Former Residence of Jì Xiǎolán 纪晓岚故居

Part of A Better Guide to Beijing’s coverage of South of Qián Mén

What remains of the home of this Qīng literary scholar with its dusty and English-free exhibition on his life and works is worth a brief visit if you’re at the nearby Hǔguǎng Guildhall, taking the Out Clubbing walk, or eating Shānxī cuisine at the Jìnyáng Fànzhuāng, for whose construction part of the site was demolished.

Jì (1724–1805) was a literary scholar, editor, encyclopaedist, and government minister, as well as a novelist best known for his collection of supernatural stories, Yuèwēi Cǎotáng Bǐjì (阅微草堂笔记, The Thatched Study of Close Scrutiny or Jottings from the Grass Hut for Examining Minutiae).

Jì lived at this address for the last 30 years of his life, although little more now remains than the Jesuit-influenced entrance gate reminiscent of the rear halls at the Wànshòu Sì, one reception room, and a study. Here, he compiled the vast Sìkù Quánshū (四库全书, The Emperor’s Four Treasuries or The Complete Library in Four Branches), the Qīng’s successful attempt to exceed the Míng’s Yǒnglè Dàdiǎn with the largest ever encyclopaedia.

In modern times the mansion has been a school for Méi Lánfāng’s opera troupe (see Méi Lánfāng Memorial Hall on the In the Depths of Many Flowers walk), a bank branch, an office for a transport company, and part of a Party school, before becoming the Jìnyáng restaurant in 1959. Eventually the east wing was flattened to build the current restaurant premises, and the remainder was restored in 2001.

That anything at all survives is probably because of connections with a Shānxī graduate from the very last imperial examinations of 1905, who had communist sympathies and operated a safe house, frequented by later Běijīng mayor Péng Zhēn (彭真). Although he did a great deal to destroy the rest of Běijīng, he apparently left this fragment intact, perhaps because he was a Shānxī man himself.

Jì Xiǎolán Gùjū, Zhūshìkǒu Xī Dàjiē 241, t 6303 6712, 9am–4pm, Tue–Sun. ¥10. m Hǔfáng Qiáo (Line 7). b to 虎坊桥路口东: 5, 23, 34, 48, 57, 715.

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