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Temple of Fragrant Concubine

The Xinhua Gate in the Zhongnanhai (Central and South Lakes to the west of the Forbidden City) was built in 1758, the 23rd year of Emperor Qianlong reign of the Qing Dynasty). The building was originally named Baoyue Mansion, topped by yellow and green colored glaze tiles. The two-storied mansion with seven rooms was specially built for Xiangfei, the fragrant concubine by the Emperor Qianlong. To the west of the wuying Palace in the Zhongnanhai, lies the Turkey style Xiyude Hall, the bathing place for Xiangfei. In the “Poem for Baoyue Mansion,” Emperor Qianlong wrote: “In winter, I sent people to the western region to meet Xiangfei and in summer, she is already here in southern Beijing; Baoyue Mansion was built in advance to welcome Xiangfei at a nice time. The building is brightly lighted and has inscriptions of poems. The densely populated barracks of the Hui people serve as the appeasement of the Hui people and Xiang Fei.”

Xiang Fei was originally a Uygur girl named Iparhan from Xinjiang, the western region in China. She was captivated by the emperor Qianlongand entered the harem of the emperor in 1760 at 26. And her husband Gao Jihan, a Muslim leader who had been resisting the Qing’s army, was killed by Qianlong’s general Zhao Hui. Xiang Fei was conferred the imperial title of Rong Fei. Even more remarkable than her beauty was the scent her body naturally produced since birth, so she was called “fragrant concubine.” She had unique charm of the western style. Qianlong had long been admiring the western beauty and dotted on her better than his other 41 concubines, including the empress. Qianlong suppressed all the insurgences in Xinjiang in 1760. Three years later, he built a mosque in the Dong’anfu hutong, opposite to the Baoyue Mansion, in an effort to appease the Hui people in Beijing, as well as to comfort the homesick and distraught Xiang Fei. The mosque was named Puning Mosque or Muslim Community Mosque.

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