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Prince Gong Mansion

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Introduction
Prince Gong's Mansion is located near Shichahai Lake, to the northwest of the Forbidden City in Beijing. The private residence of He Shen, a favorite minister of Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), it was built in 1777. In 1851, the mansion was bestowed upon Prince Gong by Emperor Xianfeng (1851-1862), hence the name. Sole prince's mansion open to the public, it is the most well preserved mansion in Beijing.

History & Background
The Prince Gong Mansion was constructed in 1777 during the Qing dynasty for Heshen, a prominent court official in the reign of the Qianlong Emperor. From a young age, Heshen earned the favour of the Qianlong Emperor and rose swiftly through the ranks in the imperial administration to become one of the top and wealthiest officials in the imperial court. In 1799, the Jiaqing Emperor, successor to the Qianlong Emperor, accused Heshen of corruption and had him executed and his property confiscated. The mansion was given to Prince Qing, the 17th and youngest son of the Qianlong Emperor.

In 1851, the Xianfeng Emperor gave the mansion to his sixth brother, Prince Gong, whom the mansion is named after.

In 1921, after the collapse of the Qing dynasty, Prince Gong's grandson, Puwei, offered the property as a mortgage to the Order of Saint Benedict of the Catholic Church. The Benedictines invested significant resources into restoring the dilapidated mansion for use as a university. It was then known as Furen Catholic University until the priests were evicted from China in 1951.

During the Cultural Revolution, the mansion was used by the Beijing Air Conditioning Factory until it experienced a revival in the 1980s. In 1982, it was declared a Major Historical and Cultural Site Protected at the National Level in Beijing. Since November 1996, the buildings and the gardens have become a tourist attraction. Renovation works on the mansion were completed on 24 August 2008 during the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.

Structure & Function
Two stone lions guard the main gate, and magnificent buildings stand to the fore of the mansion, with an elegant garden at the rear. On the wall of the main hall hangs a plaque inscribed with three characters "Bao Guang Shi" in the calligraphy of Emperor Xianfeng.

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The buildings at the forefront of the mansion are on three axes, and apart from a two-story building consisting of ninety-nine and half rooms, all are in traditional style. Duofu Study is on the eastern axis, and its structure is in the Ming style. On each of the two side axes are four courtyards, the second courtyard on the western axis being strikingly spacious. In the third courtyard, called Xijin Studio, there is a seven-roomed, exquisitely furnished hall. All the beams and pillars are made of nanmu, and its sandalwood partitions are reminiscent of those found in Ningshou Palace in the Forbidden City. Between the buildings and the rear garden there stands a 165-meter-long two-story building.

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Restoration works and future
Since 2005, the mansion has undergone renovation worth 200 million yuan. In November 2006, restoration works started on the buildings. The mansion reopened as the "Prince Gong Mansion" on 24 August 2008. It showcases the lives of Manchu nobles and aspects of the Qing dynasty.

The Beijing opera house inside the mansion not only stages Beijing operas, but also other prominent forms of Chinese opera. In August 2008, the kunqu performance group from the "Jiangsu Kunqu House" performed at the Prince Gong Mansion for a week with their programme Floating Dreams.

Information
Location: A14, Liuyin Street, Xicheng District, Beijing.
How to get to visit Prince Gong Mansion
Bus: Take Trolley Bus 111, 107, or 108 and Bus 13, 701, or 823, and get off at Beihai Houmen stop.
Opening Hours: 8:30 -- 17:00
Ticket Price: CNY 20

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