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Residence of Prince Gong-- World's Largest Courtyard House

A City of Mansions

Gong Wang Fu, or the Residence of Prince Gong covers 5.7 hectares of land in the heart of Beijing. It is the world's largest courtyard house.

Most residences of Qing nobles are distributed in the inner city, and this has to do with the court's residence restrictions for the capital's population. In layout, Beijing was like a series of overlapping squares with the Forbidden City at the center. The belt area immediately surrounding the Forbidden City was for buildings housing central government departments. The third belt area was for the residences of nobles, and that is where existing mansions are distributed. Further outside, in the fourth belt and beyond, was where ordinary people lived.

Residence of Prince Gong and Grand View Garden

The Residence of Prince Gong, located on the northern shore of Shicha Lake, consists of three lines of buildings. On the central line stand,one behind another, three structures: the Main Hall, the Rear Hall and a 160-meters-long building with more than 40 rooms. Three courtyard houses form each of the east and west lines. A garden lies at the bake of the residence. Altogether, the complex has over 20 separate areas,each different in layout and style.

The Palace cover 5.7 hectares in the heart of Beijing, making it the world's largest courthouse. The Grand view Garden is a fictional garden described in Dream of the Red Mansions, one of the best-known Chinese classic novels. Some people believe that the author's description of the fictional garden was based on the Residence of Prince Gong since the two have much in common. Others challenge this view. Whether the Grand View Garden is in fact the Prince Gong Palace is likely to remain a mystery forever.

Status Symbol

Since it was owned by Yi Yi, one of the highest-ranking nobles of the Qing Dynasty, the Residence of Prince Gong is not only big but also of high standards. This is reflected in its five-room facade and great number of rooms, including 12 halls and seven bedrooms. It was against the rules for lower ranking officials to have a residence of the same caliber. The presence of stone lions in front of the residences shows that their owners were officials above Rank Five. The number of hair knots on the stone lions further indicates their ranking in the hierarchy:the emperor was entitled to 13 lines of hair knots, princes 12 lines,and so on in descending order for officials of different ranks. House style and tile color had to follow strict rules, too. He Kun, a high-ranking official who had owned the residence before Prince Gong, was ordered by the emperor to kill himself. One of his crimes was his construction of a hall which was similar in style to the emperor's Ningshou Hall. Reflection of officials' status in the architectural styles of their residences was a striking feature of China's feudal hierarchical system. The Residence of Prince Gong is a rare example.

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