Beijing Legation Quarter

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Detailed map of the Beijing Legation Quarter in 1912
Legation Street in the first half of the 20th century

The Beijing Legation Quarter was the area in Beijing, China where a number of foreign legations were located between 1861 and 1959. In the Chinese language, the area is known as Dong Jiaomin Xiang (simplified Chinese: 东交民巷; traditional Chinese: 東交民巷; pinyin: Dōng Jiāomín Xiàng), which is the name of the hutong (lane or small street) through the area. It is located in the Dongcheng District, immediately to the east of Tiananmen Square.


During the Yuan dynasty, the street was known as the Dong Jiangmi Xiang (simplified Chinese: 东江米巷; traditional Chinese: 東江米巷; pinyin: Dōng Jiāngmĭ Xiàng), or "East River-Rice Lane". It was the location of the tax office and customs authorities, because of its proximity to the river port by which rice and grains arrived in Beijing from the south. During the Ming dynasty, a number of ministries relocated into the area, including the Ministry of Rites, which was in charge of diplomatic matters. Several hostels were built for tributary missions from Vietnam, Mongolia, Korea and Burma.

Legation Quarter[edit]

Austro-Hungarian marines at Beijing to protect the Legation Quarter, c. 1910

Soon after China's defeat in the Second Opium War of 1856-60, the Zongli Yamen was established as a foreign office of the Qing Dynasty and the area around Dong Jiangmi Xiang was opened for a number of foreign legations.

The foreign legations were originally scattered close to the Qing imperial government in the southern part of Beijing's old inner city, just east of Tian'anmen Square and north of Qianmen and Chongwenmen. In 1861, in accordance with the Treaty of Tientsin which ended the Second Opium War, the British legation moved into the residence of Prince Chun, the French legation moved into the residence of Prince An, the American legation moved into the private house of Dr S. William, a United States citizen, while the Russian legation moved into the existing Russian quarters at the Orthodox church. Other countries followed suit, and by 1900 the Japanese, German, Belgian and Dutch missions were also in this area.

During the Boxer Rebellion of 1900, the Legation Quarter was the site of an international incident as it was besieged by Boxers for several months. After the siege had been ended by the Eight-Nation Alliance at the end of the Battle of Peking, the foreign powers obtained the right to station troops to protect their legations by the terms of the Boxer Protocol. The Legation Quarter was encircled by a wall and all Chinese residents in the area were ordered to relocate away. Sealed from its immediate environment, the Legation Quarter became a city within the city exclusively for foreigners and many Chinese nationalists resented the Quarter as a symbol of foreign dominance.

Dongjiaomin Catholic Church, also known as St. Michael's Church

It was also a term of the Boxer Protocol that the street's name be changed to "Legation Street", with the Chinese name changed to Dong Jiaomin Xiang, a name which sounds similar to the original but can be interpreted as East "Diplomatic Personnel Lane". Most of the Chinese ministries relocated their offices from the street.

In 1927, the capital was moved to the southern city of Nanking by Kuomintang (KMT) forces commanded by Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, this became internationally recognized once KMT forces took Beijing in 1928. After the beginning of the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1937, most foreign legations, other than those of the Axis Powers, quit Beijing. The Legation Quarter was then officially given back to the Republic of China government.

The People's Republic[edit]

At the time of the victory of the People's Republic of China (1949), a number of foreign legations were still situated in the legation area. The missions of East Germany, Hungary, Burma and the United Kingdom were all located on the street in the 1950s, but after 1959 foreign missions were relocated to Sanlitun outside the old city walls.

However, the area suffered much vandalism during the Cultural Revolution. More damage was inflicted since the 1980s due to Beijing's redevelopment. Several buildings, such as the former HSBC building, were demolished for road expansion. Some buildings are occupied by government institutions. A number of modern high-rise buildings have also been built, dramatically changing the area's appearance. Nevertheless, as Beijing's most significant collection of Western-style buildings, the area is a tourist destination, is protected by municipal artifact preservation orders, and now features several fine dining restaurants and retail shops.

See also[edit]


  • Moser, Michael J., and Yeone Wei-chih Moser. Foreigners within the Gates: The Legations at Peking. Hong Kong, New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 39°54′11″N 116°24′06″E / 39.90306°N 116.40167°E / 39.90306; 116.40167