Symbolic Meanings and Morals in the Summer Palace2016-06-22 15:46:00Share:
The royal gardens in the past centuries are not only rich in scenic attractions but also as conveyer of complicated morals and symbolic meanings, such as the supremacy of imperial power, the Buddhist morals, fairy tales, pray for bless etc.
The summer palace, with a clear central axis, is no exception. Main buildings in the garden are mostly high and open with magnificent colorful paintings. Its high architectural level has no rival among the private garden owned by bureaucrats or common people. This is one way to show the supremacy of the imperial power.
Besides, the purpose to create beautiful sceneries which imitate numerous attractions across the country is a way to emphasize the concept: “every place under the sun is owned by his majesty”.
The layout of the summer palace also has its symbolic meaning which is based on an ancient Chinese legend, “a big pool with three hills.”
According to the legend, there were supposed to be three islands called PengLai, Yingzhou and Fangzhang to the east of Bohai bay, where people believed that the gods lived. One of the islands was called Penglai Island where a kind of Chinese herbal medicine grew, which was supposed to prolong people’s lives.
Emperor Qinshihuang, the first emperor of the Qin dynasty, wanted to have a long life and live forever, so he sent lots of people to Penglai Island looking for the Chinese herbal longevity medicine, but they failed.
In the Han dynasty, emperor Wudi also wanted to live an eternal life. After failing to find the herbal longevity medicine, he ordered people to dig a big pool at the back of his palace with three artificial hills representing the three Fairland Mountains of Penglai, Yingzhou and Fangzhang.
Since Emperor Han Wu built a big pool with three artificial hills in his garden, this layout became a traditional legendary style of gardening followed by one dynasty after another. The summer palace was also built in this traditional style; the south lake island represents Penglai Island; Fenghuangdun stands for Yingzhou; Zhijingge symbolizes Fangzhang.
Emperors of Qing Dynasty had great faith in Buddhism, especially Lamaism. They had many religious buildings constructed inside the Summer Palace, such as the Tower of Buddhist Incense, Pavilion of Precious Clouds, the Temple of the Dragon King, etc. These buildings not only increase the diversity of the garden sceneries, but also stands for a sacrificial function to pray for bless.
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