Tourists visit Prince Gong's Mansion in Beijing yesterday. [China Daily]
The Prince Gong Mansion, the best preserved of the Qing Dynasty(1644-1911) princely mansions, opened its doors to the public yesterday.
The mansion represents half the history of the Qing Dynasty, and exemplifies the rich and splendid culture of Qing princes' mansions, a tourist guide surnamed Zhang told China Daily yesterday.
Prince Gong (1833-98), a son of Emperor Daoguang, was a key minister in the governments of three successive Qing emperors and an advocate of a modernized imperial foreign policy.
The mansion's gardens opened to visitors in 1988.
The complex comprises five rows of courtyards in three columns, and covers an area of some 60,000 sq m.
"The green glazed tiles on the roofs of houses in the middle column designate an architectural grade second only to the imperial palace," Zhang said.
"I just heard an echo of ancient Beijing, and want to share it with my 18-week-old baby," Netherlander Simone Schopman said, with left ear pressed to the large red door to the Prince Gong Mansion and hand on her expectant belly.
Schopman is in Beijing to cheer on her sister, who is competing in the Olympic hockey event.
"I notice that the mansion's red walls distinguish it from ordinary residences. They contrast beautifully with the blue sky today," Patrik Moor, Schopman's boyfriend, said.
Teresa Alvarez, 53, from Spain, took her two sons to visit the mansion.
"This is my first visit to China, but it doesn't seem at all strange" Alvarez, who teaches Spanish to Chinese students in Spain, said.
Prior to Prince Gong, the mansion was occupied by powerful Qing minister Heshen, a favorite of Emperor Qianlong and notoriously corrupt.
His amassed wealth, equivalent to 12 years' financial revenues during Emperor Qianlong's reign, the most developed country in the world then, would be equivalent to 360 billion yuan ($52.5 billion) today.
Based on that, the Wall Street Journal rated Heshen in 2001 as one of the world's 50 wealthiest people over the past millennium.
The mansion was made a State Protected Historic Site in 1982.
After the whole mansion was opened, the ticket price was also raised from 20 yuan to 30 yuan. Package tickets, which include Chinese tea service and Peking Opera performances, cost 70 yuan.