Imperial Gardens in Beijing's Haidian District2016-08-25 11:21:12Share:
All emperors loved to build palaces and gardens in this northwestern suburb of Beijing. With its outstanding people, waters and hills, Haidian District abounds in natural and cultural resources. Imperial gardens were built from the Qing Dynasty Emperor Kangxi onwards including Changchun Garden, the Old Summer Palace, Jingyi Palace at Fragrant Hills, Jingming Garden at Yuquan Mountain and Qingyi Garden at Longevity Hill. There were also more than 100 gardens belonging to the imperial court or private gardens owned by princes and aristocrats. The imperial gardens embody rich traditional Chinese culture and represent the highest level of Chinese landscape design.
The imperial gardens that functioned as practical, social gardens are clustered in west Beijing. Geographically, these gardens are scattered across an area of dozens of kilometers and perfectly connect with each other. Looking from Guijianchou (Worried Ghost Peak) on the Fragrant Hills, one can admire the magnificent imperial scenery: pagodas and pavilions atop hills and mountains with towers, random pavilions and bridges dotting the plains and lakes. The emperors used to live and govern in these gardens, making them an alternative political center to the Forbidden City. Construction of the gardens in west Beijing also influenced the social development of Haidian district during the Qing Dynasty and revolutionized the former rural life of these areas.
The western Beijing imperial gardens gradually declined following the plunder and destruction by British and French troops in 1860 and the eight-nation alliance in 1900. Only the new Summer Palace, built on the ruins of Qingyi Garden, retained the bulk of its original look, but their influence on Haidian district has never disappeared. Haidian’s modernization has benefited considerably from these gardens.
Imperial gardens in west Beijing are the cornerstone of the new, modern Haidian. All six iconic landscape parks – the Summer Palace, the Old Summer Palace, Fragrant Hills Park, Yuyuantan Park, Purple Bamboo Park and Beijing Botanical Garden – and six temples – the Temple of Azure Clouds, Five Pagoda Temple, Big Bell Temple, Wanshou Temple, Great Awakening Temple and Temple of Reclining Buddha – were developed from former imperial gardens and temples.
The resources of the imperial gardens in west Beijing also attracted many educators and other authorities to set up universities and colleges like Tsinghua, Yenching, Beijing Agricultural and the Sino-French as well as academic, military and government sectors, making it into the most concentrated higher education and intellectual area in China after the founding of a new China in 1949. With reform and opening to the outside world, technology developed fast. Zhongguancun Electronics Street and Zhongguancun Science Park were built here, attracting global attention.
Imperial gardens represented the highest achievement of imperial garden culture during the Ming and Qing dynasties. They are the essence of the profound history and culture of China as well as important tourism draws for Haidian. They are Beijing’s cultural “green lung”, its ancient DNA and history. Imperial gardens epitomized the politics and culture of these last two feudal dynasties, charting the future course of modern China. As a site of world cultural heritage, this cultural treasure trove has been inherited from ancient Chinese civilization.
In December 1998, UNESCO included the Summer Palace on its World Heritage List, noting three criteria:
"The Summer Palace in Beijing is an outstanding expression of the creative art of Chinese landscape garden design, incorporating the works of humankind and nature in a harmonious whole."
"The Summer Palace epitomizes the philosophy and practice of Chinese garden design, which played a key role in the development of this cultural form throughout the east."
Knowing, protecting and building the imperial gardens historic and cultural scenic area has significant meaning in promoting the social and economic development of Haidian and building Beijing into a city of the world.
Keywords: Beijing Haidian District imperial gardens Summer Palace
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