Hey! My name is Ian Carrico, and I am a student at the University of Texas at Austin who is studying abroad right here in the city of Beijing at Beiwai University. I have been loving living in the city, and want to share some of my experiences here. One day my friends and I decided to go see some awesome attractions at my favorite area within the Second Ring Road, Houhai. Armed with my camera, a tripod, and a few planned stops, we discovered some of the best areas around Houhai!
Our trip started at Prince Gong's Mansion that lies just below Houhai proper. This palace was made in the Qing Dynasty, and was later given to Prince Gong by the emperor, and that is where it gets its present-day name. Once we entered, we could clearly see the majesty of the Qing Dynasty in what is probably one of the best-preserved mansions in Beijing. The mansion is home to many courtyards, and a complex of buildings that seemed like it kept on going on. Throughout the main area you could see the various parts of the home, halls and courtyards, but the real beauty was in the rear of the mansion. After traveling through the courtyards, and around the halls we came upon a rock garden and wall that led to the main garden in back. It was filled with trees, rock gardens, gazebos and a few man-made ponds that all where an image of tranquility. There was one pond that was shaped like a bat, a symbol of good fortune and a common feature throughout the mansion. There were also natural stalactites near the pathway that were moved from a cave to provide decoration. To top it all off, the main pond had a structure in the center that you could walk on and sit in the center of the lake, gazing out across the smooth mirror-like surface. This pond was however disturbed by the ducks that lived on the river, whose antics provided me with a bit of humor for the day. After wandering the many halls, courtyards, and gardens that we found in back, our trip ended with a stop in the former study that was located in the back of the pond to see where the prince used to complete his studies.