normally occupied by the most experienced officials, including those controlling finance and the appointment of civil servants; thus enabling him to acquire great wealth. The aging Qinglong did nothing to curb Heshen's corruption but his successor, Emperor Jiaqing (1796-1820), had Heshen executed and his property, which was assessed at over 800 million ounces of silver, was confiscated. The mansion was passed to Prince Qing in 1799. Eventually Emperor Xianfeng (1851-1862) transferred the ownership to Prince Gong and it is his name that was to become that of the mansion.

The dwelling is a traditional courtyard mansion of a style that was so popular in imperial Beijing. The complex covers a total area of 60,000 square meters (14.9 acres). Just over half of this is the residential portion, while the remainder is devoted to an ornamental garden to the rear.

These grand and exquisite buildings are a reminder of the pageantry and splendor that was so much part of China's imperial past. The garden, surrounded by artificial mountains, is of high standing on account of its layout and distinct design. It covers an area of 28,000 square meters (6.9 acres) and includes twenty scenic spots, each widely different from the others. Arriving in the center of the garden, you will be absorbed by the artificial hills. The stele was placed in a cave. The Chinese character 'fu' carved on the about 8-meter-long stele is a copy of the Emperor Kangxi's (1622-1723) handwriting.

Prince Gong’s Mansion is a place really worthy of a visit and you can be assured that every aspect puts the culture and life style of the Imperial China's elite into perspective.

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