Beijing: Old Summer Palace (圆明园, Yuánmíng Yuán)

By Cubie - May 01, 2013

Getting to Yuanming Yuan by subway is easy, the tell tale subway station name Yuanmingyuan Park, on Line 4. If you can fit it in, one can get to Yuanming Yuan after Yiheyuan as it is only a station or two away.

If you enter Yiheyuan from Beigongmen station, you will most likely to exit via the opposite gate which is nearest to Xiyuan station, unless you double back. Then Yuanmingyuan would only be a station away and vice versa.

Literally translate as Garden of Perfect Brightness, this garden was the garden palace complex gifted by the Kangxi Emperer to his fourth son Yinzhen, the future Yongzheng Emperor. However it was his grandson (Yongzheng Emperor's son), Hongli, the Qianlong Emperor who has make major changes to the landscape.

If you visit Yuanming Yuan in current days, aside from some random sites and of course the ticket counter, it might just look like a huge, charming lake garden.

Going with the name Old Summer Palace, I was expected something along the line of Yiheyuan (Summer Palace), how wrong was I. To be fair, sis told me that we will see some ruins in Yuanming Yuan, but I was expecting something like this.

Don't worry, you are not going mad - this is not in China, still very much in Macau
Unfortunately, it was more like this.

These ruins were found in the Western Mansions section (Xiyang Lou, 西洋楼). The traditional Chinese halls were burned and European-style buildings were pulled down during the Second Opium War. 

Only the Palace Maze has been recreated in concrete. This maze was given the name 10,000-flower maze (Wanhua Zhen, 萬花陣). In its centre sits a European-style circular pavillion. It was said that the emperor would sat in this pavilion to watch his concubines competing in a race with yellow lanterns through the labyrinth during Mid-Autumn Festival.

To get to the centre, take the path that leads to the right if you come through the entrance from South Gate.

There is however, a miniature model showing the garden in its glory days.

By the way, have you watched Jackie Chan's latest movie, Chinese Zodiac? I personally think the movie is nothing to shout about, and I am not promoting it, just wanting to highlight the 12 bronze Chinese zodiac statues in the movie.

These are definitely replicates - there are still missing 'heads'
In the days of Emperor Qianlong's reign, he had comissioned Italian Jesuit painter to design and build European-style fountains and palaces. In Hall of Calm Sea (Haiyantang, 海晏堂) featured a fountain with twelve animals head of the Chinese zodiac.

These animals' head were attached to a robed, cross-legged human bodies and water would spout out of the mouth of each for two hours daily in accordance to China's twelve two-hour time-dividing system, acting as the a water clock. All the animals jetted water simutaneously at noontime.

To be honest, I actually find the animals head attached to human bodies a bit scary. Sorry!

Standing amongst the ruin, I can imagine Yuanmingyuan in its glory days. I find it sad to see the ruins of such a historical importance site, those broken marble slabs and rubbles serve as a cruel reminder of such a loss.

There is a gate (East Gate) nearer to Xiyang Lou but there is no subway station close by, we retraced our steps back to the South Gate. We asked a kind uncle [sis told me to call him 叔叔 (shushu) instead of 'uncle' despite it means the same thing] for directions to get back to the South Gate, he gave impeccable directions!

The sun was setting and it was probably not the brightest idea to stick around in this big park in the dark but can't help taking a few more pictures. So I'm sticking a couple more here :P

Side note: I am so peckish...

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  1. Love the reflections photos. :)

    1. Somehow the lakes were very still and gave very good reflection :)

  2. So sad to see it was destroyed by war :(

  3. It looks beautiful at dusk!

    PS: Wouldn't it be great if that maze could be redone with real hedges and flowers?

    1. I can so picture that it will look awesome in real hedges :)