A hidden gem of the Zhongshan Mountain Scenic Area, the National Government Chairman Residence (aka the Meiling Palace) catches tourists by surprise by its era-specific setting, grand architecture and attention to detail. It was completed in 1934 under the direction of President Chiang Kai-Shek who, many believe, gave this as a gift to his wife, the influential and stately Soong May-ling. It garnered much attention when aerial photos revealed that the Palace looks like an emerald set in a necklace, with the jade roof tiles acting as the stone and the trees along the sprawling driveway playing the part of the chain.
Subway line2 and multiple public buses will take you to the Purple Mountain Scenic Area. Once inside, there are clear markings for all the attractions in the area, including this one. Tourist special line (RMB2) and battery car (RMB10) are present to ferry you from one wonder to the next. You can either pay RMB30 for just the Meiling Palace or buy the more economical combo ticket for RMB100 and get access to all paid attractions in the scenic area. Kids under 4.6 feet are allowed inside for free. The timings extend from 07:30 to 18:00. There are not adequate descriptions in English so mobile internet and a translating app will really help.
The Palace, or rather the villa, exterior is constructed in the traditional Chinese form with phoenixes carved in the emerald top tiles and wonderful detailing adorning the corners of the roof. The interior is the exact opposite, depicting a western style in terms of decorations and amenities. This presents an interesting aspect to tourists, who often comment on this stark contrast.
The two-story building has a basement and a mezzanine as well as a grand balcony on the first floor. As a gesture of his love, the master bedroom was decorated according to Soong May-lings taste while the other bedroom had the Presidents Chiang’s style. In May-lings chamber, there are personal effects that show visitors clues about that era and the kind of person she was away from public scrutiny. Copies of her artwork and calligraphy have been displayed as well from which one can gather that she was a remarkable woman of many qualities, who played a vital part in shaping the China of present.
Stepping into the mansion is like taking a step back in time to the 1930’s. And for that day and age, this place really was spectacular. Visitors can truly imagine the vibrant and high life of those who resided here and those who came here as guests of the state. There is a reason after all that it was once even proclaimed as the best villa in the far east.
After getting your fill of time travel, you can sit back and take a breather at the bookstore on the first floor as you go through the souvenirs and reading material available. Or you can indulge in a bit of snacking at the café, also on the same floor.