The Garden of Harmonious Interests
谐 趣 园
The Garden of Harmonious Interests (XieQuYuan) is a garden within a garden.
Situated near to KunMing Lake at the bottom of the eastern side of Longevity Hill, the Garden of Harmonious Interests, has an exquisite design and distinctive layout. Among the gardens of northern China, its style is the most representative of the classical gardens of southern China.
When Emperor QianLong (1711-1799) conducted an inspection of South China in 1751, he developed a great affection for the JiChangYuan Gardens in WuXi City, JiangSu Province, and ordered that a similar garden be built in the Summer Palace. He named it HuiShan Garden; this was the precursor to the Garden of Harmonious Interests. In 1811, it was repaired and given its present name. The garden was rebuilt again in 1893 after its destruction in 1860.
Upon entering the gate to the garden, visitors are greeted by a wonderful panorama. Surrounded by slopes on three sides, with a lotus pond at its centre, the garden is comprised of seven pavilions, five halls, numerous corridors and small bridges, all arranged with profusion and elegance. The scene was mirrored in the pond, which was the focus of the garden’s natural surroundings, and released a delicate fragrance of lotus.
The garden used to be the fishing site of Empress Dowager CiXi. It is said that every time CiXi came to fish, eunuchs secretly dived into the water and hung live fish on her hook, to keep her in good spirits.
The garden is remarkable for its eight settings, each with a particular theme. The essence of each is as follows.
Interest of Seasons （有趣的季节）
The changing beauty of the garden makes it an attraction for visitors throughout the four seasons of the year. In spring, the willows wave in the breeze, switching on their great charm; in summer, abundant lotuses release a delicious fragrance; in the fall, the weeping willows turn the garden into a romantic heaven; in winter, the snows waft down to the trees and pavilions, painting an exquisite landscape.
Interest of Water （有趣的水）
Using the water from the Back Lake, gardeners built the YuQin Gorge, through which water trickles across the rocks and makes wonderful sounds, like a musical instrument being played. Hence, this is also known as the Interest of Sound.
Interest of Bridge （有趣的桥）
Several small bridges span the water, each with its own distinct style. The most notable among them is the Know-the-Fish Bridge, the name of which is derived from an argument about fish between two philosophers of different schools:
Zhuang Zi, one of the philosophers, said: "Look! How happy these fish are!" Hui Zi replied: "You are not a fish. How can you know they are happy?" Zhuang Zi replied: "You are not me, how can you know that I don't know?"
其中的一个哲学家庄子说道：“瞧呀，这些鱼儿是多么的开心！” 惠子说：“你又不是鱼儿，你怎么能知道鱼是不是快乐的？” 庄子答道：“你又不是我，你怎么知道我不知道？”
Interest of Calligraphy （有趣的书法）
There are many examples of calligraphy in the Garden of Harmonious Interests, such as the XuShi Path stele and stone inscription in the MoYun Room.
Interest of Pavilion （有趣的亭台）
In the west corner of the garden stands a pavilion. Viewed from the outside, it gives a visitor the impression that it is single story high; from the inside, it appears to have two levels. This unusual setting creates an appealing effect of height, and is known as the Interest of Pavilion.
Interest of Painting （有趣的绘画）
Hundreds of paintings in various styles line the corridors in a collection to rival the Long Corridor. These works, created with the themes of allusions, sceneries and historical figures, are treasures of art.
Interest of Corridors （有趣的走廊）
The Interest of Corridors has a fascinating collection of twists and turns. Connecting the intricate rooms, they provide visitors with a unique chance to view the landscaping of the garden from every angle.
Interest of Imitation（有趣的仿制）
Like other glorious and resplendent constructions in the Palace, the Garden of Harmonious Interests has a sense of tranquility and refinement. Although this garden is a royal garden, it was built in the style of a private one, JiChangYuan Garden. Owing to the skill of the landscapers, any visitor to the garden would feel as if they were in Southern China.