Deciphering city codes: the Central Axis of Beijing

Prospect Hill (Jingshan): Imperial city’s highest point

Updated: Jun 7, 2022 Print
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Prospect Hill ( Jingshan) has five pavilions that are lit up in the evening. [Photo/VCG]

Prospect Hill (Jingshan) was an imperial garden in the Ming and Qing dynasties. Built up by earth over time, the hill was once the highest point in the city. Its structural height is 45.7 meters and its altitude is 94.2 meters. Its related architectural complex from the Qing Dynasty in the park remains intact.

The hill used to sit on the banks of the Yongding River but became a detached mound after the river changed its course. In the Liao Dynasty (916-1125), the surplus earth from construction of an imperial palace was piled up on the mound. In the Jurchen Jin Dynasty (1115-1234), a hillock was added to it as the Taining Palace was constructed in the south. In the Ming Dynasty, in order to construct the Forbidden City’s moat and nearby lakes for imperial recreational purposes, more earth was dug out and piled up on the mound to form a higher and grander hill. Meanwhile, the government accumulated coal on the hill in case of a fuel shortage caused by any potential besiegement of the city. Hence, the hill was also referred to as Coal Hill (Meishan).

In 1644, the peasant rebellion troop leader Li Zicheng seized Beijing; in response the reigning emperor Zhu Youjian committed suicide by hanging himself on an old pagoda tree at the eastern foot of Prospect Hill.

Peonies are in full bloom in front of Guande Hall in Prospect Hill, which is now a public park where citizens go for outings. [Photo/VCG]


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