Yuan Summer Palace: Where Nature Meets Royalty

Escape the Hustle and Bustle at Yuan Summer Palace's Scenic Retreats

The Old Summer Palace, also known as Yuan Park, was a complex of palaces and gardens in the present-day Haidian District, Beijing, China. It was initially called the Imperial Gardens and was occasionally dubbed the Winter Palace.

It is 8 kilometers northwest of the walls of the previous Magnificent City part of Beijing. The Old Summer Palace was renowned for its large assortment of gardens, architectural design, and countless works of art and historical artifacts. It was regarded by many as the best example of Chinese imperial garden and palace architecture.

Built throughout the eighteenth and mid-nineteenth centuries, the Old Summer Castle was the vitally majestic home of Qianlong Sovereign of the Qing line and his replacements, and where they took care of state issues; Formal events were held in the Forbidden City.

The Impact of the Second World War on the Yuan Summer Palace

The palace was taken over by French and British troops on October 6, 1860, as part of the Second Opium War. Over the next few days, they looted and destroyed the imperial collections. James Bruce, 8th Earl of Elgin, the British High Commissioner to China, retaliated by directing troops under his command to destroy the palace on October 18. This was done in reaction to information that 19 members of an Anglo-French delegation had died as a result of the Qing government’s imprisonment and torture of the group.

The Impact of the Second World War on the Yuan Summer Palace
The Impact of the Second World War on the Yuan Summer Palace

Overview of the yuan summer palace

  1. Garden of Perfect Brightness
  2. Garden of Elegant Spring
  3. Garden of Eternal Spring

They combined covered an area of 3.5 square kilometers, which is nearly five times larger than the grounds of the Forbidden City and eight times larger than the Vatican City. There were hundreds of structures on the grounds like halls, galleries, pavilions, lakes, gardens, temples, and bridges.

The halls also contained unique copies of literary works and compilations and hundreds of examples of Chinese art and antiquities. The Imperial Gardens recreated some famous southern Chinese landscapes.

Location of the yuan summer palace

Near Jade Spring Hill, the palace was constructed on a water-rich site. The region was well-known for its stunning scenery. Beginning in the 13th century, during the Yuan dynasty’s rule, country homes were constructed here. In the 16th century, Li Wei of the Ming Dynasty constructed the Qinghua Yuan estate on the site.

Location of the yuan summer palace
Location of the yuan summer palace

Western mansions in the yuan summer palace

The Old Summer Palace’s most obvious architectural remnants are located in the Western mansions (Xiyang Lou) portion of 18th-century European-style palaces, fountains, and formal gardens. The Jesuit Giuseppe Castiglione planned and designed these structures, which were partially constructed of stone but primarily comprised of a Chinese infrastructure of timber columns, colored tiles, and brick walls.

Michel Benoist was in charge of the fountains and other waterworks. After visiting an engraving of a European fountain, the Qianlong Emperor became interested in the architectural project and hired Castiglione and Benoist to complete it to satisfy his desire for exotic structures and objects.

In addition to perspective paintings organized as an outdoor theatre stage, Western-style palaces, pavilions, aviaries, a maze, fountains, basins, and waterworks were constructed. A clock fountain was in front of the Haiyan Tang, the largest palace.

Twelve animals from the Chinese zodiac were spouting water from the fountain every two hours, but at noon, they all did so together. These European-style structures anyway just involved a region along the rear of the Nursery of Everlasting Spring that was little contrasted with the general region of the nurseries. Chinese-style structures covered more than 95% of the Imperial Gardens. A few Tibetan and Mongol-style buildings also reflected the Qing Empire’s diversity.

History of the yuan summer palace

The Old Summer Palace’s initial construction began in 1707, during the Kangxi Emperor’s reign. It was meant to be a present for Prince Yong, the fourth son of the emperor and the eventual Yongzheng Emperor. In 1725, he would greatly expand the Imperial Gardens. In addition, the Yongzheng Emperor established the gardens’ waterworks, naming 28 scenic spots and creating lakes, ponds, and streams to complement the rolling hills and grounds.

History of the yuan summer palace
History of the yuan summer palace

Additionally, the Yongzheng Emperor created some “living tableaux” that he and his family could interact with and observe. “Crops as Plentiful as Fields,” one of these scenes, had court eunuchs acting like rural farmers on an island. Another was known as the “Courtyard of Universal Happiness,” and it was a fictitious village where shopkeepers dressed as eunuchs could interact with the imperial family.

Under the rule of the Qianlong Emperor, the second expansion was well under way and the number of picturesque locations had reached 50. The splendors of the palace and its gardens were represented in The Forty Scenes of the Yuanmingyuan, an album created in 1744 by the Qianlong Emperor’s court artists.

Destruction on the yuan summer palace

During the Second Opium War in 1860, combined Anglo-French expeditionary forces arrived in Beijing (Peking) after marching inland from Tianjin (Tientsin).

