The Old Summer Palace

The Old Summer Palace, the Ruins of the original Imperial Garden of Perfection and Light (Yuanmingyuan in Chinese), is located in Haidian District of Beijing and 5km to the northeast of the present Summer Palace. The Palace consisted of three gardens: the Garden of Perfect and Brightness, the Garden of Eternal Spring, and the Elegant Spring Garden. This 347-hectare large Imperial Garden was a complex of both Chinese and western palaces, exquisite gardens, pavilions, and numerous cultural artifacts.

First constructed in 1709 during the reign of the Emperor Kangxi of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), the Palace has served for administration, recreation and living purposes for the emperors of the Qing Dynasty. Over the next 150 years of expansion, this Garden came to be the largest and most luxurious imperial garden in Chinese history.

The Old Summer Palace was once a gathering of Chinese artistic, architectural and cultural masterpieces. It was home to extensive collection of ancient antiquities, famous paintings, unique copies of literary works, and other kinds of historical relics. The well designed halls, pavilions, temples, gardens, lakes, and rockeries represent great values to various Chinese gardening styles.

Unfortunately, the beautiful and magnificent Palace was looted and burned by European colonial powers in 1860 during the Second Opium War. Large quantities of gold ornaments, porcelain, paintings, and other treasures were plundered from the gardens and now remain in foreign museums and private collections. The fire burnt down most sites of the Palace, left only some European-style stone architectures.

The ruins were left abandoned until 1980s when the Chinese government decided to turn the ruin site to a historical park. Since its opening in 1988, the park offers visitors an opportunity to feel and imagine the former splendor of the Old Summer Palace from the ruins and some recovery structures. Moreover, the refilled lakes and waterways, and the wood covered hills provide people with a lovely place to stroll and relax.