Yuanmingyuan, which extolled as the "Garden of Gardens", was used to be an imperial summer palace for imperial family. The palace was continuously expanded under five emperors' supervision in the Qing Dynasty, and the expansion lasted for 150 years. Its glorious past might have come to an abrupt end as its buildings were destroyed by the British and French armies during the Second Opium War in 1860.
Why the Yuanmingyuan is special
Yuanmingyuan is recognized for its vast gardens, intricate architecture, and celebrated pieces of artwork. The immense gardens (which covered an area of 3.5 square kilometers) are filled with pavilions, temples, halls, galleries, lakes, and bridges. Artwork, antiques, and famous literary works can be found in the inner halls, temples, and galleries. The massive imperial compound is now a beautiful park filled with lakes and a wide variety of plant life.
Dashuifa (also called Grand Waterworks), facing south, was a group of fountains with a shrine-shaped structure in the background. In an oval pond was a hunting scene: a deer, whose horns sprayed water, was chased by a group of hounds, whose mouths shot water in the direction of the 13-layer fountain pyramids on both sides, this presented a magnificent display. To the south of Dashuifa was Guanshuifa, which was consisted of a throne facing north for the emperor to admire the Dashuifa, and a carved, curving stone screen. These two structures were both built around 1759.
Yuanyingguan, built in 1783 to the north of Dashuifa, was a large building in the shape of a western bell tower. The doors and windows were inlaid with 1,206 pieces of glass. The building was supported by over ten tall, white marble pillars, among which the most beautiful were the two supporting the central arched gate. They were both carved in detail from top to bottom in patterns of hanging grapes with life-like vines and leaves.
Yuanmingyuan is a relaxing place to spend the day and escape the crowds of the city. Taking 2-3 hours to walk throughout the gardens is well worth the time to explore the vast grounds. The site is huge, but there is much to take in and see. Exploring the ruins resembles taking a step back through history. The waters covered with lotus plants, the gentle trees shading the paths, and the thousands of vibrant flowers all create an enjoyable scene that will keep your eyes swiveling and your heart light.