Under a truce flag, two envoys, Henry Loch and Harry Parkes, traveled ahead of the main force in the middle of September to negotiate with Prince Yi and Qing Empire representatives at Tongzhou and scout campsites behind enemy lines. The delegation included Thomas William Bowlby, a Times journalist, as well as a few British and Indian troops who acted as escorts. On September 18, as the negotiations came to a close, the Allied forces attacked Qing troops in the region, who they thought were repositioning for an ambush. It was then that the Qing court discovered that the British had imprisoned the Tianjin prefect.

When the delegation members were traversing Qing lines to return to the expeditionary forcesthat, the Qing general Sengge Rinchen took them, hostage. The delegates and their bodyguard were sent to the Ministry of Justice in Beijing, where they were detained and tortured. After two weeks, along with 14 other survivors, Parkes and Loch were brought back. Due to the torture, 19 British, French, and Indian prisoners perished.

On the evening of October 5, French units redirected from the principal assault force towards the Old Summer Castle. Only a few eunuchs and maids lived in the palace at the time; The Xianfeng Emperor had already escaped to the Hebei Chengde Mountain Resort with his retinue. While British counterpart James Hope Grant was reassured by French commander Charles Cousin-Montauban that “nothing had been touched,” Allied soldiers had already carried out extensive palace looting.

On October 18, Ruler Elgin, the English High Chief to China, fought against the designated individuals’ torment by requesting the annihilation of the Old Summer Royal residence. Additionally, the destruction of the Old Summer Palace served as a warning to the Qing Empire to refrain from using kidnapping as a political strategy against Britain.

Aftermath in the yuan summer palace
Aftermath in the yuan summer palace

It took 3,500 English soldiers to set the whole spot burning, and the gigantic fire went on for three days. The remaining 300 eunuchs and palace maids, who hid from the soldiers in locked rooms, perished when the palace complex was burned down, unbeknownst to the troops. The majority of the 13 buildings that survived intact were located in remote areas or near the lake.

Aftermath in the yuan summer palace

The Qing imperial court moved to the Forbidden City after the Old Summer Palace was sacked.

Under the guise of making the Old Summer Palace a retirement home for his two former regents, the empress dowagers Ci’an and Cixi, the young Tongzhi Emperor attempted to rebuild it in 1873. Nonetheless, the royal court missed the mark on monetary assets to modify the castle, and at the asking of the court, the head at long last consented to stop the venture in 1874. The Gardens of Clear Ripples, an adjacent imperial garden, was restored in the 1880s for Empress Dowager Cixi’s use as a new, albeit smaller, summer resort.

A few Chinese-style buildings also survived the fire in the outlying Elegant Spring Garden. Before the project was abandoned, the Tongzhi Emperor restored some of these buildings. The forces of the Eight-Nation Alliance destroyed many of the buildings that had survived or been restored in 1900.

Recent developments and plans in the yuan summer palace

In addition, any reconstruction would be a massive undertaking, and no above-ground reconstruction has been approved. However, the eastern half of the gardens’ lakes and waterways have been re-digested and re-filled with water, and the hills surrounding the lakes have been cleared of the brush to create long-forgotten views. Additionally, several temples within the Old Summer Palace grounds have been renovated and rebuilt.

In the Old Summer Palace, work began in February 2005 to cover a total of 1.33 square kilometers of the beds with a membrane to stop seepage and reduce water loss from the lakes and canals.

Recent developments and plans in the yuan summer palace
Recent developments and plans in the yuan summer palace

In the southern city of Zhuhai in the province of Guangdong, a recreation of the palace, the “New Yuanming Gardens,” was constructed in 1997 as an amusement park covering 1.39 square kilometers and featuring an 80,000 square meters lake.

Transport in the yuan summer palace

The Yuanmingyuan Park in Haidian District is home to the Old Summer Palace Ruins, which are still accessible to the general public. They are accessible from the Beijing Subway’s Yuanmingyuan Park station on Line 4.

Opening hours:

  • In the May-August: 07:00-19:00
  • In the April, October, and September: 07:00-18:00
  • In the January, February, March, November, and December: 07:00-17:30

Sentence Victor Hugo about yuan summer palace

It was once described by Victor Hugo as ” It is one of the world’s wonders in a particular region. The Old Summer Palace was the miracle’s name.” However, a fire destroyed the magnificent garden, destroying its splendor and leaving only its ruins and history.

The best hotels near Old Summer Palace
The best hotels near Old Summer Palace

The best hotels near Old Summer Palace

  • Beijing Post Hotel
  • Holiday Inn Express Shangdi Beijing, an IHG Hotel
  • Crowne Plaza Beijing Zhongguancun, an IHG Hotel
  • Xijiao Hotel Beijing
  • Park Plaza Beijing Science Park
  • Vision Hotel

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