Beijing has been the capital of China for millennia, and Prince Gong’s Mansion (sometimes called Prince Kung’s Mansion) benefits from the riches and culture that Beijing has gathered. Emperor Qianlong built it in 1777 in the middle of the Qing Dynasty on a large tract of land, especially considering the number of people (22+ million) living in Beijing. While it is not one of Beijing’s 7 UNESCO World Heritage sites, it definitely has a lot of culture to offer.
The History of Prince Gong’s Mansion
The mansion was built for an imperial guard He Kun, originally as a private residence. He was a trusted advisor of the most well-known Qian Emperor, Qianlong (1736-1769) and constantly promoted. Because of his professional position and his kinship with Emperor Qianlong, he had enough power to attract many, many bribes. He used these riches to build his mansion.
When Qinglong was replaced by Emperor Jiaqing (1796-1820), he executed Heshen as an example in an anti-corruption campaign and passed to Prince Qing in 1799. Eventually, Emperor Xianfeng (1851-1862) passed the mansion to Prince Gong, from whom the name of the mansion is taken.
Because it’s so vast, you can easily spend half a day here, or combine it with nearby attractions (Beihai park, Houhai, etc.) and call it a day.
Prince Gong’s mansion is open year-round. The best season to visit is the spring, when the half of the mansion that is the garden is lush. If you’re there in the winter, seeing the mansion snow-covered is also a pretty sight – just make sure you are warm!
Opening hours, like most places in Beijing, vary depending on the time of year. From April to October, it is open 8-5. From November to March, it’s open 9-4. Note that you are usually able to stay in the mansion after closing time, about a maximum of 30 minutes to 1 hour later.
Tickets cost 40RMB for just the entrance, or 70RMB for the through ticket, which includes the entrance, a short cultural performance, and a snack during the performance.
(This information is subject to change.)
Many tour groups will come in and out of the mansion, particularly the garden area, and you are free to tag along and listen to their explanations. However, note that the majority of tours are Chinese people from other cities. Once in a while, you can find an English-speaking tour. You may also find French tours, though those are much rarer.
Take bus 13, 3, 612, 701, 118, 42, 107, 111 and get off at the Beihai Bei Men (Beihai North Gate) stop. [See below]
Take Subway Line 6 to Beihai Bei (Beihai North) and exit either at A or B. Exit B provides a straighter path to the mansion. [See below]
For Both the Bus and Subway:
Once you get outside the exit, you can see signs that lead you directly towards the entrance of the mansion. You will have to walk through a couple smaller streets with lots of small shops. You can also hire a rickshaw driver to take you to the entrance, but be prepared to pay quite a bit for these rides. The maximum number of people that can fit in each rickshaw is two.
[Recommended Read: A Complete Guide to Beijing’s UNESCO Temple of Heaven in Pictures]
The Living Space
After buying tickets, you can directly enter the mansion. You will walk through the living quarters portion of the mansion, which is about half the total area. It has over 100 rooms in total.
The living space is large but you likely cannot visit it, but you can only walk through the courtyards and see the architecture of the buildings. Luckily, the buildings are intricate and have many different designs on them. Some of them have glass windows, which means you can see through them!
This section is split into three sections, and you can walk through them. You can take your time through these beautiful and much less-crowded areas. You should easily be able to find an empty courtyard to take pictures or just take a breather from the Beijing crowds.
The extensive living quarters actually contain many different ancient Chinese designs. All of the courtyards are a little different, so you can visit each of them if you have the time!
At the wall between the residential and garden portions of the mansion is the Western-Style Gate. This is one of the only entrances that connects the two parts of the mansion, and you will see large groups of people walking through it – including tours.
[Recommended Read: A Complete Guide to Beijing’s UNESCO Summer Palace in Pictures]
Chinese Culture in Prince Gong’s Mansion
One of the best things about seeing these ancient imperial spaces is seeing the culture of ancient China! Many of the sculptures, colors, and plants in the area all represent some part of the Qing Dynasty.
You can look up, but don’t forget to look down! The designs on the ground are just as intricate.
Red is the color of good fortune, so almost every building and doorframe will have red. Some of them will have special altars that are meant to attract more of it.
Right next to the Western-Style Gate is this, which is a board that people can attach their wishes to! You can find small altars like this in almost all ancient Chinese attractions.
You can also find places where you can worship if you are Buddhist.
I definitely recommend that you stop by the opera house of Prince Gong’s Mansion as well. Even if you don’t buy a ticket that includes opera admission, it’s a gorgeous room. If you do, you will probably see a short performance by children demonstrating Chinese acrobatics. These children performed various acts for about 10 minutes, and there are multiple shows every hour.
The performance gives the feeling of a culture that is alive, which is unique in Prince Gong’s Mansion. Other places in Beijing – including the Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, and Summer Palace – don’t have this.
The Garden of Prince Gong’s Mansion
If you go to Prince Gong’s Mansion, you have to spend most of your time there at the garden. It’s known as Jincui Yuan and is absolutely gorgeous! What makes it so stunning is that there are so many different spots to see, and each of them are distinct.
As you walk in through the Western-Style gate, you will see this large stone.
The rock is Dule Peak, and stands 5m high. The original emperors transported it from Lake Tai in southern China, and it now greets all visitors to the garden.
The whole garden rests on a hill, and you might have to do some climbing to get around. Rest assured, if you don’t want to walk too much, you can see everything without climbing and can pick many different spots to sit down to rest.
These spots include the pavilion at the center of Bat Pond – a play on words relating to happiness.
The Fu Stele
Next to Bat Pond is a small, well-lit, and short cavern. You may see lines of people outside it because it holds the most famous view in Prince Gong’s Mansion – the Golden “Fu” stele. Emperor Kangxi’s (1662-1723) handwriting served at the template for the word, which means luck.
Legend says that touching the Fu and making a wish will guarantee that the wish comes true. My aunt told me about a story of a young couple she knew that was having trouble getting pregnant. Shortly after they visited the stele and touched it, they got pregnant! Of course, it could just coincidence.
Recent renovations covered the original stele, but touching the glass cover is said to have the same effect.
Who knows, maybe you’ll get lucky!
You can also walk through the Bamboo Courtyard, which is reminiscent of the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove in Japan. If you go in spring, you will see the Peony Garden on your way – these flowers are simply gorgeous!
Before you leave, be sure to check out the pavilion at the exit! You can read the shape on the floor in Chinese from various angles, each holding a different meaning.
Prince Gong’s Mansion is certainly a place to spend your time! It’s less crowded than the most well-known places in Beijing and large enough that you can explore it for hours!
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Have you been to Prince Gong’s Mansion? How would you compare it to other Beijing attractions? If not, do you want to?