Home > Debate On Whether It Is Necessary to Reconstruct the Old Summer Palace

Debate On Whether It Is Necessary to Reconstruct the Old Summer Palace

2016-07-28 09:50:00Share:

  The Old Summer Palace was not only famed for its beauty. It was also an imperial museum with a vast collection of cultural treasures. The French writer Victor Hugo once remarked, "With all its treasures, Notre Dame in Paris is no match for the Winter Palace, that enormous and magnificent museum in the East." Furniture made of red sandalwood decorated the numerous halls in which countless rare cultural relics were on display. As one of the four most famous imperial libraries, the Wenyuan Hall (Hall of Literary Profundity) in the garden originally housed such precious ancient books as The Complete Library of Four Branches of Books, Gems of the Complete Library of Four Branches of Books, and The Completed Collection of Graphs and Writings of Ancient and Modern Times.



  Reconstruct it


  Liu Yang (The Beijing Times): Experts, scholars and the media should first pay a visit to the Yuanmingyuan Park (in Beijing's northwest suburb) before they decide to express their ideas on the reconstruction of this imperial garden. By then they will find that without instant renovation many relics will break down and even disappear. When the relic site is no longer there, how can you still expect to see the "symbol of national humiliation? To reconstruct it aims to better protect it.


  We may choose to reconstruct several relatively well-protected sites, that is, to reconstruct those parts that have gradually decayed over the years, but not the part burnt by the Anglo-French allied army. In this way, on one hand, the grandiosity of the garden can be partly restored. On the other hand, reconstruction and renovation will not demolish the evidence of Western invasion.


  Tong Shujie (Dazhong Daily): Whether you admit it or not, the humiliation attached to the Yuanmingyuan belongs to the past, and today it needs protection. Some facilities and buildings need reconstruction and some relics need good protection, so that they can serve the modern society. Cultural relic protection means not only the maintenance of the very original thing, but also reconstruction and renovation. The combination of the two sides composes perfect protection.


  If you want to preserve the "ruins", the historic, educational and archeological value of the buried relics will never get discovered. Such a garden will waste visitors' time. If the relic resources in the Yuanmingyuan Park can be made good use of, they will play a positive role in educating visitors and contributing to world peace. To let the Yuanmingyuan lie there in ruins is wasting valuable resources.


  To reconstruct and develop this imperial garden in a rational way is effective protection rather than damage. Some historic relics are decaying in more than a century's rain and wind, so when they are saved from the wild and the earth and used in the reconstruction, they will manage to sustain forever. This is a way to protect them in the most effective and responsible way.


  Those who insist on keeping the ruins have ignored the terrible condition of many relics in the park. Their suggestion of letting historic relics lie in wind and rain is an irresponsible and short-sighted idea.


  Of course, before the reconstruction starts, there must be detailed protective planning, as well as various historical evidence of the original picture of this imperial garden.



  Leave it there


  Mao Jianguo (www.xinhuanet.cn): Is there any inseparable internal link between the reconstruction of the Yuanmingyuan and China's national cultural development? Isn't it better to invest the funds of the garden reconstruction to other cultural programs, or the country's overall cultural development, so as to satisfy the people's demand for better cultural life?


  Meanwhile, is it really possible for us to restore the Yuanmingyuan? This garden stands for a history of the Chinese nation's humiliation and misery. It's impossible to put back into the garden all the treasures looted by the Anglo-French allied army. So even if the framework is reconstructed, it is no longer the garden it used to be.


  The Yuanmingyuan is well-known not because of its grandiosity, luxury and beauty, but because of its historical significance. The looting and burning of this garden implies the danger of accumulating weakness and poverty of a country. It is the burning of this garden that stimulated many Chinese at that time to stand up to save the nation from falling down and being carved up by Western imperialists.


  If you want to reconstruct the Yuanmingyuan, then to what extent do you want to do it? If your blueprint is the garden before it was burnt down, what's the significance in doing such a reconstruction? For ordinary people, beautiful as the grand imperial garden is, it is nothing but a place for the Qing Dynasty emperors to live a luxurious life. It's a symbol of waste of money and resources and the then imperial family's greediness. If such a garden still exists today, it will not add anything great to the Chinese history.


