My Chinese class just finished reading an essay about emperor Kangxi, one of China’s greatest emperors. Somehow in our discussion, Prince Gong’s Mansion, a home turned museum in Beijing, came up. Our teacher was surprised that none of us had been there. I had a few free hours, so I decided to take my camera and check it out.
Prince Gong’s Mansion was built in 1777 for one of Emperer Qianlong’s favorite officials (since it was built during Qianlong’s reign, I don’t know why we were talking about in a class discussing his father, Kangxi). It was passed through a few officials before ending up with the name Prince Gong’s Mansion.
After the fall of the Qing dynasty, in 1921, the mansion was offered to the Benedictines, who restored it and used it was a college until 1951, when they had to leave China. Right now, there is an exhibition on religion–particularly Buddhism–in the Qing dynasty. It includes the Tibetan prayer wheels below. According to the sign, if you walk along the whole set of wheels and use your hand to gently spin them, it is the same as saying a set of prayers.
A significant part of the mansion is a private garden behind all of the living space, complete with ponds and hills. I assume that there are green plants during the summer, but early winter features mostly bare trees, which have their own kind of magic.
After I was done at the mansion, I walked through the hutongs, Beijing’s traditional alley ways. I got disoriented from the map and got a little lost, which is part of the fun of the hutongs. I walked over to Hou Hai (“Back Lake”), and enjoyed views of the lake with a thin sheet of ice. I thought I was heading to the Starbucks along the lake, but got disoriented again (!) and walked the wrong direction along the lake. Going the wrong direction was not as interesting that time, because I’m usually better with directions and I was looking forward to a hot drink after being outside for a few hours.
Prince Gong’s Mansion isn’t going to break into my favorite things to do in Beijing, and if you were only coming for a short time, there are better ways to spend your time. But it was a pleasant afternoon, and I’m glad I went.