Ruins of Yuanmingyuan

Ruins of Yuanmingyuan, Beijing Attractions, Beijing Travel GuideYuanmingyuan or Garden of Perfect Splendor is located in the northwest of Beijing, close to the Summer Palace. The park is also called the Old Summer Palace. The construction of the garden was started in 1707 during the reign of Emperor Kangxi of the Qing Dynasty; this "garden of gardens" was made up of the Garden of Perfection and Light (Yuanmingyuan), and the Garden of Ten Thousand Spring times. The grounds had a circumference of 10 kilometers and occupied an area of more than 347 hectares. It had been expanded in the next 150 years to become the largest and most magnificent imperial garden in the world. Yuanmingyuan was unique in that it was not only based on traditional Chinese gardening arts, the Western techniques and styles were also integrated into it. Unfortunately the garden was looted and burned to the ground by the Anglo-French Joint Forces in 1860. Of the hundreds of large and small buildings, which once stood here, all that remains are a few ruins in stone, a sorry reminder of past greatness.

Ruins of Yuanmingyuan, Beijing Attractions, Beijing Travel GuideVisitors can now stroll about the ruins and view the remains of the following sites: the "Vista of the Square Teapot" on the northeast bank of the Sea of Fortune (Fuhai); the Green Mountain Hut near the northwestern gate; the Jade Islet of Sages in the middle of the Sea of Fortune; the Magnanimity of the Seas and Hills in the West Lake of the Garden of Eternal Spring; Sravasti City, modeled after the capital of the ancient Indian state of Kosala, which was a repository for statues of the Buddha. The ruins of the high walls of this "city" can still be traced today; and the Source of Culture Pavilion (Wenyuange), which housed the collection of books known as the Complete Library in the Four Branches of Literature. Besides the remains of the pavilion, one will also notice numerous specimens of Taihu Lake stone lying abandoned in a pool in its courtyard. In addition, other scattered stone fragments and the flagstones from stone paths can be found in various spots throughout the surrounding hills and meandering streams.

The most striking ruin in the whole garden is the complex of Western-style buildings, the construction of which began in 1746, the 10th year of Emperor Qianlong's reign. Situated near the northern wall of the Garden of Eternal Spring, these buildings were designed by the Jesuits Castiglione and Benoit. They included the Observatory and Hall of Tranquility, which were decorated with fine fountains and pools in the style of Versailles. In addition, their roofs and walls were embellished Ruins of Yuanmingyuan, Beijing Attractions, Beijing Travel Guidewith glazed tiles in brilliant colors.

In 1977, the Beijing municipality established a committee to undertake the renovation of the Yuanmingyuan Garden, the first organization of its kind to be set up since the destruction of the garden. Some of the stone carvings removed from the garden are now being returned from places such as Beijing University.

It is hoped that before long the splendor of the garden will be restored and that this exquisite cultural relic, once the private playground of emperors, will be open to visitors from all over the world.