Third day in Beijing is rather relaxing, less walking for the day because we took a hutong ride (胡同游). Places that we have visited:
- Beihai park 北海公园
- Former residence of Song Qing Ling 宋庆龄同志故居
- Nine-gate Fast Food 九门小吃
- Prince Gong’s Mansion 恭王府
The well-known Nine-Dragon Screen, which is the only screen having nine huge dragons on both sides among the most famous 3 in China (the other 2 are respectively in the Forbidden City & Datong, Shanxi Province).
It was built in 1756, stood at 27 x 6.65 x 1.42 meters. It is composed of 424 seven-color glazed tiles that embossing the screen. There are nine huge coiling dragons on each side of the screen and big or small dragons in different postures decorating the two ends, making a surprising total of 635 dragons. Even after 200 years, the Nine-Dragon Screen is still bright in color and complete in appearance, showing the high techniques of Chinese arts and crafts in ancient times.
Song Qing Ling was second wife of Sun Yat Sen, founder of the Republic of China and one of the famous “Soong sister”- her younger sister Mei Ling was married to Chiang Kai Shek and older sister Ai Ling was married to H.H. Kung, finance minister for the Kuomintang. She became an influential political figure in China after her husband’s death.
The most interesting part of the garden is a 8 meter long stele which has the character 福 (fu: good fortune), carved based on the calligraphy of Emperor Kangxi on it. It was a stolen 福… this 福 is known to be 天下第一福. Because differ from others Emperors, the calligraphy characters left by Kangxi is rare and this 福 is one of a kind. It is one of the best character written by Kangxi, it contains “多子、多才、多田、多寿、多福”. Have a look =p
The history goes back to Kangxi’s sick mother…during her 60th birthday, she felt sick and Kangxi a filial son was worried and sad. He wrote a 福 and affix a seal on it with his jade seal “康熙御笔之宝”. In the Chinese Imperial history, an Emperor’s seal can only be used on government’s documents, but he did that, and seal it on top of the 福, meaning “鸿运当头，福星高照”. By all means, his mum getting better after receiving the 福.
Underneath the rock…this is where He Shen hide the 福. Everyone stood in queue to divine 福, we joined the queue and have a thorough feel of the stele and carry away plenty of 福 =p
The owner of Prince Gong’s Mansion is He Shen (和珅) who was one of the most trusted minister during Qianlong reign in the late Qing Dynasty. He got trust from the Emperor Qianlong during his young age and was able to make large promotion in the imperial administration. In turn, he became very wealthy! Because accusation of corruption, He Shen was executed and the mansion was confisticated in 1799, under the reign of Emperor Jiaqing in favor of Prince Qing Junwang, the 17th and youngest son of Emperor Qianlong.