10. The Palace Area of the Summer Palace
Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen:
I’m much honored to be your guide. This morning we are going to visit the Summer Palace. I do hope all of you would like my guiding and enjoy everything today.
The Summer Palace lies to northwest of Beijing, about 20 kilometers away from the center of the city. It is covering an area of 290 hectares; about three-fourths of the total areas are occupied by the lake. According to its function and specific features, the Summer Palace could be divided into four parts: buildings for political activities, the scenic spots area, the living quarters for the emperor and the empress, the palace for imperial birthday celebrations. The Summer Palace is the best preserved imperial garden in China. It was placed on the List of World cultural Heritage by UNESCO in 1998.
The Summer Palace was first built was an imperial garden at the
thbeginning of 12 century in the Jin Dynasty, known as the Golden Hill and the Golden Pool. The Golden Hill and the Golden Pool was known as the Jar Hill and Jar Pool in the Yuan Dynasty. In the Ming Dynasty, this area was called the West Lake.
Building gardens was popular in the Qing Dynasty, especially during the period of Emperor Qianlong. The large-scale constructions of imperial gardens reached its culminations. The Garden of Clear Ripples
was built at the site. Inside it were the Kunming Lake and the Longevity Hill. The layout of the imperial gardens was made as an exact copy of the three Immortal Mountains, known as one pool and three mountains, which had been very popular among the imperial gardens after the Han Dynasty. The garden became one of the “Three Hills and Five Gardens”.
In 1860, the Anglo-French Allied Forces invaded Beijing and the Three Hills and Five Gardens were reduced to ashes. In 1888, Empress Dowager Cixi diverted the funds for navy to restore the Garden of Clear Ripples and renamed it the Garden of Nurtured Harmony(Summer Palace). In 1900, the Invading Troops of the Eight Powers assaulted Beijing and occupied the Summer Palace for more than a year. The Summer Palace was plundered by the invaders. They took away everything valuable and destroyed the buildings. Upon Empress Dowager Cixi’s return to Beijing ,
she ordered the garden to be rebuilt immediately. When reconstruction was completed , Empress Dowager Cixi come to live in this imperial garden from April to October every year for the rest of her life.
Through an archway called “emptiness and the collection of
excellence”, we are arriving the main entrance (the front gate) to the Summer Palace-the East Palace Gate. The plaque above the middle gate with three big Chinese characters is the handwriting of Emperor Guangxu, meaning taking care of oneself and one’s gentle state of mind.
Here is the Gate of Benevolence and Longevity. Inside the gate, there
are five huge rocks in the courtyard. They were transported from the Taihu Lake in Jiangsu Province. The five pieces of Taihu Lake Rocks are altogether called the “Five Old Men Peaks”, also meaning “longevity”.
Now we have come to the Hall of Benevolence and Longevity. The word “benevolence ” originates from the Confucian Analects. “the wise
are joyful; the virtuous are long lived.” It means he who shows
benevolence in running the government can live a long life.
In front of the hall stand a kinds of auspicious animals, one is the Bronze Kylin and Two bronze dragons and phoenix. The uncommon layout of the animals has something to do with Empress Dowager Cixi, who handled stated affairs behind a screen at the end of Qing Dynasty. The hall was the place for the emperor to handle state affairs and listen to reports by ministers and receive foreign envoys. In the center of the hall there is a platform with a throne on it. The throne was carved with a nine-dragon design, symbolizing the dignity of the emperor. In front of the throne there are incense burners of dragon and phoenix shapes and candlesticks of crane shape. The two big mirrors on the left and right of the throne against the wall were for warding off evil spirits. There are two scrolls on the wall, one on each side, with a big Chinese character meaning longevity, and the 100 bats in the background of the scroll symbolize happiness. It was in Empress Dowager Cixi’s handwritings.
The Garden of Virtuous Harmony was the place where Empress
Dowager Cixi watched the Peking Opera. The grand theatre inside is the largest of the three theatre buildings still standing in the Qing Dynasty. The grand theatre is 21 meters high and the three layers respectively embodied the happiness, the emolument and the longevity. The hall of Yile was the place for Empress Dowager Cixi to enjoy the Peking Opera.
Ladies and gentlemen, now we are going to visit the group of special and quiet courtyards in front of us. The Hall of Jade Ripples used to be the place where Qing Emperor Qianlong spent his leisure time with his ministers and friends. Later it was Emperor Guangxu’s private living
quarters and also as the place where he was once under house arrest after the 1898 Reform Movement. Inside the hall are a throne, a table, an incense burner and a screen on an upraised platform, all made during the reign of Emperor Qianlong over 200 years ago. The east annex room was the breakfast room for Emperor Guangxu; the west annex room was his bed chamber. East of the outer room was his study, the west one was his toilet. Bathing and dressing room.
This the Hall of Propriety of Wedding (Yiyunguan). “Yun ” was a kind of
fragrant weed which was usually used as a termite repellent in rooms where books were stored. Hence , the word “Yiyun” came about to be
the residence of Guangxu’s Empress. The west annex hall used to be the
residence for Empress Guangxu’s favorite concubine Zhenfei.
The Hall of Happiness and Longevity was the major architectural
structure in the living quarters and the residence of Empress Dowager. In the years of Emperor Qianlong, the mother of the emperor once lived here. In the years of Emperor Guangxu, it was the residence of Empress Dowager Cixi during her stay in the Summer Palace and it was also the place for Empress Dowager Cixi to receive dukes, princes and officials. A big rock in the courtyard is called the Blue Iris Hill, also known as the “Prodigal Rock”. In front of the hall there are bronze deer, cranes and vases, representing the universal peace. The west inner room is Empress Dowager Cixi’s bedroom; the east inner room is the dressing room. The middle room is the sitting room. There are some big porcelain plates in the hall used for holding fruit to produce fragrant smell. The two screens are embroidered with “a peacock displaying its full plumage” and “a
phoenix among one hundred birds.”
Well, that is all for this tour. As our tour of the Summer Palace draws to a close, I hope that I have helped all of you understand something about the Chinese Landscape architecture. Thank you for your attention. I’m looking forward to your next visit. Good luck and see you!