Prince Gong's Mansion, located in the northwest corner of Shichahai, is perhaps the most spectacular non-imperial mansion built in China's 5,000 years of history. Occupying an area of over 5.7 hectares, the mansion was originally constructed at the end of the eighteenth century by the corrupt Grand Secretary Heshen during the reign of Emperor Qianlong, who was later had all of his assets seized by Emperor Qianlong's successor, Emperor Jiaqing, and the mansion given to Prince Gong.
The largest quadrangle in the world, Prince Gong's Mansion is divided into three parts by the East Road, the Middle Road, and the West Road. The three main buildings of the mansion are located in the center. The three buildings are Dadian, Houdian, and Yanlou. Yanlou is 160 meters long and has approximately forty rooms. Beyond the three main buildings is the Cui Jin Yuan garden.
When the quadrangle was bestowed to Prince Gong, he assembled a crew of over one hundred skilled craftsmen to decorate the 30,000 square meter garden. The garden was created in the style of a southern Chinese landscape garden with northern styled architecture. They added many trees and rockeries and a man-made hill to the garden. The garden is exquisite and one of the finest examples of a private Chinese garden ever created. Visitors to the garden are met by two crouching stone lions guarding the gate to the garden. The meandering paths of the garden and perfectly placed trees and stones mean that visitors can only see a small part of the garden at any one time and as they stroll through the garden new scenes appear before them.
The main building on East Road is the opera stage. It is a large building which covers an area of over 6895 square meters. It is where the owner of the mansion and his selected guests would watch Peking Opera during festivals and weddings.
The main building on the West Road is the Mid-Lake Pavilion. It is located on a lake surrounded by rockeries, pavilions, pools with flowers, and trees.
Prince Gong's Mansion is a masterpiece of traditional Chinese architecture. It was built by the richest man in the empire and no expense was spared. It is said that the original owner was richer than the emperor himself. It is an ideal place to visit on your Beijing tours for China's top-notch traditional gardening art.
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