Prince Gong Mansion
The Prince Gong Mansion (Chinese: 恭王府; pinyin: Gōng Wáng Fǔ) is located in the western part of central Beijing, China, north of the Shichahai Lake. Consisting of large mansions in the typical siheyuan layout and gardens, the Prince Gong Mansion is known as one of the most ornate and extravagant residence compounds in all of Beijing. It is now a museum.
The Prince Gong Mansion was constructed in 1777 during the Qing dynasty for Heshen, a prominent court official in the reign of the Qianlong Emperor. From a young age, Heshen earned the favour of the Qianlong Emperor and he rose swiftly through the ranks in the imperial administration to become one of the top and wealthiest officials in Qianlong's court. In 1799, Qianlong's successor, the Jiaqing Emperor, accused Heshen of corruption and had him executed and confiscated his property. The mansion was given to Prince Qing, the 17th and youngest son of the Qianlong Emperor.
In 1921, after the collapse of the Qing dynasty, Prince Gong's grandson offered the property as a mortgage to the Benedictine Order of the Catholic Church. The Benedictines invested significant resources into restoring the badly dilapidated mansion for use as a university. It was then known as Furen Catholic University until the monks were evicted from China in 1951.
During the Cultural Revolution, the mansion was used by the Beijing Air Conditioning Factory until it experienced a revival in the 1980s. In 1982, it was declared as one of the Chinese National Cultural Heritages in Beijing. Since November 1996, the buildings and the gardens have become a tourist attraction.
Structure of the compound
The Prince Gong Mansion is one of the most exquisite and best-preserved imperial mansions in Beijing and used to house several families, and has a total area of 60,000 square metres.
Restoration works and future
Since 2005, the mansion has undergone renovation worth 200 million yuan. In November 2006, restoration works started on the buildings. The mansion reopened as the "Prince Gong Mansion" on August 24, 2008. It showcases the lives of Manchu nobles and aspects of the Qing dynasty.
The Beijing opera house inside the mansion not only stages Beijing operas, but also other prominent forms of Chinese opera. In August 2008, the Kunqu performance group from the "Jiangsu Kunqu House" performed at the Prince Gong Mansion for a week with their programme Floating Dreams. American soprano Renée Fleming was among the audience at the opening.
17 Qianhai West Street, Xicheng District, Beijing, China (中国北京西城区前海西街17号).
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