The Old Summer Palace
In 2010, a colleague came to Beijing to also study Mandarin and we decided to do a little bit of sightseeing after lesson, so we took the subway to Haidian District where The Old Summer Palace is located.
The Old Summer Palace was originally called the Imperial Gardens and was a complex of palaces and gardens in Beijing. It was built in the 18th and early 19th century as the place where the emperors of the Qing dynasty resided and handled government affairs.
The Garden was first constructed in 1709 during the reign of the Emperor Kangxi of the Qing Dynasty and over the next 150 years, this garden was expanded to be a large-scale Chinese emperors’ private pleasure garden, covering an area of over 864 acres.
These days you have to use your imagination as to what the palace used to look like (or you can visit the large model in the park) as it is in ruins. However, there are boats to ride on the lake and paths to walk along to see the lovely gardens.
So how was the palace destroyed, well with a little [lot] of help from Wikipedia I can provide some history. In 1860, during the Second Opium War , as the Anglo-French expedition force approached Beijing, two British envoys, a journalist for The Times and a small escort of British and Indian troopers were sent to meet Prince Yi under a flag of truce to negotiate a Qing surrender. Meanwhile, the French and British troops reached the palace and conducted extensive looting and destruction. Later on, as news emerged that the delegation sent for negotiation was imprisoned and tortured, resulting in twenty deaths, the British High Commissioner to China, Lord Elgin, retaliated by ordering the complete destruction of the palace, which was then carried out by British and French troops.
So the history is very interesting and it’s still lovely to walk around and imagine the castle as it was all those years ago. The grounds really are fabulous and comprise three parts – Yuanmingyuan, Wanchunyuan (the Garden of Blossoming Spring) and Changchunyuan (the Garden of Eternal Spring). These three gardens are often referred to as one common name: Yuanmingyuan.