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 Essential Architecture-  Peking

Prince Gong Mansion (Gong Wang Fu)




Beijing / Peking, China


c. 1750


Qing Dynasty


wood, stone


This splendid imperial residence belonged to several people, including the sixth son of the Guangxu emperor (Prince Gong) who, at the age of 27, was left to sign the Convention of Peking in 1860, after the Qing royal family took an early summer holiday when British and French forces advanced on the capital. The convention (which ratified the ill-enforced Treaty of Tianjin) is reproduced in an exhibition hall. But other than one picture, there's little information on an earlier owner, Heshen (1750-1799), the infamous Manchu official. Thought to have been the Qianlong emperor's lover, he ruled China for his own gain when Qianlong abdicated in 1796, but his demise was swift. While he was mourning Qianlong in the Forbidden City, officials were dispatched to this mansion. Though the extent of his graft was widely known, officials were shocked by the piles of gold and silver ingots they uncovered. His remaining friends at court managed to persuade the Qianlong emperor's son to spare him from "death by a thousand cuts," but he was soon hanged. His most lavish building -- constructed entirely from cedarwood -- is housed in the China Arts Research College next door. While the curators aren't game to mention it, the shop is doing brisk trade in the lurid Secrets of Heshen. The labyrinthine combination of rockeries and pavilions here offers plenty to see. Short but sweet performances of opera and acrobatics are served up to tour groups in the three-story "Grand Opera House."
Hours Daily 8:30am-4:30pm

Address Liuyin Jie 17

Location Xicheng District

Transportation Signposted in English at top of Qian Hai Xi Dajie running north off Ping'an Dadao opposite north gate of Bei Hai Park; turn left at sign and follow alley past large parking lot. Entrance marked with huge red lanterns. Metro: Jishui Tan (218, exit C)

Phone 010/6616-8149

Prices Admission 5 (60)