Prospect Hill (Jingshan) is situated just north of the Palace Museum. From the Yuan Dynasty onwards, this area was a "forbidden garden." Opened to the public in 1928, it formally became a park after 1949.
Prospect Hill was built up from mud dredged from the surrounding lakes and moats at the time of the construction of the Yuan capital Dadu. At that time it was known as Green Hill. During the Ming Dynasty, it was enlarged to its present size and, because coal was stored at the foot of the hill, it became known as the Coal Hill (Meishan). In the time of Qianlong (1736-1796), a palace was built on the north slope and a tile-glazed pavilion built on its peak. Because the hillside was planted with numerous fruit trees, the park was also known for a time as the Garden of a Hundred Fruits (Baiguoyuan). Ancient cypresses thrived, and in tribute to its scenery, it was renamed the Prospect Hill.
Inside the North Upper Gate stands the Beautiful View Pavilion (Qiwanglou). In the past, memorial tablets used by the imperial family in their consecration of Confucius were stored here. It now serves as a hall for cultural exhibitions.
The hill has five peaks, each decked with a pavilion constructed in 1751 by order Qianlong. The pavilion on the central peak is called the Pavilion of Ten Thousand Spring times. To the east are the pavilion of Admiring the Surroundings and the Pavilion of Gazing at Excellence, and to the west the Pavilion of Rich View and the Pavilion of Accumulated Fragrance. The pavilions once held a bronze Buddha each (collectively known as the "Five Flavored Immortals"), but four of them were removed by the troops pf the Eight-Power Allied Forces in 1900, while the fifth, that in the Pavilion of Ten Thousand Spring times, lost its left arm. But the arm was restored later.
The central summit can be reached via paths on both the eastern and western sides of the hill. In pre-skyscraper days, this was the highest point in Beijing' s Inner City and offered the visitor an unequaled view of the capital and its surroundings. To the north lies the Di' anmen (Gate of Earthly Peace) Street and the lofty Drum Tower at the northern end of the street. Southwest, the viewer takes in the Shicha Lake and Beihai Park. Looking south reveals the entire symmetrical plan of Beijing, with the ancient capital' s principal buildings lined up along its north-south axis.
On the eastern pathway leading down the Prospect Hill there once stood a diminutive scholar tree, which was surrounded by a red brick wall. It was here that the last emperor of the Ming Dynasty hung himself on the morning of March 19, 1644. Two days earlier, Li Zicheng had led a peasant army into Beijing and accepted the surrender of Ming troops outside the city. On March 18, the troops guarding Fuchengmen and Xibianmen opened the gates and allowed the insurgents to enter the city. Before dawn on March 19, Chongzhen (reigned 1628-1644) ran out of the palace without his crown, his hair loose and unkempt. He wore a long white gown embroidered with a dragon and a single soft-soled shoe (history failed to record what happened to the other one) borrowed from Wang Cheng' en, a court eunuch. His hands stained with the blood of Concubine Yuan and two princesses, he reached the top of the hill and said, "I have always treated my subordinates well, yet today, finding myself in this wretched state, why is it that not a single one of them is here with me to sacrifice his life? Perhaps because they don' t know that I am here, which would explain why they are not hurrying after me." He walked down the hill and hung himself with his belt on an old scholar tree. There used to be a stone stela with this inscription: "The place where Emperor Sizong (his posthumous title) died for his country." In the 1950s, this stela was replaced by a wooden plague reading, "The place where Emperor Chongzhen hung himself."
On the north slope of the hill are the Hall of Longevity of the Emperors (Shouhuangdian) and the Hall for Observing Morals (Guandetang). The former originally contained portraits of the Qing emperors. According to the rules of the Qing court, the emperor visited the hall in person each season to offer sacrifices and was required to dismount from his carriage and walk when he passed through the spot where Chongzhen hung himself. This diversion was intended to remind later emperors of the tragedy, which befell one of their predecessors. During the Republican period, the Bureau of Cultural Relic confiscated the collection of so-called "imperial faces" despite the strong objections of the imperial family.
In the 1950s, the Hall of Longevity of the Emperors was turned into the Beijing Children' s Palace, a recreational and educational facility.
Address: Jingshan Qianjie, Xicheng District;
Entry ticket: 2 yuan;
Traffic: Trolley-bus No.s 101, 103, 109, 111 and Bus No.s 812, 814 and 819;