Videos about CiXi, China

YuanMingYuan 圆明园, BeiJing

YuanMingYuan, also known as the 'Old Summer Palace', was constructed during the 18th and early 19th century and was a wonderland of lakes and waterways, bridges, hills and pavilions.


One third of the ground of YuanMingYuan was taken up by over 200 small hills with steep sides, secluded valleys, rock walls and stone caves. Half of the garderns are covered by the waters of lakes, winding streams and ponds.


It was at YuanMingYuan that the emperors of the Qing Dynasty resided and handled government affairs - until it was destroyed; the Forbidden City was mostly used only for formal ceremonies at this time.


The southern part of YuanMingYuan was where emperors handled state affairs, while the other parts were primarily for personal use and comprised of more than 150 scenic spots, involving rare exotic flowers and trees from different parts of the country.


There were originally towers, terraces, pavilions, halls, corridors, pagodas and bridges with a total construction area of 150,000 square meters - corresponding in scale to that of the Imperial Palace. Artisans were recruited from all over China to enact the exquisite settings.


The various styles of architecture, standing encircled by hills and rivulets, presented a most picturesque view. Many were reproductions of scenic mountains, rivers and famous gardens in China (mostly southern China).


During his many tours of the country, emperor QianLong made it a point to have pictures of famous gardens and scenes drawn so that he could have replicas built in Beijing. Most famous of these were the ten scenic spots of the West Lake in HangZhou.


The Old Summer Palace is often associated with the European-style palaces (Xi Yang Lou) that were built of stone. The designers of those structures, the Jesuits Giuseppe Castiglione and Michel Benoist, were employed by emperor QianLong to satisfy his taste for exotic buildings and objects. However, more than 95% of the Imperial Gardens consisted of essentially Chinese-style buildings. There were also a few buildings in Tibetan and Mongolian styles, reflecting the diversity of the Qing empire.


In addition, hundreds of invaluable Chinese art masterpieces and antiquities were stored in the halls, including some unique copies of literary works and collections.


In 1860, during the 'Second Opium War', the British and French expeditionary forces looted the Old Summer Palace. Later, on October 18 1860, a British general - despite protestations from the French (who in fact had began the looting) - gave the order to set fire to the huge complex, which burned to the ground.


In 1900, those buildings that had partly survived or been restored were burnt for good by the Western expeditionary forces sent to quell the 'Boxer Rebellion'. Many priceless artifacts were plundered and made their way to museums and private collections in Europe.


The ruins were further plundered by the warlords of the early republican period and further destruction of the ruins took place during the 'Cutural Revolution'. After all this destruction, what was left was truely just an empty shell.


Empress dowager CiXi later directed the forming of YiHeYuan (Garden of Nurtured Harmony), into a new Summer Palace; this was near to the Old Summer Palace, but on a (somewhat) smaller scale.


Nearest subway station : YuanMingYuan on line 4.


Don't miss :



  • Buying a large souvenir 'map' at the entrance showing the original gardens
  • The ruins of the Western-style palaces
  • FuHai Lake near sunset

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The Summer Palace 頤和園, BeiJing

The Summer Palace is the largest and best-preserved imperial garden in China.

As its name suggests, the Summer Palace was used as a summer residence by China's imperial rulers - as a retreat from the main imperial palace now known as the Palace Museum (or 'Forbidden City') - a pleasure-ground in the countryside, yet near to the city.


In 1860, as part of the 'Opium Wars', the Anglo-French Allied Forces invaded Beijing and set fire to many of the buildings within the original Summer Palace (YuanMingYuan).


In 1888, Dowager Empress CiXi, with funds embezzled from the Imperial Navy, restored the grand gardens. The reconstruction and enlargement of the Summer Palace continued for ten years. After completion, she renamed the gardens 'YiHeYuan' ('Garden of Peace and Harmony').


The Empress Dowager CiXi moved her administration to the renovated YiHeYuan in 1889 and the gardens here that had long been an imperial pleasure-ground became the primary Summer Palace.


Then, shortly after, the eight allied powers invaded in 1900 during the Boxer Rebellion to plunder and destroy the newly reconstructed New Summer Palace.


Only when the fugitive CiXi returned to Beijing in 1903, did full-scale restoration begin. In this way, the Summer Palaces - both old and new - are associated in popular culture with the destructive interference of foreign powers.


Today's Summer Palace is more or less the same as the palace rebuilt from 1903. It was designated a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1990.


After the success of the 1911 Revolution, the Summer Palace was opened to the public. Then, after the last Qing Emperor PuYi was thrown out of the Palaces in 1924, the Summer Palace was turned into a park. The Summer Palace has become a popular and relaxing destination for both domestic and international tourists.


The Summer Palace is virtually a museum of traditional Chinese gardening that uses rocks, plants, pavilions, ponds, cobble paths and other garden styles to create a poetic effect between different scenes. The halls, pavilions, bridges and temples, Kunming Lake and Longevity Hill, all blend together harmoniously despite their individual styles.


Ingeniously conceived and elaborately designed, the Summer Palace, featuring the garden styles of both northern and southern China, is justifiably known as the 'Garden of Gardens'. Indeed, the Summer Palace represents a quintessentially Chinese ideal of harmony between man and nature.


Don't miss :



  • the beautiful Garden of Harmonious Interests (a 'garden within a garden'),

  • SuZhou Street and the Four Great Regions Tibetan-style temple,

  • and the Tower of Buddhist Incense and Cloud Dispelling Hall on the hill.

The nearest subway station is BeiGongMen ('North Palace Gate') on line 4.


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