Chinese garden has played a very important role throughout the development of Chinese society ever since the earliest dynasty.

Prince Gong Garden & Mansion

prince gong garden mansionPrince Gong's Garden & Mansion is located at Qianhai Xijie on the east bank of Shicha Lake. The mansion is the best preserved and most opulent of the imperial residences still existing in Beijing. Besides the residence there is also a large garden.

Prince Gong (1835-1898), or Yixin, was the most prominent figure in Empress Dowager Cixi's(1835-1908) times.  As an educated man, Prince Gong shared this view, but he also was an important official In 1861, when Emperor Xianfeng  (1851-1861) fell seriously ill, Cixi's 6-year-old son Zaichun was the only eligible successor. But Xianfeng sensed her ambition and named eight ministers to aid the new Emperor Tongzhi (1862-1874). That winter, Cixi sought Prince Gong's help and captured the eight ministers, three of whom she promptly ordered suffocated. From then on, Cixi attended to the state affairs, with a veil to separate her and the obedient court. Prince Gong's crucial role in building Cixi's power nevertheless did not endear him to her ad as such never ceased suspecting him of plotting against her. In the ensuing 40 years, she dismissed him twice and kept a firm grip on power. 

prince gong garden mansionHis palace is among the best-preserved examples of Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) architecture in Beijing. A large garden covers the north half of the 5.7 square kilometers of grounds, and the front gate combines Chinese and Western designs. The gate tells the story of how different civilizations can co-exist in harmony, despite the ultra-conservative outlook of the Qing court. Inside the gate stands a 5-metre-high stone named “Peak of Self-Enjoyment”. The stone typifies ancient Chinese scholars' pride in keeping apart from worldly ways.

prince gong garden mansionA few step north of the peak is Flowing Cup Pavilion. A tiny tunnel linked with the garden stream snakes through the stone floor. Merry-makers would play a drinking game by floating wine cups through the tunnel. When a cup became lodged in it, the person closest to the cup would have to drink from it. The water on which the wine cups floated came from the Jade Spring Hill on the western outskirts of Beijing. Prince Gong's Mansion was the only place outside the Forbidden City that could use the sacred water. Beijing hotel