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[120th Anniversary Special] Yannan Garden: A Garden for Masters

MAY . 05 2018
Peking University, May 4, 2018:

This article is part of a series of pieces exploring the architecture of Peking University’s campus in honor of the University’s 120th anniversary.

Peking University, April 26, 2018: The campus of Peking University, famous for its interesting and beautiful places, has been listed as a national historical monument and granted special considerations for historical preservation. Among the points of interest on campus, Yannan Garden always attracts the attention of visitors because of its tranquility, mystery and long history.

Although Yannan Garden is located at the center of the campus, it is a little difficult for visitors to find because the garden is surrounded by dense tresses, bushes and bamboo plants. There are altogether 17 old houses in the garden, but few people live here now, so it is usually more tranquil than the other places on campus – a silence broken only by birds singing in the morning. Different from the modern teaching buildings or traditional Chinese buildings at Peking University, the houses in Yannan Garden look like small, American-style villas. Sometimes, students will stop in front of the old houses and stare at them as they go through the garden - as if they can read the history of these structures in their brick walls. More often, students just pass by on their way to somewhere else and leave the gardens and its tranquil houses behind.


A corner in Yannan Garden

Many students think the garden is mysterious because they have no idea why the old houses are empty. But there used to be people living in the houses. In the 1920s, they were originally built as residences for professors (the campus was home to Yenching University then). At that time, Yannan Garden was in the suburbs of Beijing, so Yenching University tried to build good residences for its professors in order to allow them focus on teaching and research. Many materials for construction were bought overseas, and each house was equipped with an independent boiler room for heating. Moreover, hot and cold water was independently supplied in the washroom - an incredible luxury on a university campus in China in the 1920s.


No. 63th building in Yannan Garden

The garden was small, but most of those who once lived there were academic masters in different fields. Residents included philosopher Feng Youlan, historian Jian Bozan, esthetician Zhu Guangqian, economist Ma Yinchu, physicist Zhou Peiyuan, and linguist Lin Tao. Over the past 80 years, the garden has been home to so many masters that no other residences for university professors could gain a similar reputation.

As time elapses, most of the masters who once lived in Yannan Garden have moved out or passed away. Today, many of the houses remain empty because it is said only masters are qualified to move in. Thus, Yannan Garden, with its old houses, has become the symbol of Peking University’s desire for masters.

Reported by: Xie Changli

Edited by: Erin Dunne