The Beijing imperial palaces of Yiheyuan and Yuanminyuan have long served as country residences of Chinese rulers. Often, the emperors of China spent more time in them than in Gugong, the Forbidden City. Currently, Yiheyun Park is called the Summer Palace, and Yuanminyuan Park is called the Old Summer Palace in tourist avenues. In ancient times, both parks were a single whole, the palace and park complexes began about 8 km northwest of Beijing and stretched to the Westernmost Mountains, for many tens of kilometers. You can visit both parks in one day, as I did, or you can stretch the pleasure for a couple of days, because the parks have a considerable area, you will have to walk for a long time.
The first country residence on the site of the Summer Palace was built during the Jin Dynasty in 1153 – it was the palace of the Golden Hill. Subsequently, almost every emperor of China completed or rebuilt something in its place. The most extensive construction took place under the Qing Emperor Qianlong in 1750.
It was under him that Yiheyuan acquired a finished look. At the same time, the construction of the so-called Old Summer Palace of Yuanminyuan ( about it below) was of paramount importance for Qianlong, and he built Yiheyun rather out of inertia, since he generally liked to do construction. This “Chinese Peter” was reputed to be the main builder in the Celestial Empire, almost all the palaces and temples that have survived to this day were built by Qianlong.
The famous Long Gallery of the Summer Palace.
But, despite the rapid creative activity of Qianlong, the construction of the Summer Palace in Beijing, stubbornly attributed to the last Chinese Empress Cixi. This is due to one very unpleasant circumstance, the fact that all the Summer Palaces of Qianlong were destroyed almost to the ground by the colonial Anglo-French troops in 1860. This happened during the second Opium War, when China dared to resist the European drug trade on its territory. In retaliation for the imperial ban on the opium trade, British and French troops massacred the Chinese and, reaching Beijing, burned and looted all its country parks. The Grand Stage of the Summer Palace is the largest theater built during the Qing Dynasty.
The stage of the theater had hidden hatches and doors, through which fairies could suddenly appear, suspended on ropes, and other theatrical characters.
Furniture in the interior of the palace.
In this regard, it seems that the Empress Cixi, who ordered the restoration of country palaces at the end of the 19th century, is their main creator. Moreover, they like to criticize her for these restoration works, and various documents are cited that say that Cixi allegedly spent money allocated for the creation of the Chinese Navy on the palaces. I think this is a very interesting historical problem. The madcap Cixi, since the end of the 19th century, is accused of all mortal sins. They say that an old and lustful fool squandered all the money and brought China to a complete collapse. Of course, there is a rational grain in these statements, but after getting acquainted with the architectural masterpieces of the empress, one can not help but wonder, is this true? This question came to me when I visited the Cixi tomb and its park ensembles.
As I wrote above, the Yiheyuan Summer Palace was completely rebuilt during the Qianlong period in the mid-18th century, and the huge man-made Kunming Lake, the most important part of the park, was dug during the Jin Dynasty in the 12th century and the Mongols of the Yuan Dynasty. At the same time, they probably added the hill on which the main complex of buildings of the Summer Palace stands.
The European looters who set fire to the palace could not destroy all the capital structures of the complex – dams, bridges, massive foundations of buildings. They burned only the wooden pavilions, after looting their contents. It was these gazebos with tiled roofs that Cixi restored in 1885.
The roof of the Hall of Scattered Clouds.
The most impressive structure of the palace is the powerful wooden Fosyangye Tower – the Tower of Incense in Honor of the Buddha. It was restored twice in 1889 and a second time in 1903, when European barbarians burned it again during the famous Boxer Rebellion. Only this structure and a couple of pavilions deserve attention for their monumentality, all the other buildings of Yiheyuan are one-story gazebos and small teremki. Foxiang Tower.
The complex of pavilions on the top of the hill, the black “teremok” in the center is completely made of bronze. This allowed him to survive the fire of 1860.
At the top of the palace hill is the Temple of the Sea of Wisdom – Zhihuihai. It also survived the fire, as it is made of stone.
I do not think that in order to build wooden pavilions, it took a huge amount of money, comparable to the budget of the Navy. Several hundred good artisans within 5-10 years could easily make all this beauty. Therefore, I would advise you to be more critical of the attacks in the direction of the “old woman Cixi”… Moreover, we all know very well what European propaganda is capable of. “A fool on the throne” is a very good reason to interfere in the internal affairs of the state. The famous marble boat of the Empress Cixi. It was also made under the Qianlong Emperor in the mid-18th century.
Yuanmingyuan Park or the Old Summer Palace was less fortunate than Yiheyuan Park, and it was never restored after the barbarity of European robbers. At the moment, it is a picturesque ruin, not strange, often looking like an antique.
Ironically, European architects took part in the construction of the palace. By order of the indefatigable builder Qianlong, in 1746-59, several buildings in the European style were erected, they were built under the direction of the Jesuits Giuseppe Castiglione and Michel Benoit. The ruins of the palaces in the “Western” style partially survived, as they were built of stone, unlike all other wooden Chinese buildings in Yuanmingyuan.
“Chinese Versailles” – was the pearl of the palace park architecture, but the way it looked, you can only see in old engravings and photos. British troops at Yuanmingyuan Palace in 1860.
The ruins of the palace were torn apart for 150 years, at the beginning of the 20th century there were still some walls left of it, now it is only a pile of stones.
The current state of the palace-ruins overgrown with trees.
Like Yiheyuan, the Old Summer Palace consists of a maze of canals, artificial lakes, and islands on them.
The platform on which the wooden palace stood. Most of Yuanmingyuan consisted of wooden pavilions in the classical Chinese style, so they all burned down in the fire of 1860.