The Summer Palace
The Summer Palace-- Museum of Chinese Gardening
Yi He Yuan, or the Summer Palace, is the best-kept existing royal garden in Beijing. With a concentration of the best of ancient buildings as well as styles of gardening, it is a virtual museum of traditional Chinese gardening.
The Summer Palace was first named the Garden of Clear Ripples, which was burnt down by the allied forces of Great Britain and France in 1860. Reconstruction started 25 years later and was completed in 1895, and the name was changed to Yiheyuan (Garden of Good Health and Harmony). The design gives prominence to the Longevity Hill and the Kunming Lake. The total area is 290 hectares, and the buildings are measured in over 3,000 bays.
The Foxiang Tower and Paiyun (Dispursing Clouds) Hall rise majestically on top of the hill. Other structures are scattered in a seemingly random way on the hill to enhance the majesty of the two main buildings. In front of the hill Kunming Lake stretches out like a mirror. There is an atmosphere of imperial dignity and an air of leisure of a garden.
It was originally named Qinzheng (Be Diligent in Administration) Hall. The present name came into being during the reign of Emperor Guang Xu. It was used by Empress Dowager Ci Xi and Emperor Guang Xu to give audiences. In 1898 Emperor Guang Xu met Kang You wei, leader of the reformists, in this hall and appointed him a high-ranking court minister. But the reform failed in 100 days because the conservative force was too strong.
Grand Opera Tower
The imperial theater in the Dehe Garden is the largest of its kind in China today. It is 21 meters high and has three floors. An opening is in the ceiling of the first floor, in which a winch could lower performers and props down onto the first floor. Performers could appear on the three floors at the same time.
Leshou (Happy Longevity) Hall
The large courtyard was the living quarters of Empress Dowager Ci Xi. The red pillars and gray gabled roof display a unique style of architecture.
The 728-meter-long corridor runs from a moon gate in the east to Shizhang Pavilion in the west. All the 273 sections are decorated with more than 8,000 paintings of landscapes, flowers and human figures. It is the longest and most famous corridor in the world.
Paintings on the Long Corridor depict a broad range of subject matter such as flowers, birds, trees, rockeries, landscapes and human figures. Emperor Qian Long (1736-1759) sent court painters to sketch scenic spots around West Lake in Hangzhou. They brought back 546 pictures, which they transferred onto the wooden boards between rafters and pillars in the Long Corridor. In the 1960s 14,000 pictures of other subjects were added to the original ones. The selected picture is about Yue Fei's mother tattooing on his back, an episode from Complete Biograghy of Yue Fei, a well-known army general who fought against Jin troops during the Southern Song Dynasty.
The layout of halls and towers on the Longevity Hill suits the terrain and shows both order and variety, as one can see from this aerial photograph.
One of the main buildings on the Longevity Hill, it was specially built for Empress Dowager Ci Xi to receive her birthday greetings. Corridors link the main hall to side houses on both sides. Pillars in crimson color and the roof with golden glazed tiles dazzle brightly in sunshine.
There used to be a magnificent tower in Tibetan style, called Buddha's Residence Tower, in the Rear Hill area of Summer Palace. It was burnt down by the allied forces of Great Britain and France in 1860 but has been rebuilt in recent years.
The Buddha's Residence Tower is surrounded by pagodas. On the left is the Treasurehouse Pagoda of Glazed Tiles built in the 18th century. On the right is a Lamaist pagoda which has been renovated only recently.
Foxiang (Buddha Fragrance) Pavilion
It stands on a 21-meter-high stone terrace on the sheer front side of the Longevity Hill. It overlooks Kunming Lake in front and Zhihuihai Buddha Hall in the back. Other buildings stretch on either side of it in a neat symmetrical pattern. The tower was burnt down by British and French soldiers in 1860 and a new one was built on the site later.
Also known as Qingyanfang, it was made with huge stone blocks in 1755. The 36-meter-long immovable boat has two tiers. It was placed in the lake to symbolize the steadfast rule of the Qing Dynasty.
Looking like a rainbow, the 17-Arch Bridge is eight metres wide and 150 metres long and links the East Causeway with the Nanhu Island on Kunming Lake.
Built of marble and white stone, the Jade Belt Bridge has a high arch and is one of the six bridges on the West Shore on Kunming Lake.
Inscribed on its back is a "Eulogy of the
Golden Bull" written by the Qing Emperor Qianlong
in the ancient seal style.
Located by the eastern slope of Longevity Hill, it is an imitation of the Garden of Reserved Delight in Wuxi, Jiangsu Province. The emperor and empress used to go fishing or enjoy lotus flowers in this garden of the South China style.
A phony business street was laid out along the Rear Lake in Summer Palace in the style of a market place along a lake or river in South China. Whenever the emperor and empress went there, the eunuchs would amuse them by acting like shop assistants, hawkers or customers.