The second biggest heritage site in the heart of the Chinese
capital after the Forbidden City is set to open to public
by next year. Beijing Guozijian (国子监), the imperial college
built during the early Ming
Dynasty about 600 years ago, has been closed for over
a half century.
The gate to the Imperial College
During a major repairing work sometime ago, 14 tablet pavilions
(御碑亭) were identified, and among them, the oldest one was
found to be created 500 years ago during the reign of Emperor
Zhengtong (正统). This precious Ming tablet recorded the details
of the initial construction and the subsequent renovations
of the college.
The Ming tablet pavilion
Previously the site was occupied by various district organisations
and the Ming pavilion had been, pathetically, used as storage.
Guozijian is the highest official institution of learning
in the imperial China. Once a young scholar was selected
to study in the college, he was entitled to receive free
tuition, accommodation, meal and allowance, and guaranteed
a civil servant position upon graduation. Emperors routinely
went to the college to give lectures, thus all the college
students were considered as the disciples of emperor, and
automatically elevated to the elite class regardless of their