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Ancient Beijing Imperial College

17 November 2006

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 original background.

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