Ancestral Temple of Yú Qiān 于谦祠

Part of A Better Guide to Běijīng’s coverage of North and East of the Imperial City

Officially listed for preservation and now hugely restored or rebuilt, this small temple, on the south side of Jiànguó Mén Nèi Dàjiē (just west of Běijīng Zhàn Jiē leading down to Běijīng Station) had yet to open at the time of visiting. The inept Míng Zhèngtǒng emperor’s enthusiasm for battle exceeded his military ability: having decided to lead his troops personally he was captured by Oirat Mongols in 1449, who then looked likely to take advantage of the court’s disarray and reassert Mongol control over the Míng empire.

Míng loyalist Yú Qiān (1398–1457) organised military and civil resistance and stopped the Mongol troops just short of the capital. The court, faced with a constitutional crisis, placed the captive’s half-brother on the throne as the Jǐngtài emperor, rendering the deposed emperor politically unimportant. He was returned in 1450, which probably caused more complications than if he had remained captive (see Where Are They Now and the Mahakala Temple on the Forward to the Past walk). Yú organised further military activity, which significantly reduced the threat from the Mongols, and he was rewarded by the Jǐngtài emperor.

But in 1457 the Zhèngtǒng emperor’s supporters took advantage of Jǐngtài’s terminal illness to enact a restoration under a second reign name, Tiānshùn. It was usual after any disagreement within the imperial administration for those associated with the losing side to suffer for it, and charges were brought against Yú Qiān, who was executed.

In 1466 the Chénghuà emperor restored long-dead Yú to his posts (which must have been a comfort), and his former home was turned into a shrine to loyalty. This was subsequently refurbished on several occasions, including relatively late in the Qīng dynasty during the Guāngxù reign (1874–1908). All the original memorial items have long disappeared, except for a stele and an altar with inscriptions.


Yú Qiān Cí, Xī Biǎobèi Hútóng 23, m Dōng Dān (Lines 1 & 5) exit C; Běijīng Zhàn (Line 2) exit A. b to 东单路口东: 10, 25, 39, 90电车内环, 90电车外环.

Next in North and East of the Imperial City: Ancient Observatory
Previously: Three Small Temples for Three Big Heroes (story)
Main Index of A Better Guide to Beijing.

For discussion of China travel, see The Oriental-List.