I took these photos in Prince Kung’s (1833-1898) palace and garden (once called Gongwangfu). This palace is in Beijing’s Beihai district. Prince Kung was Emperor Hsein Feng’s (1831-1861) younger brother.
As Inspector General for the Emperor of China, Robert Hart, known as the Godfather of China’s modernism, lived in the same hutong that Prince Kung lived in. Robert Hart, the main character in My Splendid Concubine, often met Prince Kung in this garden.
After 1950, for several decades, the palace and garden became a communal home for many Chinese. In recent years, the garden, considered one of the best in China, was renovated and is now a tourist attraction, which attracts thousands of visitors daily. Tiananmen Square, Mao’s Mausoleum, and the Forbidden City are all within walking distance.
To design a proper Chinese garden one must build a big place in a small space. Prince Kung’s garden and estate is surrounded by a high wall and outside is Beijing.
Once inside, it is easy to forget that outside the walls is a crowded city. It was also easy for the Qing (Manchu) royals to forget about what was happening throughout China.
Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.
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Lloyd, Just so happens I know this area pretty well. I had my first visit to Prince Gong’s palace in 1994. They were already accepting tourists as part of a hutong tour, which culminated in a short Peking Opera performance in the gorgeous little opera theater in one of the palace’s buildings. The palace now sits at the northwest corner of the little West Lake, which is the westernmost of the 6 interconnected lakes that wind all the way down to Zhongnanhai where the country’s leaders live. The palace is just around the corner of the Jishuitan subway stop. The former Jishui Lake (now the West Lake) was once huge during the Imperial Days, as it supplied a large port for goods transported to the Forbidden City via a system of moats. I discuss these moats and canals in my blog post “The poverty of the institutional imagination: The case of Beijing’s moats and canals” (http://ishamcook.com/2012/07/25/the-poverty-of-the-institutional-imagination-the-case-of-beijings-moats-and-canals/).
Thanks for sharing. I knew the Forbidden City was connected to the lake next to the Summer Palace, but I didn’t know how extensive the canal system was in Beijing until now.
Spectacular! The posts are interesting. They appear to be constructed of bamboo interlaced together. That looks pretty innovative to me.