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Forgotten History of the Summer Palace

2016-06-13 15:12:00Share:

For the big fire 156 years ago, people only remember it burned Yuanmingyuan (the Old Summer Palace), while almost forget it also destroyed the former Summer Palace.


  The destiny of these two former imperial gardens, located at the western suburbs of Beijing, plays very differently towards the fire 156 years ago. History makes the two gardens go farther and farther away after the same burning incident.

the Summer PALACE, beijing, China.


  The Burning


  One day, a visitor angrily rushed into the administration office of the Summer Palace, and questioned the staff why not write down the history in scenic spot introduction that the Summer Palace was formerly called Qingyi Garden, and it has burned down by the Anglo-French allied troops?


  Qin Lei, director of the summer palace’s cultural relics department, explained that this part of the history was clearly written aside the entrance gate of the Summer Palace. The place where the visitor pointed out is an attraction of the garden, so the management office thought it can be omitted. They never thought that there are people who still care about it.


  Exactly, few people care about the predecessor of the Summer Palace has ever been ruined by a big fire. The fire which makes people more impressive is the burning of Yuanmingyuan.


  In October 1860, Eerjin posted notices all over the Beijing city, declaring their purpose of the burning of Yuanmingyuan: "anyone, whatever high position he is, cannot escape the responsibility and punishment as long as he has ever committed fraud and atrocities. Hence, as a punishment to the Chinese emperors’ treachery, the old Summer Palace will be burned on the 18th. Only the Qing imperial government should be responsible for it, and the common people needn’t worry about to be hurt as they have nothing to do with the atrocities."


  The revenge is very effective. In the film the Burning of the old Summer Palace, the director designs such a plot: when the fleeing Emperor Xianfeng learned that Yuanmingyuan had been burning, he vomited blood on the spot at the same time.


  The great fire lasted 3 days and 3 nights, and the heavy smoke covered the sun and clouds, which made the old Summer Palace completely destroyed. The other several imperial gardens next to the old Summer Palace – Qingyi, Jingyi, and Jing Ming Garden; Longevity, Fragrant and Yuquan Hill -were also ruined.


  Desolation and Rebuilding


  The first person who changes the fate of the two gardens is Empress Dowager Cixi.


  Yuanmingyuan, Qingyi Garden and other members of the "Three Hills and Five Gardens" have been burned down by British and French troops for many years, and the national power declined after the defeat of two opium wars. Emperor Xianfeng and Tongzhi have no ability to reconstruction, and they just put up shed to worship the Dragon God each year as usual.


  The temptation, trying to rebuild the old Summer Palace and Qingyi Garden, often triggered heat debates through the government after the suggestion, and the result is always that the plan has been rejected and vetoed.


  Until to Guangxu’s reign period, Empress Dowager Cixi, after years of “reign behind the curtain”, reconsidered to rebuild Qingyi Garden when seeing Emperor Guangxu had grown up.


  In 1886, Yihuan requested to empress dowager cixi “rebuild the Qingyi Garden working for training the navy”, and put forward "established Kunming Lake School". At that same year, the Qing court secretly began to rebuild Qingyi Garden, using naval military’s funds. Afterwards, the outside world knew about it, which caused a big controversy.


  In 1888, among the controversy, Cixi announced officially the rebuilding of Qingyi Garden, and issued imperial edict in the name of Guangxu, which clearly instructed that repairing Qingyi garden is for the maintenance and care of Empress Dowager Cixi. Besides, the name of Qingyi garden changes into the Summer Palace.


  After the completion, Empress Dowager Cixi lived in the Summer Palace for a long time, dealing with national or military affairs, and issued orders, thus the Summer Palace became the political center at that time.


  However, Yuanmingyuan during the same time was more and more decaying due to short of repairing. In 1900, the g8 coalition forces invaded Beijing, the "three mountains five gardens", including the old Summer Palace, the Summer Palace, were robbed again. The Qing government lost its control over the old Summer Palace. All trees, no matter big or small, were all destroyed, and the tree roots, branches were burned into charcoal.


  The old Summer Palace became the building material field. Everyday, from Yuanmingyuan, the soldiers carried away dozen carts of Taihu Rock. Now and then, they continued to pull more than 20 years.


  At the end of the Qing dynasty, someone began to plant inside Yuanmingyuan. After 1940, during the Japanese occupation, the government rewarded the reclaim of wasteland. Hence, farmers entered into the garden, removing the hill, filling the lake and planting rice in the field. The scenery of the lakes and mountains inside Yuanmingyuan, after 150 years’ upgrading, lost its color and beauty immediately.


