In the ancient past, post houses were stopovers that offered accommodation to officers and messengers who were relaying official documents or military intelligence.
For 3,000 years, horses were the most common means of official transportation. But with limited energy, a network of waypoints was essential to supply the animals with water and refreshments.
Few relics remain today, but you can reach several of the old post houses with relative ease from the city center.
Jiming Yi Post House
The Jiming Yi Post House is located 100 kilometers from downtown Beijing in Huailai County, Hebei province. It is the largest and most complete post house to have survived into the modern era.
The post house was founded more than 700 years ago during the Yuan Dynasty. In AD 1219, Genghis Khan led his army to conquer the west. On the way to the west region, he set up the post near Mt. Jimingshan.
In AD 1420, the Jiming Yi Post House was expanded to become the largest station connecting Xuanhuafu – modern day Zhangjiakou – to Beijing.
The old gray walls and mud brick homes bear witness to the rise and fall of dynasties. Administrative areas for mail, military and commerce, as well as many religious buildings are scattered throughout the fort.
The Hejia Courtyard is the most famous site in the post house. It’s said that Empress Dowager Cixi and Emperor Guangxu of the Qing dynasty escaped and lived there when the Eight-Power Allied Forces invaded Beijing.
Recently, Jiming Yi has found new life as a popular location used by the film industry. CCTV and many famous film studios use it for their outdoor scenes.
Take the train K257 or 4439 from Beijing South Railway Station to Shacheng (Huailai), then take the small bus from Shacheng Bus Station to Jiming Yi village.
Or drive along Badaling Highway to Yanqing, turn onto national road G110 and turn left at the intersection for Mt. Jimingshan.
Yulinbao Post House
Yulinbao is located in Yanqing County, Beijing. It is an old post house built during the Yuan Dynasty.
As a vital traffic fort and military base, Yulinbao contributed much to the prosperity of the surrounding area. Its beautiful scenery is frequently described in ancient poems. After the Yuan dynasty, ¡°the afterglow of Yulin (elm forests)¡± became one of the famous eight sights of old Yanqing.
The original structure remains and many old exquisite houses can been seen. As is the case with Jiming Yi, Yulinbao was a stop on the Empress Cixi¡¯s escape. Many agricultural instruments like the old millstones are scattered throughout the nearby village. Some are half-buried while others are used as stools by the old walls.
The whole fort is laid out to resemble the Chinese character “tu”.
Take the Bus 919 from Deshengmen to Yanqing County, and then transfer to Bus 808 to Yulinbao.
Or drive along Badaling Highway. Exit from Badaling and continue along the road to the Xibozi junction, then turn left. The old wall is on the right side of the road near Kangzhuang Town.
Luhe Yi Post House
The Luhe Yi Post House is located in an independent courtyard in Tongzhou District. The surrounding houses are all normal homes. No one is currently living in the courtyard, but it was previously rented by a silk merchant.
Luhe is the old name of Tongzhou. According to historical records, the Luhe Yi post house opened during the Ming Dynasty. During the reign of the Kangxi Emperor in the Qing Dynasty, Luhe Yi was relocated to the south side of the Xiaotaihou River and merged into Hehe Yi.
It is especially rare to find a post house used for both land and water transportation. The original doors, stables, halls and east-end rooms have been well preserved.
Take the Subway Line 1 to Sihui and transfer to the Batong Line. Get off at Tongzhou Beiyuan and follow Exit A. Walk about 160 meters to the Tongzhou Beiyuan bus stop, then take Bus Tong 19 or Tong 12 to Dongguan.