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An Interesting Story about the Marble Boat in the Summer Palace

2016-03-15 15:14:55Share:

  The Marble Boat is located at the end of the Long Corridor, near the Stone Pavilion(Summer Palace, Beijing). It was first built in 1755 during the Qing Emperor Qianlong’s reign. The purpose for building this big marble boat was to create a symbol of the stability of the Qing dynasty.

Marble Boat in the Summer Palace

 

  Emperor Qianlong built this marble boat based on a story that happened in the Tang Dynasty (618~907AD). Prime Minister Wei Zheng expostulated with Emperor Li Shimin, the first emperor of the Tang Dynasty, about the water and the boat, by saying water can carry a boat, and it also can capsize a boat. He put the water there to represent common people and the boat indicated the Tang Dynasty court. By following this allusion, the marble boat was built. Therefore the marble boat stood for the stability of the Qing dynasty because it can never be moved. It also symbolized that the Qing dynasty would be as solid as rock and never be overturned.

 

  The marble boat is 36 meters long and has two decks. The base deck was built of large stone blocks of marble, while the upper part was made of wood. Originally, during the time of the Garden of Clear Ripples, there was a Chinese-style wooden superstructure built on the top of the boat, and it was painted to look like marble. But the wooden superstructure was burnt down by the Anglo-French allied forces in 1860.

Marble Boat in the Summer Palace

 

  In 1893, when Empress Dowager Cixi had the marble boat rebuilt, she ordered to have two water wheels added outside the marble boat, one on each side, for the imitation of a steam ship. Then a European-style wooden superstructure was built on the boat, which was painted to look like marble. The floor was paved with colored bricks, and all the windows were decorated with multi-colored glass. Four hollow marble columns were built on four side corners of the boat. The columns were designed with dragon heads on the base of the boat for the drainage system. Whenever it rains, the rainwater flows down through the four hollow pillars pouring the rainwater out into the lake from the mouths of the four marble dragonheads.

 

  Each floor has a big mirror for reflecting the ripples in the lake during rainy days. Sitting in front of the mirror, the emperor or the empress dowager could feel as if they were floating on the lake. When Empress Dowager Cixi was in the summer palace, she often came here on a rainy day, and sat in front of the mirror, sipping tea and enjoying the mirror’s reflection of the beautiful rainy scenery on the lake.