  After the Qing Dynasty ended in 1911, the government of the republic of China nationalized the Summer Palace and changed it into a national park. However, the situation is volatile then, and the Summer Palace is short of repairing permanently.


  Another Tragedy


  On the Morning of March 25, 1949, Mao Zedong, Zhu De, Liu Shaoqi, Zhou Enlai and other people, arrived in Beijing Tsinghua railway station from Shijiazhuang. LiuYazi and other Democrats welcomed and took them to have a rest in Yishou Hall and Jingfu pavilion, which were inside the Summer Palace. At that time, the waves rippled on the kunming lake, and the longevity hill stood there spectacularly.


  In April 1949, the management office was established and only took responsible for the Summer Palace. At the same time, the Summer Palace restored opening to the outside world, and the admission charged 40 Yuan RMB (old).


  In the eyes of tourists then, the Summer Palace was a mysterious royal garden, and nearly 90 years later, fewer and fewer people mentioned again the history of Qingyi Garden’s burning.


  After the founding of the People’s Republic of China, the repairing job of the Summer Palace was always continued, until the beginning of the "cultural revolution".


  During the "cultural revolution" period, the Summer Palace is listed as "capitalism". The red guards ran there, yelling "to destroy everything, and to break thoroughly "; "remove away the longevity hill, and paved the kunming lake".


  The first thing to be destroyed is the famous gallery painting in the Summer Palace. Wearing the green uniforms and belt, the red guards, with white poster colour, covered all the character paintings in the long corridor and other places. They also dismantled three Buddhist statues in the tower of Buddhist incense.


  At the eastern palace’s gate, the red guards built scaffolding and ready to dismantle the ornamental archway outside. Once Zhou Enlai learned about that, he immediately stopped their plan. Thus, the ancient building has been preserved.


  During the "cultural revolution", Zhou Enlai instructed, "the archways in front of the Buddhist incense and cloud temple don't have to hang the pictures of Chairman Mao; remove the quotations within the corridor". However, the destruction of the Summer Palace didn't stop. In 1970, the round rock flower-stand in front of the east gate has been demolished.


  The Summer Palace experiences a big change in the "cultural revolution". Nevertheless, Yuanmingyuan, on the other side of a sharing wall, seems to be very quiet. The red guards, with green uniforms and belts, were seldom to be seen there. The reason is very simple: Yuanmingyuan has been ruined totally, and there is no necessary for them to break anymore. Some students of the Peking and Tsinghua University often went to the garden to have a chat, enjoying their quiet lives in this ruined garden, Steering clear of the world.


  Starting from Nothing


  In early 1970s, Zhou Enlai once received a Japanese delegation who visited to China. During the Conversation, a member of the Japanese delegation said that although Chinese scholars believe that Cixi spent 30 million silvers to build the Summer Palace, Japanese scholars thought she only used 5 million according to their research. Zhou Enlai was deeply touched: " the Summer Palace owns to us, but why Japanese more clear about the details."


  How much silver has been used exactly? Chinese scholars at that time had no firmed research data.


  In 1975, Wang Daocheng, a Qing history researcher at the institute of Renmin University of China, suddenly received the invitation from the Summer Palace, which invited him to work at relics group of the Summer Palace, and participate in the writing of the book the Summer Palace. Afterwards, Wang Daocheng moved into the longevity hall of the Summer Palace, where Mao Zedong accommodated during his first visit to the Summer Palace. Then, he began to comb the history of the garden.


  The beautiful scenery of the Summer Palace made Wang Daocheng pleasant and comfortable. His most favorite thing was rafting kunming lake in the rain. He was soon engaged in the research of the Summer Palace, while before the study, he must determine the research direction firstly.


  Wang Daocheng spent a whole week to wander in the garden, asking tourists what questions they cared exactly about the Summer Palace, and soon, he listed them one by one: "what the garden looks like before the reconstruction? How cixi rebuild the Summer Palace? What is the garden characteristic of the Summer Palace? What great issues have happened in the Summer Palace? After the founding, what changes have taken place in the Summer Palace?"


  Before the study, it is almost a blank about the research of the Summer Palace.


  In 1860, Qingyi Garden was burnt, and empress dowager cixi reconstructed it. Then, how much silver she exactly spent?


