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Heritage Trail project

Heritage Trail: Chaodou Hutong 炒豆胡同

Chaodou Hutong

Now in the city’s Dongcheng District, Chaodou Hutong was built during the Yuan Dynasty and formerly part of the Chaohui administrative district (fang) of then-named Yuan Dadu. Called “Chaodou’er Hutong” during the Ming, its name contracted to “Chaodou” during the Qing Dynasty, where it fell under the jurisdiction of the Bordered Yellow Banner. The area underwent several more name changes in the following years, ultimately reverting back to “Chaodou Hutong” in 1979, but expanding to include the area of Anningli.

Chaodou Hutong starts at Nanluo Guxiang in the west and ends at South Jiaodaokou Street in the east. It is 463 meters (about 1,519 ft) in length and 5 meters (about 16.4 ft) in width. Odd address numbers range from 1 to 77 – although there is no 35 – while the even address numbers range from 6 to 18, with numbers 2 and 4 likewise absent. The predominant place of interest in Chaodou Hutong is the former mansion of Mongol Prince Sengge Rinchen. The rest of the hutong’s structures are, for the most part, residential. 

Cultural Heritage Protection Site:

The Mansion of Prince Sengge Rinchen, Chaodou Hutong  77 and Banchang Hutong 30, 32, and 34, Dongcheng District

Prince Seng’s mansion spans along the entire block between Chaodou Hutong and Banchang Hutong. Its main front entrances are located at Chaodou Hutong 73, 75 and 77, while its back entrances are located at Banchang Hutong 30, 32 and 34. The mansion comprises east, middle and west courtyards with four units in each. The main hall is the tallest principal room in the middle courtyard.

Mansion of Prince Sengge Rinchen

Mansion of Prince Sengge Rinchen

A more accurate name for the Mansion of Prince Seng should be the Mansion of Prince Boduolegatai. The first prince to live in this mansion was Prince Suo, who resided there with his wife, the third princess of the Jiaqing Emperor. Prince Suo’s formal title was Prince Boduolegatai, which was later passed on to his son Prince Seng, his grandson Prince Bo, and his great-grandson Prince Ah.

In the years following the Qing, Prince Seng’s mansion played home to a host of other individuals, among them Zhu Jiajin, a prestigious historian. Zhu moved into the middle courtyard of the mansion in 1934, and spent the following 60 years there (except during the intermittent years of the Second Sino-Japanese War, during which time he lived in Sichuan Province) until his death in 2003. As his long-term residence, it should come as no surprise that the Mansion of Prince Sengge Rinchen factors very heavily in memoirs.

Prince Seng’s mansion is currently in poor condition. A majority of the houses are used as dormitories, some are used as shops, and others have been converted into a guesthouse.

Chaodou Hutong

Prince Seng Mansion – A History

Sengge Rinchen was born in 1811 during the sixteenth year of the Jiaqing Emperor. Hailing from the Horchin Left Rear Banner in Inner Mongolia, he belonged to the Borjigin clan, a group that could trace its origins back to Genghis Khan’s brother Jochi Khasar. As a child, he was adopted by the sovereign king of the Horchin Left Rear Banner, Prince Suo, and his wife, Princess Zhuang, under the order of Daoguang Emperor.

At the age of 14, following the death of his adopted father, Sengge Rinchen became regional ruler. By the age of 24, he had gained favor with the Emperor and was given a position as Adjutant General in the Imperial Household (yuqian dachen). From this point forward, he began a meteoric rise. Owing to his loyal and brave nature, fierce character, and skills as a fighter, he first earned the rank of field general. Under his tutelage, the empire’s Mongolian cavalry became one of North China’s most formidable lines of defense. 

As an important component of the army, Sengge Rinchen’s cavalry was particularly successful in helping suppress the Taiping Rebellion, a devastating civil war lasting from 1850 to 1867. In return for his bravery and military successes, Sengge Rinchen was conferred the title of imperial prince (qin wang) in 1855. He was also promoted to the rank of Baturu, a position given to those displaying great bravery. This would mark the apex of his ascent; by the time of the Second Opium War in 1859, owing to his failure to adequately defend the city of Tianjin, he was stripped of nobility, dismissed from office, and forced from his property, indeed a 180-degree turnaround. 

This decline was by no means long-term, however. To the contrary, the Qing government re-instated him after a short while, requiring his talents to suppress the Nien Rebellion, another uprising contemporaneous with the Taiping. But as fate would have it, this reinstatement would sadly be short-lived; fighting against a worthy adversary in the form of Lai Wenguang – another famous general of the era – Sengge Rinchen met his end in May of 1865, ambushed near what is today the city of Heze in Shandong Province.

Mansion of Prince Sengge Rinchen

Mansion of Prince Sengge Rinchen

After Prince Seng’s death, the mansion was passed down to his son, Prince Bo, Chamberlain of the Imperial Guard and the chess teacher of the Guangxu Emperor. It was then passed on to Bo’s grandson, Prince A’mu’er’ling’gui (great-grandson of Sengge Rinchen). Prince Ah was the superintendent of the Imperial Equipage Department during the Qing, later becoming one of the nation’s first senators during the Republican period. Ah’s son Helin was also given the title of Prince. While serving as senator, his household entered into decline. He was unable to collect rent from his land in Mongolia, and therefore had a hard time supporting his huge family with his senator’s income. He was later accused of being unable to live up to his patriarchal duties, and had no choice but to auction off his mansion. The west courtyard of the mansion turned into Wenquan Middle School, the middle courtyard was bought by Zhu Jiajin, and the east courtyard was sold to the northwest army. Only the east courtyard’s grain shop was not sold, and it is today still kept by Helin. In 1954, the entire original site of the mansion was purchased by the coal department, and made to serve as a dormitory.

