Prince Gong Mansion, Gong Wang Fu
the largest and best princely mansion of the Qing Dynasty; one of the most ornate and extravagant royal residences in Beijing
Brief Introduction to Prince Gong’s Mansion
As one of the best-preserved courtyard houses in Beijing, Prince Gong’s Mansion (Palace of Prince Gong, Gong Wang Fu) is Beijing’s largest and the best preserved Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) princely mansion 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. Believed to be the setting of Cao Xueqin’s Chinese Classic A Dream of Red Mansions, the mansion has one of the city’s most spectacular gardens, a combination of pavilions, pools of water, corridors and rockeries perfectly arranged to make it all seem larger than it really is.
Interesting history of Prince Gong’s Mansion
The mansion was constructed around the year 1777 and was originally the private residence of Heshen, a member of the imperial guard.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.
How big is Prince Gong’s 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.
Highlights in Prince Gong’s Mansion
The living quarters stand within three sets of courtyards occupying a central, eastern and western situation. The main, central section comprises the major hall, a rear hall and an extended pavilion that has some 40 rooms. The construction and materials used are similar to those of the Ningshougong (Palace of Tranquil Longevity) in the Forbidden City. Each of the western and eastern sections contains three smaller courtyards. These grand and exquisite buildings are a poignant reminder of the pageantry and splendor that was so much part of China’s imperial past.
The garden, surrounded by artificial mountains, is known as Jincui Yuan, and 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. The entrance via a cavern brings you into a spacious yard. A high but graceful rockery at the center point greets you. There are mountain peaks, ponds, caves, studies and pavilions distributed throughout the garden. The ‘Western-Style Gate,’ the ‘Grand Theater House’ and the ‘fu’ Stele to be found in the garden are referred to as the ‘Three Uniqueness in the Prince Gong’s Mansion’.
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.
The Western-Style Gate is a perfect harmonization of the western style with ancient Chinese carvings. The timber built Grand Theater House is to be found in the eastern part of the garden with a collection of old-time pavilions standing beside it. It has withstood more than 100 years of northern China’s changeable weather and still stands firmly. The Beijing Opera, Kunqu Opera and selections of royal music are performed on the spacious and traditionally decorated stage each day.
The Grand Theater House is the main building of the eastern part, and can hold 200 people at a time. It is not only used to listen to Beijing Opera, but also to have the ceremonies of weddings and funerals. It is said that the whole theater did not use a nail in spite of its half-timbered architecture. Owing to its fine acoustics, it is possible to hear the opera very clearly in every corner of the hall. The decoration of the Grand Theater House is fresh and pretty, with the painting of purple flowers of wisteria vine on the columns and beams.
Huxin Pavilion in the middle of a lake is situated in the western part. Three spacious pavilions stands in the vast expanse of misty, flowing waters and it is a wonderful place to fish and admire the view. In the Qing Dynasty, drawing running water to the residence in Beijing must be approved by the emperor, and it is one of a few princely mansions which have the privilege.
Liubei Kiosk is a historic kiosk in memory of liubei, a Chinese emperor in history.
Opening hours: 8:30am to 4:30pm
Location: 14A Liuyin Jie, xicheng District, Beijing
How to get there?
It is located at 14A Liuyin Jie, xicheng District, you can take a taxi or buses.
You can take bus No.13, 107, 111 or 118 and get off at Beihai North Gate Station and hire a rickshaw to Prince Gong’s Mansion.
Best travel time /weather
The autumn months between September and November have the best weather and fewer tourists. Summer (June to August) is considered peak season, when hotels typically raise their rates and the Great Wall nearly collapses under the weight of marching tourists. Spring is less pleasant not many tourists but lots of wind and dust. In winter, you’ll have Beijing to yourself and many hotels offer substantial discounts, just remember it’s an ice box outside. Everything is chock block during the Chinese New Year (usually in January or February).
- Prince Gong’s Mansion is not far from Shichahai. It is best to arrange the two places in a day.
- 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.
- Smoking is forbidden in the scenic area.
Recommended Beijing tours including Prince Gong’s Mansion
- 6 Days In-Depth Beijing Tour with Great Wall from US$270