Yuanming Yuan, an Epitome of the Qing Dynasty2016-05-27 13:56:00Share:
“Yuanming” literally means “round and brilliant,” implying perfection and excellence. However, the name actually concludes Buddhist wisdom. The distinguished Tang monk Xuan Zang was ever saying that he was so joyful because he would become a Buddha and make “all wisdom round and brilliant.” Emperor Kangxi was extremely fond of Buddhism, so he chose this name for the garden.
The fact also not accidental is that the Yuanming Yuan and the Qing Empire shared the same fate of glory and shame, and its fall corresponded with the decline of the empire. Precisely speaking, the empire’s folly in the 19th century results in the imperial garden unprotected. Hence, in some degree, the prosperity and ruin of the imperial Yuanmingyuan Garden actually miniatures the rise and fall of the Qing Dynasty.
Emperor Kangxi’s reign time is the beginning of the prosperity of Qing dynasty, and at the same time, Yuanming yuan started its construction. Emperor Qianlong brings Qing dynasty to its top prosperity, together with the largest scale’s construction of Yuanming yuan. We can also say, after one and a half centuries of endless constructions, Yuanming yuan becomes the greatest imperial garden china had ever built, when is the best days of Qing dynasty.
This “brilliant” imperial garden fell from the sky like a shining star and suddenly vanished from the planet, but the historical memory of the lost garden has persisted. With a mixture feeling of nostalgia and sadness, people continued to view the tragedy with deep emotion. Its destruction by foreign forces was especially painful in the memory of Chinese humiliation.
A large number of efforts have been made to revive the glory of the Yuanming yuan, while due to the enormous cost as well as the loss of knowledge in the horticultural arts, all tries failed. It has seemed that it is impossible to revive the grandeur, just as the failed century-long effort of a reviving empire. If the Yuanming yuan were the pride of a mighty empire, the fall of the empire results in the ruin of the great garden.
A few new structures rebuilt on the ruined site for tourism demonstrated defects in design and workmanship that exacerbate worries about a losing art. The dexterous craftsmanship that created the magnificent garden may have been forever lost.
Since the prospect of reviving the “lost paradise” is slim, perhaps we can only appreciate the magnificence and glory in memory.
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