About CHP

Beijing Cultural Heritage Protection Center (CHP) is a small grassroots, legally-registered NGO working to protect cultural heritage across China.

Donate to CHP!

Heritage Trail project

Pao Ju Prison

Pao Ju, known during the late Dynasty as the East Four Banner Canon Manufacturing Workshop, is the largest site on our Cultural Trail.  The site, which is currently being used by the Public Transportation Division of the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau (PSB), served as a military prison during the Republican Period and the Japanese Occupation. It was at this site in 1934 that the anti-Japanese activist Ji Hongchang died.  During the Cultural Revolution and in 1980s, Pao Ju became synonymous with the Public Security Bureau in Beijing. A joke saying “I will send you to Pao Ju if you do not behave” reflected the social impact of Pao Ju after the founding of the People’s Republic.

Geographical location and Architectural Remains

Pao Ju Hutong and Pao Ju Community got the name from East Four Banner Canon Manufacturing Workshop (Dong Si Qi Pao Ju in Chinese). This site, which extends from Pao Ju Tou Tiao Hutong in the east to Bai Lin Temple in the west, is bordered on the north by Pao Ju Tou Tiao Hutong and on the south by Pao Jun Hutong.  The Public Transportation Division of the Beijing PSB’s door opens onto Pao Jun Hutong.  Overt time, what was formerly known as the East Four Banner Pao Ju has become the Public Transportation Division of the Beijing PSB and the Beijing Institute of Criminal Science and Technology, Pao Ju for short.


Since neither the Public Transportation Division of the Beijing PSB nor the Beijing Institute of Criminal Science and Technology are open to the public, we are unable to know whether or not any of the original structures of the East Four Banner Pao Ju remain inside. We were told that there are still some late Qing Dynasty and early Republican period buildings in the east part of Pao Ju, but the west part has been completely renovated. There is a line of tall poplar trees which flows from the inside to the outside, which gives us an idea of how open the site used to be in the past.  According to a retired policewoman who used to work here, there used to be large tracts of sunflowers in the courtyard.  But today, the high density of population in the area can hardly suggests the quietness of the past.

The most interesting part of Pao Ju is the four watchtowers. The watchtowers, which originally numbered seven, were built during the Japanese Occupation era. Three of the four watchtowers can easily be seen from Pao Ju Tou Tiao, while the western most tower is embedded in the northeast corner wall of the Bailin Temple.  It is likely that the east wall of Bailin Temple was the west wall of Pao Ju in the past. Now, there are many residential buildings between Beijing Institute of Criminal Science and Technology and the original west wall of Pao Ju. Some of these houses were said to have served as interrogation rooms for the prison during the Japanese Occupation.

The history of Pao Ju

On a Qing Dynasty map dating from the fifteenth year of Emperor Qianlong’s reign (1750), the Bailin Temple bordered East Four Banner Pao Ju. After the Manchu soldiers took over Beijing in 1644, they relocated all the non-banner people to outside the inner city. The inner city of the Qing Dynasty was then divided and distributed among twenty-four banners, eight of which were Manchu banners, eight Mongolian banners, and eight Han Banners. The eight banners of Manchu troops were stationed closest to the Forbidden City, while the eight banners of Han troops were stationed the furthest.  East of the Forbidden City, what is currently Dongcheng District, were stationed the Xianghuang, Zhengbai, Xiangbai, and Zhenglan Four Banner troops. The Pao Ju (Cannon Manufacturing Workshop) of these four banners were located at  same place. It is said that each of the four Pao Ju has thirty five workshops, which were located between Pao Ju Tou Tiao, Pao Ju Hutong and Bai Lin Temple.

Pao Ju which originally severed as a store for cannons, ordnances, and waste cannons during late Qing Dynasty, was converted into a prison at the end of the Qing Dynasty. A map printed in Republican period confirms that there was already a military prison between Pao Ju Hutong and Pao Ju Tou Tiao at the time.

pj4In November 1934 General Ji Hongchang, known for his strong anti-Japanese position, was placed in Pao Ju prison.  Ji was born in October 1895 in Fu Gou, Henan province. The general was known for his bravery and the troops that he lead in the Northern expedition were known as the “Iron Army” of the National Revolutionary Army. In 1930, Ji was nominated as chief commander of twenty-second troop of the Kuomintang. Because he refused to fight a civil war for Chiang Kai-shek, Ji was exiled in the name of “overseas research”in 1931.

