Heart-East Study

Jingxinzhai (Heart-East Study) is a fascinating garden located on the northern shores of Beihai Park. The whole garden is surrounded by a gilded and painted zigzag corridor that follows the shape of the hills.

The garden was first named Jingqingzhai (Clear Mirror Study) built with fine workmanship in 1758 and was known as the “miniature, garden of Qianlong.” The Qing emperors and empresses used to come here to relax after worshipping Gods at Xiaoxitian (Little Western Sky) in Beihai. Empress Dowager Cixi made it her favourite resort be-cause of its quietness and seclusion and a special narrow-gauge railway line was built from her residence at Zhongnanhai right down to the en-trance of the garden. In 1913, this place was renovated and renamed Jingxinzhai.

The garden combines the special feature of gardening in areas both north and south of the Yangtze River. It is ingeniously designed, novel in style, made up of three courtyards and consists chiefly of rockeries.

Behind the elegant north gate of the garden is a pond that takes up one whole courtyard and has water lilies in its clear water. In the pond stands an exquisite piece of rock from Lake Taihu and the spacious Jingxinzhai stands right behind the pond.

East of Jingxinzhai is a small courtyard. The main building facing south is Baoshu Study, said to be the study of the crown princes of the Qing Dynasty. The east wing, called Yunqinzhai (Zither Room), faces a small lotus pond fed by water from the lake, which gives a jingle-jangling sound like jade falling to the ground. In the south is a wall with different shapes of cut-outs through which one can enjoy a panoramic view of Beihai. No wonder there is a couplet in the Zither Room which reads: “A unique place to enjoy oneself; a combination of sound and view.”

Behind the study is a rock garden where bubbling spring-water flows through crevices into the lotus pond. Right in the middle of the pond stands Qinquanlang (Refreshing Spring Corridor) decorated with vermillion beams and painted columns. It is a wonderful place for relaxation on mid-summer days.

Qinquanlang is connected with the southern shores by a zigzag bridge in the east and a marble bridge in the west. This marble bridge looks like a jade belt which is supported at each end by two life-like unicorns bending their backs and looking straight ahead.

Peichawu (Tea Baking Place) is located to the southeast of the bridge. It faces Yanhuaxuan (Room for Keeping Paintings) which is diagonally opposite Huafengshi (Room for Painting Peaks) in the southwest of the garden. It is so well designed that it enables visitors to enjoy views from the room from two different angles.

The different shaped rockeries were said to be modelled after the works of famous landscape painters. There are narrow paths between the rockeries. In the west of the garden is a group of rockeries made of Taihu rocks which look like a lotus flower in full bloom. Zhenluanting, an exquisite pavilion right in its centre, provides a bird’s-eye view of the garden. The place was named Lianduozhugong (Lotus and Pearl Palace) by Emperor Qianlong for its unique beauty.

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