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Ruins of Yuanmingyuan Garden Palace

Old Summer Palace (Yuanmingyuan)

The Yuanmingyuan was first built in 1709 - its name means the "Garden of Perfection and Brightness". It was one of the five most famous imperial gardens built during the Qing Dynasty, and was regarded as the "Garden of all Gardens" at one point. Yuanmingyuan is also known as the Old Summer Palace. For more information on Summer Palace, click here.

The Old Summer Palace covers an area of 350 hectares, and almost half of it was covered by water. It was once the largest imperial garden with over 140 scenic attractions along with over 200 buildings including halls, towers, terraces, pavilions, corridors, pagodas, and much more.

The construction of Yuanmingyuan embodied the finest traditions of Chinese architecture and Garden designs. Another major difference of the Old Summer Palace that makes it stand out from all other ancient gardens is that its overall Chinese design and scenery was mixed with western architecture. The complex of western style buildings were designed by western missionaries such as Girseppe Castiglione, built in the style of the Renaissance. Such buildings include the Guanshuifa (Throne for Viewing Waterworks), Dashuifa (Grand Waterworks), and Wanhuazhen (Labyrinth of Ten Thousand Flowers).

Yuanmingyuan was destroyed in 1860 when Anglo-French forces sacked and looted the old Summer Palace, and reduced the famous garden to ruins. Again in 1900, the 9 power allied forces further looted and ransacked Yuanmingyuan, leaving the garden in waste and ruins. The only remnants of the ancient garden are the stone and marble remains the the buildings.

In 1885, Cixi embezzled funds from the Imperial Navy to restore the Summer Palace, and named it Yiheyuan (Garden of Health and Peace). In 1924, the Summer Palace was opened to the public. Since the found of the Peoples Republic of China, the government has been funding to renovate the ancient buildings and structures according to their original designs, and in 1998, Summer Palace was added to the World Heritage List by UNESCO.

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