A few years ago, the Beijing Municipal Commission of Urban Planning formulated a plan to improve Chaodou Hutong, one that also involved the Dongcheng District Culture and Cultural Heritage Bureau. To date, however, the plan has yet to be carried out.

Zhu Jiajin

A direct descendant of noted Song Dynasty Neo-Confucian rationalist Zhu Xi, Zhu Jiajin (1914-2003) was a famous cultural historian, relics expert and artifact connoisseur who made his home at Sengge Rinchen’s former mansion. Today it is still the home of his daughter, Zhu Chuanrong and her family.

In 1935, Sengge Rinchen’s grandson, facing hardship, decided to sell off some of his family’s courtyards. The westernmost three courtyards (known as the Yin’an Hall) were sold to Zhu Jiajin’s paternal grandfather. In the 1960s, two of these were in turn sold to the government, but the final one remained in the family, its posterior shielding rooms (hou zhao fang) going to the four Zhu brothers. During the 1976 Tangshan Earthquake, the many wenshou (zoomorphic roof ornaments) fell down, and the walls of the west wing rooms also collapsed.

In the decades since, the Zhu family has donated much of their cultural heirlooms to various museums and academic institutions throughout China, among them the Palace Museum, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, the Chengde Mountain Resort, and the Zhejiang Provincial Museum. The family still owns a portion of the courtyard, but the rest is now owned by government.

The Mansion and its Architecture

The architectural style of Sengge Rinchen’s mansion should not be considered typical of Qing princes. Instead, it is often viewed as an example of the “residential style” (zhu zhai shi). This is because during the Qing Dynasty, most Mongolian nobles were not given land in the capital. Many instead had their own territory in either Inner or Outer Mongolia. As a result, for those few Mongolian nobles who did own Beijing property, little fuss was made over their mansions – most were simply given homes built on a larger scale with better quality courtyards.

The front entrances of the mansion are located at Chaodou Hutong  73, 75 and 77, and the back entrances are located at Banchang Hutong 30, 32 and 34. The mansion is comprised of eastern, central and western courtyards with four units in each. There are more than 200 rooms in total. The central and west courtyards were originally the mansion, while the east courtyard was the Buddha hall of Hangzhou fabric manufacturer Fu De. According to historians, the mansion in its original form took up the entire block between Chaodou Hutong and Banchang Hutong.

The 73 courtyard has a Guangliang Gate, in which there are five reversely-set rooms (dao zuo fang) and three wing rooms (pei fang) on the west. In the second unit there are five wing rooms on the north and three wing rooms on both east and west. The third unit has three wing rooms on the north, and is surrounded by corridors. The forth unit has nine posterior shielding rooms (hou zhao fang).

75 quadrangle has one Guangliang Gate, in which there is a screen wall (ying bi), six posterior shielding rooms on the south, and seven yaoting rooms on the north. Entering through the central gate, one will see a chuihua gate, beyond which is a two-unit courtyard. There are three rooms on the north, two side rooms on the east and west, three wing rooms on the east and west, and short-cut corridors surrounding the courtyard. The back courtyard is Banchang Hutong 32, which has three rooms on the north, two side rooms on the east and west, and three wing rooms on the east and west.

77 courtyard has one Guangliang Gate, two reversely-set rooms on the east and six on the west, five attached rooms on the west. On the north there is a main hall with one entrance at the center.  To the north there is a xuan gate, surrounded by corridors on the east and west. There are three side rooms on the north, as well as two side rooms and three wing rooms on the east and west. All rooms are connected by a short-cut corridor. The most inner section of the west side room of the northern main hall is actually a corridor leading to the back yard. There one will find three rooms on the north, one side room on the east and west. In the two-unit courtyard, there are three rooms on the north, as well as one side room and three wing rooms on the east and west. 

In his memoir, Zhu Jiajin mentions a huge screen wall sitting across the gate of Price Seng’s mansion. He also notes a pair of mounting blocks (ma shi) to the side of the gate, as well as lanterns hanging on carved pillars. There are two rooms in the courtyard used for storing weapons, and beyond these one finds yaoting halls, chuihua gates, and posterior shielding rooms (hou zhao fang) all connected by short-cut corridors. There are likewise various structures to be found, including rockery formations, ponds, covered paths, short-cut corridors, guest lounges, pavilions, and terraces. There are five stairs in front of the grand main hall, in which there is a portrait of Prince Seng wearing both a cap and his honorary Baturu deer leather vest zoomorphic ornaments known as jishou on the roof. Each room has a dimension of about four meters in width and seven meters in depth and is equipped with floor furnaces for the winter season. Openings are located at the ends of corridors, and reach the furnaces via pipes. Exhaust is pumped out by the stairs, which keeps the rooms clean and ventilated, indeed a logical design.

Works Cited:

Li Tiesheng, Zhang Endong, Chi Zhiqun, and Yu Yongjun, Nan Luo Gu Xiang Shi Hua

Wang Lin, Shiyong Beijing Jiexiang Zhinan

Dongcheng District Culture and Cultural Heritage Bureau, Beijing Mingsheng Guji Cidian

Yue Han, “Siheyuan li de tang feng jin yun,” Zhongguo Dianzi Shangwu, May 2006

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