Culture always reflects regional characteristics. Since ancient times, Beijing has been an important cultural crossroad, a place where people from around the world have come to create a future and amass their fortunes. A unique Beijing culture was formed as a result of this integration of various ethnic groups and their local or regional cultures. As the capital of Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties, Beijing imperial cutlure is the important part of the unique capital cutlure.
When comparing its Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) layouts, there are few differences between the layout of Beijing’s inner city. The only salient change was that many larges residences for the nobility were built in Beijing during the Qing Dynasty, each displaying its own grandeur. One saying asserted: “The Ming Dynasty put up a city wall, while the Qing Dynasty built imperial gardens”.
After the reign of Emperors Yongzheng and Qianlong during the Qing Dynasty, emperors often lived in the Yuanmingyuan (Garden of Perfection and Brightness) in western suburban of Beijing throughout the year. It is often said that East Beijing is rich while the West is noble, because in the Beijing inner city, many big mansions are found in the East, while the residences of nobles are found in the West. Nobles built their residences in East and West Beijing to be near the imperial court.
Of the many residences of the nobility, the mansion of Prince Gong, bestowed to him during the late Qing Dynasty, has long been one of the most famous, because it represents the common characteristics of the regulations governing the layout of imperial residences during the Qing Dynasty. Having received the mansion, Prince Gong had it elaborately repaired by skilled craftsmen, integrating the styles of gardens of the Yangtze River Delta with the architecture of Beijing, while combining western architecture and Chinese classical architecture. All these made Prince Gong’s Mansion gorgeous and a standout even in Prince Gong’s time.
A city’s presence reflects stages of history; architecture becomes a cultural hero. These grand, elegant and beautiful mansions and palace gardens in Beijing have enriched the content of the inner city of Beijing, but they have also added color to the city. Only the Forbidden City exceeds these mansions in thoughtful design. Forbidden City, also known as the Palace Museum, is the imperial palace from the Ming dynasty to the end of the Qing dynasty, where 24 emperors ascended the throne and exercised their strong power to the nation.
Imperial sacrificial activities can provide useful insights into the imperial culture and were indispensable components of imperial etiquette. Feudal society attached equal importance to rites and discipline, which were two pillars for maintaining social stability. During the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties, many imperial temples were built in Beijing; most were used to pray to heaven to secure blessings for the people. Take the most famous one the Temple of Heaven as an example, which is the center of imperial ritual ceremonies for the Ming and Qing dynasties. These sites became important components of the imperial culture.