  Collecting the hidden information materials from Yang Shilei’s family, Wang Daocheng found out the account books in the calculate room, and took a calculation little by little. He firmly determined that the dowager totally spent 5-6 million silver in the rebuilding, but not 30 million which widely believed before. After the publishing of the book the Summer Palace, the researches of the Summer Palace began to be paid attention among the academia.


  At the same time, the fate of the old Summer Palace experienced much greater changes.


  As “the garden of gardens”, the old Summer Palace became the focus of attention at that time because of soong ching ling’s initiative.


  In 1983, approved by the state council, the old Summer Palace planned to become a ruins park. Afterwards, it began to be reconstructed and developed. Fu Sea and other important scenic spots had a chance to be repaired.


  On December 1, 1984, the Chinese academy of the old Summer Palace is formally established. After the research of the Summer Palace, scholars began to study and protect Yuanmingyuan ruin. At that time, China's reform and opening-up has been carried out for several years, and the west comes back into the ancient China.


  Patriotism education became an important propaganda thought, and gradually, the old Summer Palace turned into the government’s important patriotism education base.


  In fact, it is a movie that exactly makes ordinary people understand the old Summer Palace, and inspires patriotic complex.


  In 1983, "Burning Yuanmingyuan", a film made by Hong Kong director Li Hanxiang, recreated the history how the British and French forces invaded Beijing and burned Yuanmingyuan. This co-production film won the special award of outstanding film by Ministry of Culture that year.


  Empress Dowager Cixi's Legacy


  Yuanmingyuan has gotten a great fame, but the management staff is more envious about the Summer Palace.


  As an incredible and well-preserved park, the Summer Palace can get large sums of money each year, while for Yuanmingyuan ruins park, people often debate whether to remain or repair it. What’s more, they haven’t got so much money for repairing. With large betterments, the Summer Palace is becoming more and more beautiful.


  In 1980s, the Summer Palace began to apply for world cultural heritage.


  Zhai Xiaoju witnessed the whole process of the Summer Palace, before and after its application for world cultural heritage. She has ever served as the director of research office for the Summer Palace. From 1971, at the age of 17, she started to plant flowers in the Summer Palace, and kept working for the garden until her retirement this year.


  According to international practice, the natural environment of the Summer Palace must be up to standard before its application. In December 1989, the kunming lake of the Summer Palace began its largest project - dredging project.


  Zhai XiaoJu recalled, it was a winter, and there were ices on the surface of the lake.


  From each unit organization, carrying shovels, People began to do the compulsory job on the surface of the lake: break the ice firstly; then, excavator cleared silt. "At that time, people’s drive is not as same as now. They were from all kinds of units and do compulsory labor. There are college students, soldiers, and people from each unit......"


  In the process of dredging, a lot of items were pulled out of the bottom of the lake, such as a small figure of Buddha head, a bomb and so on.


  The Dredging project had been lasting for more than one hundred days. Until to March 2, 1990, after dredging, the kunming lake reserved water again, and the reflection of the longevity hill showed up once time.


  On December 2, 1998, reviewed by the United Nations educational, scientific and cultural organization, the Summer Palace entered into the "world heritage list". The evaluation is: "represented by the Summer Palace, the imperial gardens in China is a powerful symbol among big civilizations of the world."


  In June 2000, the Summer Palace won the certificate for "world intangible cultural heritage", which became the most famous business card for the Summer Palace at that time.


  Every day, tourists from all over the world squeeze into the summer palace, and few people can remember again the fire of Qingyi garden by the British and French troops.


  While the old Summer Palace, on the other side of the same wall, retained the original broken figure, which seems to remind the posterity to remember the great fire moment 150 years ago.


  Go Farther and Farther Away


  Up to 2010, the two former imperial gardens had been gone farther and farther away. With increasingly cleared orientations, they directed into separate and opposite ways: the Summer Palace presented the glorious, while Yuanmingyuan kept in our minds the humiliation.


  People come to the Summer Palace, viewing and admiring the beautiful scenery. Very few people will focus on the back hills which have been burned to ruins. While In the old Summer Palace, although Haiyantang site is “the garden of gardens”, and need another charge, very few tourists will not go to mourn there.


  For the great fire, a staff from the administration office of the Summer Palace said: "the Summer Palace is like a master, and we don't care which primary school she comes from. Now, for the Summer Palace, the most valuable duty is the propaganda and cultural heritage protection."