Here we shortly present monuments from the Xicheng region of Beijing, China.
The White Cloud Temple, also known as Baiyun Temple or the Abbey or Monastery of the White Clouds, is a Taoist temple and monastery located in Beijing, China. It is one of “The Three Great Ancestral Courts” of the Quanzhen School of Taoism and is titled “The First Temple under Heaven”.
The White Cloud Temple was first founded in the mid-8th century during the Tang dynasty and was initially called the Temple of Heavenly Perpetuity (Tianchang Guan). During this period, the abbey was state-sponsored and staffed by an elite clergy. From 1125 to 1215 when what is now Beijing was controlled by the Jin dynasty, the abbey served as the Taoist administrative headquarters and played an important role in state ceremonies. After Beijing was taken by the Mongols in 1215, the abbey was taken over by the Quanzhen patriarch Qiu Chuji and became the headquarters of the Quanzhen movement until the establishment of the Ming dynasty. Qiu—who himself was known by the name Master of Eternal Spring—renamed the abbey the Palace of Eternal Spring (Changchun Gong). Upon being summoned by Genghis Khan, Qiu undertook a three-year trek from Shandong to give the great khan an exposition on Taoism, which he completed in October 1222. Qiu’s successor, Yin Zhiping (1169-1251) built a memorial shrine over Qiu’s grave. This shrine became a temple in its own right and became known as the White Cloud Temple.
The abbey was damaged when the Mongols took over in the late 13th century and, during the Ming dynasty, the Palace of Eternal Spring was destroyed. However, the White Cloud Temple survived and took over the functions of its former parent. Under the Ming, monks from the Zhengyi school took over operations of the abbey but continued Quanzhen traditions and ordination ceremonies. Zhengyi control over the temple continued until the 17th century, when their monopoly ended and the Quanzhen master Wang Changyue (d. 1680) took over. To this day, the White Cloud Temple remains controlled by the Quanzhen school. The abbey was without an abbot for the 1940s and was closed when the Communists came to power in 1949. Unlike many other historical sites which were damaged during the Cultural Revolution, the White Cloud Temple was well-protected and remained safe. Today, it is again a fully functioning temple and is the seat of the Chinese Taoist Association.
Beihai Park (Chinese: Beihai Gongyuan) is a public park and former imperial garden located in the northwestern part of the Imperial City, Beijing. First built in the 11th century, it is among the largest of all Chinese gardens and contains numerous historically important structures, palaces, and temples. Since 1925, the place has been open to the public as a park. It is also connected at its northern end to the Shichahai.
The park has an area of more than 69 hectares (171 acres), with a lake that covers more than half of the entire park. At the center of the park is an island called Jade Flower Island (Qiónghuádǎo), whose highest point is 32 meters (105 ft).
Beihai literally means “Northern Sea”. There are also corresponding Central (Zhonghai) and Southern (Nanhai) “Seas”. These latter two are joined inside a complex of buildings known after them as Zhongnanhai; it is the home of China’s paramount leaders.
The Beihai Park, as with many of Chinese imperial gardens, was built to imitate renowned scenic spots and architecture from various regions of China; the Taihu lake, the elaborate pavilions and canals in Hangzhou and Yangzhou, the delicate garden structures in Suzhou and others all served as inspirations for the design of the numerous sites in this imperial garden. The structures and scenes in the Beihai Park are described as masterpieces of gardening technique that reflects the style and the superb architectural skill and richness of traditional Chinese garden art.
In 1179, Emperor Zhangzong of the Jin dynasty had a country resort built northeast of Zhongdu, the Jin capital, located in the southwestern part of modern Beijing. Taiye Lake was excavated along the Jinshui River and Daning Palace was erected on Qionghua Island in the lake.