On 28 January 1932, the Songhu Battle broke out.  Ji Hongchang quickly returned to China and went to Shanghai to facilitate the logistics of the war and joined the Chinese Communist Party in the autumn of that same year.  To support the war effort, Ji sold all his private property for around sixty thousand silver coins in exchange for munitions and arms. In May 1933, General Ji, along with General Feng Yuxiang and General Zhang Zhenwu in Zhangjiakou, organized an allied civilian volunteer military force in Chahar to defend against the Japanese. In May 1934, Ji organized the Chinese people’s  “Anti-Fascist Alliance” in Tianjin. On November 9 of that year he was wounded during a Kuomintang planned assassination. On 22 November, Ji was detained and transferred to a Beijing army prison. During his interrogation, Ji denounced both Chiang Kai-shek and Ho Yingqin, an act which lead to Chiang Kai-shek ordering his execution.

On November 24, 1934, Ji Hongchang calmly walked to the execution ground. The sky was covered with dark clouds and the ground was covered with thin snow. He picked up a piece of wood, and wrote a poem on the snowing ground: I am only sorry that I did not die while fighting the Japanese invaders, and,today, I feel it as a great shame; my motherland is suffering so much, why should I care about my own life and death. Ji was only thirty- nine years old when he died. Another general, Ren Yingqi, was also executed the same day, but his Communist Party membership was not recognized until now.

pj5Beijing fell on 29 July, 1937 to the Japanese and came under full Japanese occupation 8 August. Beijing became the political, military, and cultural center of the Japanese occupation in North China. Japan fostered a regime backed by the military and stationed the command and various military and political authorities of North China in Beijing.  During this time, Pao Ju became a Japanese military prison. According to a newspaper article written around 1944, Zhao Zhongyi and six other Communist Eighth Route Army soldiers were put in Pao Ju prison and were tortured there.

After the Second World War in 1945, Pao Ju became the Kuomintang prison. According to an article by Wang Zhihong, Pao Ju prison was externally called the “young patriots discipline brigades” and it was there that underground Communist Party members were detained.

“Pao Ju” in the Eyes of Local Residents

According to the community’s residents, we learned that Mr. Jin Zongyi, who has lived in Pao Ju Tou Tiao for a long time, is quite familiar with the history of Pao Ju. Mr Jin is fifty-eight years old and of Manchurian descent. His father’s side was part of the Zhenglan banner and his mother’s side the Zhenghuang Banner. His family has been living in Pao Ju Tou Tiao for about one hundred years.

pj6Talking about Pao Ju’s history, Mr Jin is very confident, a confidence that comes from his family’s location and his interest in history. Mr Jin’s family lives in the street behind Pao Ju and, standing in his courtyard, can see its wall. The following history of Pao Ju comes from his own observations and memories, as well as from his parents.

Mr. Jin said that the current gate to their courtyard was opened more recently and that the previous main gate was at another hutong. Before 1949, he says, there was no wall between Pao Ju prison and his courtyard. “The reason for opening a backdoor was for funerals. The body could be sent out through this door.  Since keeping the door open was not safe, even in day time the door was closed firmly…Since there was no wall for the prison, only an electronic barbed wire stood there as a barrier. You could see the inside of the prison from outside. According to my mother, children in our family were not allowed to go outside when people were executed inside the prison and when their corpses were carried out.” Mr. Jin also told us that one of his relatives was frightened to death when execution was implemented in the Pao Ju prison before the liberation.

Mr. Jin pays a lot of attention to the reports of Pao Ju. According to Mr. Jin, Ren Yingqi’s daughter came to Beijing in 2005 to get her father’s CPC party member identity recognized. When she came to Pao Ju, Mr. Jin was present and said that there were more than twenty individuals from the media present as well.  He said Ren’s daughter hoped to preserve Pao Ju as a historical site. ”


Although Pao Ju has existed since Qianlong’s reign of the Qing Dynasty, our Cultural Trail remembers the site primarily for the role it played during the war against Japan, the memories of which are still strong in the community’s residents. We will talk about the relevant remains of the war in “Bei Xin Qiao San Tiao” – another stop on this cultural trail.

We hope that Pao Ju can be protected, including the remaining four watchtowers from the Japanese occupation era. Not only does Pao Ju serve as a reminder of the Japanese occupation, but also of the lives lost during the conflicts of previous generations.

Oral history collecting: Yu Meng
Transcription: Zhai Ruixin
Text: Yu Meng
Photo Yu Meng
Share and Enjoy:
  • Digg
  • Sphinn
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Mixx
  • Google
  • Tumblr
  • TwitThis

Comments are closed.

Copyright © 2019 Beijing Cultural Heritage Protection Center - All Rights Reserved
Powered by WordPress · Atahualpa Theme by BytesForAll