Xuannan is a general term used by people of the Ming and Qing Dynasties, to refer to the area to the south of Xuanwu Gate, and west of Qianmen Gate. And the unique cultural form here is called the "Xuannan Culture".
A craftsman makes a Beijing's traditional dough figurine in Beijing. [Photo/Qianglong.com]
Xuannan Culture is a key component and foundation for the Beijing Culture; it has its own particularities independent from other districts of Beijing. Cultures from different regions of China gathered in Xuannan; they engaged in exchanges and there was a great deal of cultural integration, giving the Xuannan Culture great influence among other regional cultures. Its influence expanded beyond its geographical limits, gaining enormous cultural space nationwide. A small regional area but big cultural influence is the feature of Xuannan, which exerts influence across the country.
Exploring Xuannan will give you insights into the Xuannan Culture and bring you to a more intimate understand of Beijing's development. People used to perform and watch juggling and other folk entertainment near Tianqiao, where there used to be the assembly halls in which students, who came to Beijing to attend the Imperial Examinations, lived. Thereupon, some unique styles of culture in the southern part of the city were formed, such as Tianqiao folk culture, Dashila business culture, and Liulichang scholar culture. Gradually, all of them developed into Xuannan Culture, a unique geographical and cultural concept.
Although Xuannan does not have the palaces and pavilions found in the Forbidden City, it has tranquil garden landscapes in the western suburbs. It is popular, refined and gorgeous. Xuannan has many well-preserved historic sites suited to sightseeing and historical exploration, making it truly "the essence of the capital culture".
Early in the Ming and Qing dynasties was an important period for the formation of the Beijing culture, when the inner city, which centered on the Imperial City, became a concentrated area for the court culture; Xuannan, situated in the outer city, gradually became a place exhibiting the scholar culture and pop culture. During Qing Emperor Qianlong's reign (1736-96), scholars from throughout the world gathered in Beijing, forming the Xuannan Culture represented by the scholar culture initially. With the rise of Xuannan Culture, a variety of business and entertainment activities came into being. As a result, Dashila and Tianqiao and other areas became prosperous. Many assembly hall here, built by the officials from other provinces, and merchants who lived in Beijing, used to receive many merchants and candidates for the Imperial Examinations. In the meanwhile, cultures from other provinces, with their distinctiveness, were also introduced and integrated into this land. As an important part of Beijing culture, Xuannan Culture enjoyed extensive popularity and diversity while changing with the times. Openness and inovationa re the essence of the Xuannan Culture.