During the reign of Kublai Khan in the Yuan dynasty, the Qionghua island was redesigned by various architects and officials such as Liu Bingzhong, Guo Shoujing and Amir al-Din. Taiye Lake was enclosed in the Imperial City of Yuan’s new capital Dadu
After the Ming dynasty moved its capital to Beijing, construction on the existing Imperial City began in 1406. At this time, the Taiye Lake were divided into three lakes by bridges, Northern Sea (Beihai), Central Sea (Zhonghai) and Southern Sea (Nanhai). The lakes were part of an extensive royal park called Xiyuan (Western Park) in the west part of the Imperial City, Beijing.
Hutong (hútòng) are a type of narrow street or alley commonly associated with northern Chinese cities, especially Beijing.
In Beijing, hutongs are alleys formed by lines of siheyuan, traditional courtyard residences. Many neighbourhoods were formed by joining one siheyuan to another to form a hutong, and then joining one hutong to another. The word hutong is also used to refer to such neighbourhoods.
Since the mid-20th century, a large number of Beijing hutongs were demolished to make way for new roads and buildings. More recently, however, many hutongs have been designated as protected, in an attempt to preserve this aspect of Chinese cultural history. Hutongs were first established in the Yuan dynasty (1206–1341) and then expanded in the Ming (1368–1628) and Qing (1644–1908) dynasties.
During China’s dynastic period, emperors planned the city of Beijing and arranged the residential areas according to the social classes of the Zhou Dynasty (1027–256 BC). The term “hutong” appeared first during the Yuan Dynasty, and is a term of Mongolian origin, meaning “water well”.
Jingshan Park is an imperial park covering 23 hectares (57 acres) immediately north of the Forbidden City in the Imperial City area of Beijing, China. The focal point is the artificial hill Jingshan, literally “Prospect Hill”. Formerly a private imperial garden attached to the grounds of the Forbidden City, the grounds were opened to the public in 1928. The park was formally established in 1949. It is listed as a Key State Park and is administratively part of both Xicheng and Dongcheng districts in downtown Beijing.
Jingshan’s history dates to the Liao and Jin dynasties, almost a thousand years ago. The 45.7-meter (150 ft) high artificial hill was constructed in the Yongle era of the Ming dynasty entirely from the soil excavated in forming the moats of the Imperial Palace and nearby canals. It is especially impressive when one considers that all of this material was moved only by manual labor and animal power. Jingshan consists of five individual peaks, and on the top of each peak there lies an elaborate pavilion. These pavilions were used by officials for gathering and leisure purposes. These five peaks also draw the approximate historical axis of central Beijing.
The dictates of feng shui long praised tombs and residences sited south of a nearby hill, serving to channel both harmful yin and cold northern winds. With Jingshan serving that purpose, it gained the name Feng Shui Hill. It is also well known to locals as Coal Hill, from an old rumor that the emperors kept a hidden stash in the park.
The Chongzhen Emperor, the last ruler of the Ming dynasty, committed suicide by hanging himself from a tree in Jingshan in 1644 after Beijing fell to Li Zicheng’s rebel forces.
Prince Gong’s mansion
Prince Gong’s Mansion, also known as the Prince Kung Mansion, is a museum and tourist attraction located in Xicheng District, Beijing, just north of the Shichahai Lake. It consists of large siheyuan-style mansions and gardens. Originally constructed for Heshen, an official highly favoured by the Qianlong Emperor, it was later renamed after Prince Gong, a Manchu prince and influential statesman of the late Qing dynasty, who inhabited the mansion in the late 19th century.
Prince Gong’s 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 rose swiftly through the ranks in the imperial administration to become one of the top and wealthiest officials in the imperial court.
In 1799, the Jiaqing Emperor, successor to the Qianlong Emperor, accused Heshen of corruption and had him executed and his property confiscated. The mansion was given to Prince Qing, the 17th and youngest son of the Qianlong Emperor.
In 1851, the Xianfeng Emperor gave the mansion to his sixth brother, Prince Gong, whom the mansion is named after.
(Important Note: ALL photographs of this article added to the sourced texts by NovoScriptorium after kind courtesy of our friend Ben Lee – ALL photographs originally taken by Ben Lee)