Located near Shichahai Lake, to the northwest of the Forbidden City in Beijing, Prince Gong’s Garden and mansion originally was the private residence of He Shen, a favorite minister of Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). It was built in the year 1777. In 1851, the mansion was bestowed upon Prince Gong by Emperor Xianfeng (1851-1862), hence the present name.
As the most intact mansion preserved in Beijing, it consists of a mansion and a garden. It occupies 46.5 mu (15 mu = 1 hectare). Since the residence was extremely luxurious when it was firstly built by He Shen, the halls in it followed the style of Palace of Tranquil Longevity in the Forbidden City. The Mansion is composed of three complexes of buildings-central, eastern and western-the first of these conforming to the standard mansion of a prince. In this mansion, however, the Central Spirit Hall was destroyed. The rear hall is a two-storey structure more than 180 meters wide. An unusual wooden artificial hill forms the flight of stairs which gives access to the building. The buildings to the east are constructed in typical Ming style. A Chinese wisteria plant with a history of more than 200 years is still growing in front of it. The main courtyard of the western complex includes the Xijin Studio as its main hall and is entered via a gate with the name of "Courtyard of Heavenly Fragrance" carved above it. Surrounding the courtyard is a series of elegant rooms separated by "nanmu" (a kind of cedar tree) partitions. In the centre of the courtyard are two rare midget crabapple trees nearly 300 years old.
The garden in Prince Gong's Mansion is named Cuijin, meaning concentrated cream of the most beautiful flowers, and to this day it lives up to its name. The garden covers 28,000 square meters, and is surrounded by man-made hills on four sides. The main peak, constructed from Taihu rocks, is in the north. The garden has an arched stone gate in typical Western architectural style, and upon entering the garden, one can see the five-meter high Dule Peak, which is a rock procured from Lake Tai in southern China. Behind it is the Bat Pond (Bat is a homonym of happiness in Chinese). Beyond the pond stands the Anshan Hall and opposite, at the center of the garden, is a hill bearing a stone tablet inscribed with the Chinese character "fu" (happiness) in the calligraphy of Emperor Kangxi (1662-1723). Behind the hill are masterpieces of garden architecture, with more than 20 scenic spots. In addition to its artificial hill, trees, flowers, pavilions and terraces, the garden also contains the unique feature of its own theater.
This theater is lofty and spacious, with subtle lighting, and on its walls Chinese wisteria and green leaves are painted, giving the audience the feeling they are sitting beneath trellises. The floor is paved in pseudo-gold brick, and the seats consist of old-fashioned wooden armchairs furnished with square tables. The performers and the audience are in close proximity, so there is no need for audio amplifying equipment. Here, people can enjoy kunqu, Peking Opera and imperial music, a unique experience full of Qing historical significance.
By visiting the Prince Gong’s Garden and Mansion, you will enjoy a leisure tour.