  To some extent, to renovate the burnt Yuanmingyuan is another burning of this garden. The historical status of this garden is already fixed and its impression on the nation is also fixed. Since it was burnt down by the Anglo-French army in 1860, its identity as an imperial garden has forever gone and it has become a historical symbol of humiliation of the Chinese nation, which has spurred generations to catch up with the rest of the world and stand up again.


  Any form of reconstruction is an attempt to encourage the Chinese people to forget history and this nation's past suffering. Its reconstruction might add another lucrative cultural scenic spot to Beijing, but it's by no means the Yuanmingyuan it used to be in history. The Chinese will feel strange about such a Yuanmingyuan, because it is another burning of this garden and puts an end to the usual definition of the Yuanmingyuan's historical position.


  The Yuanmingyuan is a historical monument. Standing on the relics, people can have a better and deeper understanding of China and even of the world.


  Liao Baoping (Yangcheng Evening News): According to the Yuanmingyuan Park's administrative office, reconstruction plans call for rebuilding the garden on a blank site. This "counterfeit" is supposed to be imitating the old one in both form and spirit, and should be protected as a historical relic. Two hundred years ago the garden was nothing but a place for the Qing emperors to enjoy life and kill time. It was used to show the superiority of the imperial family to the ordinary people. I don't know the purpose of building such a counterfeit, to show its greatness in its living days or to show today's prosperity?


  The ruins of the Yuanmingyuan will always remind Chinese people of the huge historic tragedy, while a reconstructed shiny counterfeit will at most encourage people to appreciate the beauty of it and worse still, the extravagance of the Qing Dynasty.


  The fact is, while they invested huge amounts of money snatched from the ordinary people, surely the Qing emperors felt proud of the country's prosperity and huge resources. They would never expect to see the day when this garden would be looted and burnt and their rule broke down and even the Chinese nation trampled by invaders.


  Looking back on history, the 150 years during which these emperors were busy building the Yuanmingyuan coincided with the time of industrial revolution in Western countries. While the West was making great headway in science, technology, and navigation and began imperialist expansion around the world, the Qing Dynasty rulers were immersed in the illusion of a prosperous era.


  In my opinion, the significance of protecting the ruins is to inform people of the price a government paid for its extravagance, greed, inability and corruption. The ruins will forever lie there as evidence of how China was gradually left behind by the world. It's better to maintain the garden's current situation than to do any reconstruction. What needs to be done is more archeological work, which is based on the respect to the history and the responsibility for the future generations.


  Wang Feng (Qilu Evening News): It is 151 years since Anglo-French allied forces looted and burnt the Yuanmingyuan down. Today, the call for the reconstruction of the garden rises again.


  Actually, the reconstruction is not a fresh topic. The disputes and controversies on whether to rebuild it have never stopped. This time the reconstruction is proposed in the name of strengthening China's cultural development. But will the Yuanmingyuan still be the symbol and evidence of national humiliation after rebuilding? The striking contrast between the original beautiful imperial garden and the ruins will undoubtedly shock visitors. The ruins are undoubtedly living patriotism education materials.


  Do you think Chinese citizens will feel proud when reconstruction presents the grandiosity and beauty of the Yuanmingyuan before it was ruined? Do you think that an adhesive bandage on history's scar will really remove the humiliating feeling from the nation's heart? What an illusion!


  After all, a nation needs to cherish its memory as well as its cultural relics and heritages. However, to reconstruct the Yuanmingyuan is to damage the history. The Planning on Yuanmingyuan Relics Park passed in 2000 is the most authoritative document on the garden's renovation and reconstruction. The principle of the planning is the protection of the relics and their original layout. Any renovation or restoration must respect the truth of history. The proposal of reconstruction is obviously a violation of this regulation.


  There is suspicion that some interest groups might want to make profits from the reconstruction program. In the 1980s, the reconstruction cost of the garden was estimated at 160 million yuan ($25.4 million) and will take 10 years. The expenses will surely be much higher today. Apart from the huge investments, the craft of the original construction is also lost. The reconstructed garden will thus be very different from the original one and even appear bizarre. This, if it happens, will completely damage this garden's ruins and relics and it will be too late to feel regretful by then.


  It is more important to remember the humiliation and misery this nation once suffered than to lie on the old grandiosity­­—if there was some. It's more meaningful to build more quality schools than to spend so much money on the reconstruction program.

The Imperial Gardens