Sunday, November 2, 2008

Umbrella Holder in Prince Gong's Mansion

main gate of Prince Gong's mansion

grand foyer with umbrella holder carefully placed

When arranging my vacation to China I explained to the travel agent that I was interested in Chinese architecture old and new. I told her that I would love to visit some of China’s oldest buildings and mansions and end with modern architecture, such as the Center of Performing Arts in Beijing, and the new CCTV headquarters. I also sought after seeing the magnificent Chinese gardens in person. She mentioned Prince Gong’s mansion in Beijing, China, which she enlightened, is one of the largest and best preserved examples of ancient Chinese architecture and also features the Jincui Yuan, a 6.9 mile garden including artificial mountains, caves and streaming ponds. Excited, I told her I couldn’t pass it up and I was on my way to Beijing, China!

Upon my arrival to Prince Gong’s mansion, the first feature that caught my eye was the beautiful stone main gate to the palace itself. Along the tour I learned a great deal about the mansion. Constructed in 1777, the residence has a traditional courtyard layout and covers over 60,000 square miles, half living quarters, leaving the rest for the ornamental gardens. The main section comprises the major hall, a rear hall and pavilion holding over 40 rooms. Walking through the fortress I thought about how the wealthy once lived there, and their lifestyle. I wondered if I might see the Chinese umbrella holder (which only the privileged could afford) I learned about in my History class. It was interesting to see the western Chinese carvings, architecture and use of space throughout the mansion. When approaching the main foyer of the palace I spotted a small, cylinder shaped umbrella holder by the front entrance. Although it wasn’t the exact umbrella holder I was familiar with, I was excited to be able to tell my family about the history of the porcelain holder, its use, and it was unbelievable to see the details and colors in person. It was visible that a lot of care was put into the construction of the holder itself, as well as the placing of the umbrella holder within the palace.

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