Gate of Good Luck

Part of A Better Guide to Běijīng

Although the north was usually viewed as the direction of ill-omen, according to some traditional accounts, Běijīng’s good luck flows in from the Western Hills through the north gate of the Summer Palace, and then out through the main gate on its way to the city. When the Manchus fell, the north gate was shut and Běijīng went into decline, losing its capital status to Nánjīng.

In 1948 the palace administration opened the gate again. In exchange for giving English lessons to the Palace’s director, as the American David Kidd recounts in his memoir Peking Story, he was given rooms over the dilapidated north gate, formerly a haunt of the Qiánlóng emperor’s mother, and as part of the process of refurbishment the gate was unsealed from 40 years of disuse and reopened to the public.

Shortly afterwards the communists took the city and then announced the formation of the People’s Republic and the re-establishment of Běijīng as the national capital.

Members of the Manchu family into which Kidd had married suspected he had thus allowed the good luck to flow to the communists.

‘The fate of Peking determined by a foreigner!’ cried his wife’s aunt. ‘The fate of all China ordained by my nephew-in-law!’

See Summer Palace, and Construction and Corruption, ‘Old’ Summer Palace, Architecture and Xenophobia.

Next in Běijīng Suburbs and Beyond: Construction and Corruption (story)
Previously: Summer Palace
Main Index of A Better Guide to Beijing.

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