Beijing: A glimpse into the royal history through its prince mansions


Beijing is a treasure trove of historical narratives and imperial splendor. As you wander through its bustling streets, you'll discover hidden gems tucked away in the labyrinthine alleyways - the prince mansions. These grand residences, despite bearing the scars of time, still exude an air of nobility, standing as enduring symbols of the city's rich cultural heritage.

Prince Gong's Mansion

Beijing, with a long history, stands as a living testament to the past, each page filled with captivating stories. Among these, the prince mansions hold a special allure, having witnessed the rise and fall of many prominent figures. Prince Gong's Mansion, a true gem among these residences, is a silent witness to history.

As you step through the gates of it, you can almost hear the echoes of history whispering through the air. This grand estate, sprawling over 60,000 square meters, leaves visitors in awe of its sheer scale and magnificence. Surrounding the mansion lies the exquisite Cuijin Garden, a masterpiece of landscape design that unfolds like a vibrant painting. Imagine strolling through the garden on a balmy spring afternoon centuries ago, amidst the laughter and conversation of nobles as they admired the blooming flowers. What a life of leisure and extravagance it must have been!

While the days of royalty are long gone, Prince Gong's Mansion remains a testament to their opulent past. Every structure, with its upturned eaves and intricate details, seems to whisper tales of bygone eras. The grandeur of the Yin'an Hall and Jiale Hall, located along the central axis, evokes a sense of awe and respect.

In contrast to the regal air of the central axis, the eastern axis of the mansion, with its Duofu Study and Ledao Hall, exudes a more homely atmosphere. One can almost envision the nobles relaxing and unwinding in these spaces during their leisure time. In the front courtyard, a wisteria vine, over 200 years old, gracefully twists and turns in front of the Duofu Study, a silent witness to the rich history that has unfolded within these walls. Perhaps on a leisurely afternoon, Prince Gong himself would seek solace under this ancient vine, indulging in poetry and enjoying a moment of tranquility.

Buildings on the western axis, though smaller in size, is no less attractive with its intricate carvings and ornate decorations. The intricate craftsmanship on the beams and painted panels speaks volumes about the artistry of the past. The Xijin Study, in particular, stands out as a replica of the Ningshou Palace in the Forbidden City, reflecting the owner's deep admiration for the imperial style. And deep within the mansion lies the Treasure Tower, once brimming with the countless treasures amassed by Heshen, a high-ranking official during the Qing Dynasty. The dazzling jewels, precious paintings, and rare artifacts all showed the extravagant lifestyle of the noble class.

Pudu Temple

Among the prince mansions in Beijing, Pudu Temple is special. In the Qing Dynasty, it was the mansion of Duo Ergun, a prince regent. It was later transformed into a royal temple. Stepping through the temple's gates, one is immediately enveloped by an air of mystery and reverence. The grand Ciji Hall is breathtaking. And the temple is adorned with awe-inspiring murals and vibrant sculptures. These lifelike figures, steeped in Tibetan Buddhism tradition, transport visitors to a mysterious world.

Prince Chun's Mansion

In contrast to the grandeur of Prince Gong's Mansion, Prince Chun's Mansion exudes an understated style. Originally the residence of Prince Yinyou, the 7th son of Emperor Kangxi, this mansion later served as the British embassy for nearly a century until the 1950s when it was requisitioned by the Chinese government. It not only bears traces of the lifestyle of princes and nobles but also witnessed the transformation of diplomatic embassies.

Upon entering the mansion through its verdant arched gate, visitors are greeted by a harmonious blend of Qing and British architectural styles. The central axis, with its imposing green glazed tile roof, exudes an air of regal dignity. The buildings on the eastern and western axes, added later, showcase the influence of British design, with intricate details. The exquisite designs and the ambiance of European culture seem to take you back to the early 20th century when British envoys gathered here.

Echoes of history reverberating through Beijing's prince mansions

Beijing's prince mansions are not mere architectural marvels; they are witness of history, each narrating a unique chapter in the city's rich tapestry. From the opulent Prince Gong's Mansion to the mysterious Pudu Temple and the understated Prince Chun's Mansion, these residences captivate visitors with their timeless allure. These residences seem to convey an eternal truth: no matter how times change, the imprints of history will never disappear.

Apart from these prince residences, Beijing has many other noble relics waiting to be explored. So why not slow down and wander through the hutongs (alleys) of Beijing, seeking out those forgotten prince residences and experiencing their unique cultural charm? Perhaps at an unexpected turn, you'll encounter the imprints of history and embark on a wonderful journey through time.

Translator: LI An

Reviewer: PAN Wenrui