Summer Palace is the distillate of wisdom; it is the works that collected the previous success of all the private gardens excellence in the south and north. At this time of today, YiHeYuan has turned out to be the most completed and the largest imperial garden in China. A long history of this Chinese garden is quite different and unique landscape from ancient European imperial garden. Whether the bureaucrats rich and power or the construction of the private gardens, both of which were seeking a harmonious integration of natural and artistic beauty. As its name YiHeYuan means the Garden of Harmonious Unity.
Summer Palace is situated in the northwest part of Beijing City, and covers an area of about 290 hectares with third-forth is water. First built in 1750, largely destroyed in the war of 1860, but later had been restored on its original foundation in 1886, it served four generations of the imperial family. As we see today what it looks like, the design gives prominent to Longevity Hill (Wanshoushan) and Kunming Lake. Besides these two parts, still we could define a part of the long corridor. From the viewing point, we could divide the Summer Palace into administrating, residential and scenery browsing areas as well.
Summer Palace, as an important venue for Qing political activities, has recorded many historical lives in palace. In a large degree, it reflected the falling history of Qing Dynasty from a side way. Summer Palace was originally called QingYiGarden(Garden of Clear Ripples). It was well-known for the famous three hills and five gardens: Longevity Hill, Jade Spring Mountain, and Fragrant Hill; as for gardens: Garden of Clear Ripples, Garden of Everlasting Spring, Garden of Perfection and Brightness, Garden of Tranquility and Brightness, and Garden of Tranquility and Pleasure. But they all destroyed by fire in 1888. Later, to Empress CiXi's personal enjoyable, she embezzled navy funds to restore Garden of Clear Ripples and changed the name to Summer Palace. She lived there for her later years, both for her amusement and conduction of national affairs. In 1900, the garden once again been destroyed by the Eight-Power Allied Force.
Summer Palace has built up numerous landscapes, but without question all of which embody the highest spirit of imperial and Gods supreme powers. All are profound deposition of the Chinese history and national culture.
Now YiHeYuan has been opened to public and received huge members of visitors every day. It turns out to be one of the most popular tourist sight spot home and abroad.
Kunming Lake is the biggest lake among all the lakes of royal gardens in Qing Dynasty. Along the lake there is a bank called West Bank, meandering southward from northward. The West Bank and its embranchment divided the whole lake mainly into three parts with each a central island. Such three central islands symbol ancient Chinese legends of the East Sea Spirit MoutainsPenglai, Fangzhang and Yingzhou. Lakes are mainly concentrated in the construction of three islands.
Longevity Hill - Wanshou Shan
The south slope (Formal Hill) of Longevity Hill connects to Kunming Lake that has constituted very cheerful environment. The formal Hill both near the main entrance and the back residential space, so most the buildings are concentrated here. The main building group just lined along from lakeshore to the top mountain, which consist of PaiYunDianHall of Dispelling Clouds, a celebration for royal families, and FoXiangGe--Buddhist Cabinet. The latter one is the biggest in terms of bodybuilding, about 40meters high and above the high profile stone. The buildings in other sections are smaller in size but naturally express a dignified allusion to the central building groups.
The Long Corridor
The Long Corridor is the longest garden corridor in China, and one of the oldest structures in the Summer Palace. It is a covered promenade running for about 728 metres along the north Shore of Kunming Lake and connecting with a row of buildings at the foot of Longevity Hill. There lie a number of more than 8,000 paintings of traditional Chinese history and literature, which shows the Chinese brilliant culture. Also the corridor is remarkable for its quakeproof function. Although it had undergoing numerous times of storms, winds and earthquakes, it has never tilted or been undermined. The incredible tenacity of the corridor lies in three factors: specially reinforced ground base, two piers extending from the east to the west in a mechanical balance and the shelter of the Longevity Hill from unfavorable winds.
East Palace Gate - DongGongMen
The East Palace Gate, DongGongMen in Chinese, is the major entrance to the Summer Palace. The very central gate is for emperors and empresses exclusively. Two side doors were for princes and minister officials. And the two ends were for Eunuchs and soldiers. On the top of the gate is a plaque engraved with YiHeYuan written by Emperor GuangXu, which expressed the meaning of eternal harmonies.
Hall of Benevolence and Longevity - RenShouDian
It is a hall that originally named QinZhengDian, means to be diligent and administrable. The present name is given by Emperor GuangXu, take the meaning of Confucian saying that the governors who benevolence will be longevity. As we all know that every palace should possess such kind of hall for emperors to handle state affairs. RenShouDian is just built for the purpose of giving audience. And it is mainly used by Empress CiXi and GuangXu period.
In the central of the Hall of Benevolence and Longevity is the throne of the emperors with two yellow-colored fans behind which stands for the dignity of the royal. Before the throne, there lie incense burners and candlesticks. Two strolls on both sides of the wall with a big Chinese character Shou, which means longevity in English written by Empress CiXi. There are two large mirrors on the left and right of the throne against the wall are aimed to prevent from evil spirits. They are made of mahogany, which has turned out to be a hardship in old days.
In the front courtyard of the Hall of Benevolence and Longevity, a Kylin, with dragonhead, lion tail, deer horn, and cattle hoof stands there. In legend, the Kylin guards against destruction by fire and also it said to be able to distinguish right from wrong. As the Empress CiXi for a time got the upper position than the emperor, so there we can see the phoenix statues, which represent the queen, lie in the middle of the courtyard. The dragon statues, representing the Emperor, lie to the side, contrary to tradition.
Hall of Jade Ripples - YuLanTang
YuLanTang, also named the Hall of Jade Ripples, was originally built by Emperor QianLong and took as a leisure space for him. And for Emperor GuangXu, it acted as his private residential place and also the place where he was under house arrest from 1898.
The well-known Hundreds Days Reform lasted 103 days that on the purpose of diminishing the out-dated rules and bring the new edicts into effect. But finally GuangXu failed in reforming, that is to say, Empress CiXi once again got the absolute control of the state affairs. From that tome on, GuangXu had been house arrested there. And CiXi assigned eunuchs to closely observe him day and night. In order to cut the throat of reform, the emperor's six earnest reformists were beheaded by CiXi.