Introducing Prince Gong’s Mansion
Prince Gong’s Mansion, also called Prince Kung’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), was built in 1777. In 1851, the Prince Gong’s Mansion was bestowed upon Prince Gong by Emperor Xianfeng (1851-1862), hence the name. Prince Gong’s Mansion is the sole prince’s mansion open to the public, and is the most well preserved mansion in Beijing.
Prince Gong’s Mansion Fast Facts
• Chinese Name: Gongwangfu 恭王府
• Best Time to Visit: All year around
• Recommended Visiting Hours: About 1 to 2 hours
• Things to Do: Photography, Chinese Culture and History
• Opening Hours: Tuesday to Sunday, 08:30-17:00
• Entrance Fee: ¥40/person
• Address: No.17 Qianhai West Street, Shichahai, Xicheng District, Beijing
What to expect at Prince Gong’s Mansion
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. 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 the 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.
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.
The Peking opera house inside the Prince Gong’s Mansion not only stages Beijing opera performances, but also other prominent forms of Chinese opera as well. In August 2008, the Kunqu performance group from the “Jiangsu Kunqu House” performed at the Prince Gong Mansion for a week’s run with their program Floating Dreams.
How to get to Prince Gong’s Mansion
• Take bus No. 3, 13, 42, 107, 111, 118, 612, 701 or Tourist Bus Line 3, and get off at Beihai Beimen Station.
• Take Metro Line 6 to Beihaibei Station (Exit B). Walk along Sanzuoqiao Hutong for 200 meters to get the mansion.
Additional travel advice on Prince Gong’s Mansion
• The Mansion is closed on Monday expect Chinese public holidays.
• Visitors can walk around the neighbored Shichahai and Houhai Hutongs to experience the traditional local life.