The world-famous Old Summer Palace is a complex of palaces and gardens in Beijing which serve as one of the most popular destinations for tourists at home and abroad. Located in Haidian District just outside the west gate of Tsinghua University, north of Peking University, and east of the Summer Palace, the Old Summer Palace is known for its extensive collection of garden and building architectures and other works of art, as well as the shocking burning.
Generally speaking, it consists of three parts - Yuanmingyuan, Wanchunyuan (the Garden of Blossoming Spring) and Changchunyuan (the Garden of Eternal Spring). These three gardens are often referred to as one common name: Yuanmingyuan. To be distinct from other traditional Chinese Gardens, the garden construction and horticulture of it is a harmonious blend of typical Chinese scenery and western architecture. Hundreds of scenic spots in the Garden are made up of exquisitely constructed halls, pavilions, chambers, kiosks, earth and rock hills, rivers and ponds, and exotic flowers and grasses from different parts of the country. Indeed, it embodies the essence of Chinese ancient landscape gardening.
The most visible architectural remains of the Old Summer Palace can be found in the 'Western mansions' section of 18th century European-style palaces, fountains and waterworks, and formal gardens. The designers of these structures built of stone were the Jesuits Giuseppe Castiglione and Michel Benoist, who were employed by the Qianlong emperor to satisfy his taste for exotic buildings and objects.
However, the European-style buildings only occupied an area along the back of the Eternal Spring Garden that was small compared to the overall area of the gardens. More than 95% of the Imperial Gardens were made up of Chinese-style buildings. There were also a few buildings in Tibetan and Mongol styles, reflecting the diversity of the Qing Empire. Furthermore, it was also an imperial museum that collected a large number of books, treasures and cultural artifacts.
The act of burning the palace has been perceived as barbaric and criminal by many Chinese, as well as by outside observers. In Victor Hugo’s "Expédition de Chine", he described the looting as, "'Two robbers breaking into a museum, devastating, looting and burning, leaving laughing hand-in-hand with their bags full of treasures; one of the robbers is called France and the other Britain." The vast majority of the remaining scenic spots were destroyed in the 1980's, but under the due protection of the ruins, a park has been established on the ruin site. So visitors can imagine the former grandeur of it from the crumbling walls and ruins. What's more, there is also an opportunity for visitors to view the complete picture of it in its 'heyday' in the exhibition hall.
The reconstruction of some of the original structures and scenic spots provides people with a lovely place to relax.
Chinese gardening has gained worldwide fame for its delicate design, if you are wondering how amazing it can be, don’t miss Old Summer Palace in Beijing.