YHEYUAN – THE GARDEN OF IMMEDIATE RELIGION Yheyuan Park is a former imperial summer residence.
Along with Versailles and Tsarskoye Selo, the Chinese Yheyuan Park went down in the history of world palace and park architecture as one of the greatest masterpieces. The landscape park in China was invented by philosophers, writers, and art connoisseurs, not by architects and gardeners. The Chinese master viewed the garden not as a natural landscape, but as a work of art.
More than eight centuries ago, Emperor Wan Yan-liang of the Qin Dynasty began to build a magnificent park in order to erect equally magnificent temples and palaces in it. The park was under construction for almost 300 years, and during that time servile craftsmen created artificial lakes, mountains, pagodas, bridges, pergolas and galleries. The current shape of the park was mostly defined by the 18th century: today there are over 500 various constructions of different types and at different times.
The Iheyuan Park is one of the most lush and intricately elaborate suburban palace complexes. It is located in the western suburbs of Beijing on and around Mount Wanshoushan (“Mountain of Longevity”). The present name of the mountain was given by Emperor Qian-long – in honor of his mother’s birthday, and the entire park was then called Jinyuan – “The Park of the Purest Water Ribble.” During the reign of the Qin dynasty emperors, the “Temple of Holy Welfare” and the city’s Summer Palace were erected on Mount Wanshoushan.
The layout and design of the palace-park incorporated the rich experience of many generations of Chinese architects, master gardeners and hardworking stone carvers. Builders took into account all peculiarities both in organization of large palace-park ensembles and in harmonic balance between native elements – mountains, reservoirs, plains, piles of stones, as well as between powerful architectural massifs and light decorative structures.
The most important centers of the Iheyuan Landscape Park were Wanshou Mountain and Kunminghu Lake (“Lake Like a Shining Lake”). “The Longevity Mountain” occupies nearly one-fourth of the entire park, and most of the palace buildings are concentrated on its slopes. The main axial line leading to the top of the mountain begins at the lake with a lush pailoo arch, decorated with carvings and paintings. This arch has five spans and is topped by three ceramic roofs. From the arch and rises to the top of the enfilade of palace and temple buildings.
The most diverse buildings are freely and picturesquely scattered across the mountainside, and at the same time, this apparent freedom is subject to strict canons and rules. A characteristic feature of Chinese architecture is to follow the rules of a special religious system used in choosing the place for buildings. This system is based on the doctrine of atmospheric and harmful influences – feng shui (wind – water). Therefore, all buildings in Yheyuan, according to the traditional rules of feng shui, are strictly oriented along the sides of the world, with their facades facing south.
The palace and park ensemble of Yehiyuan is a “garden within a garden. In the first garden, the Garden of Welfare and Peace, is Renshoudian Hall (“Hall of Humane Government and Longevity”).
Bronze lions, fantastic dragons and phoenixes, symbols of power and authority of the former Chinese emperors, meet the visitors in front of the entrance. In the XVIII century the Garden of Happiness and Peace was the center of theatrical performances.
The pavilions, picturesquely located on the shore of the lake – the Hall of Magnolias, the Hall of Happiness and Longevity, and others – stretch from the garden to the west.
On the shore of Kunminghoo Lake, the famous Chonlan Gallery (Long Gallery) curves with colorful multi-colors. It stretches along the winding lakeshore for 728 meters.
The Long Gallery begins with the “Gates of those who long to see the moon” in the east and ends with the “Gazebo of the Inscriptions on the Stone” in the west. The bright red columns of the gallery, the blue-green colors of the ornaments adorning the carved beams, are complemented by murals depicting the landscapes of Hangzhou and Xihu Lake, genre scenes, and magnificent calligraphy.
The Chonglan Gallery consists of 273 sections and is divided by four arbors whose two-tiered roofs with curved edges hide in the thick coniferous pine trees of China. At the end of the Long Gallery, on the western shore of the lake, stands one of the main attractions of Iheyuan Park, the shining white Marble Ship. When you look at it from a distance, it seems as if the ship is about to leave the shore and float on the lake surface.
In 1860 Beijing was sacked by British and French troops who wanted to punish China for allegedly failing to honor its treaty obligations to their countries. The foreign troops occupied Beijing and began to destroy the treasures of their ancient culture – temples, palaces and other monuments – that were dear to the heart of every Chinese. Thus, Yheyuan Park, the summer residence of the rulers of the Celestial Empire, was almost completely destroyed.
After the Summer Palace was burned by the British, Empress Qi Xi decided to rebuild it. It is said that she ordered three million kilograms of silver to be collected from all over the country in order to build the Chinese navy with this money. But all the money she collected was spent on building luxurious halls and arbors in the new summer residence. And everywhere she ordered to write the characters “longevity,” “humanity” and “justice,” hoping to immortalize her name.
After the renovation of the palace ensemble by Empress Ci Xi, the park was given its present name, Yheyuan, which also translates as “the Garden that Creates Harmony”. The Iheyuan, in which the Chinese masters most fully developed and manifold embodied it is landscape and picturesque, unfolds before the visitors, like a picturesque scroll. It is an image of the land with the alternation of the seasons, so the gardeners have arranged the plants according to the time of their blooming. At the Pavilion of Spring Knowledge, wild plum blooms on Chinese New Year’s Eve, while at the Hall of Magnolias orchids and Chinese magnolias bloom as a sign of the coming spring. Peonies and lotuses symbolize the richness of summer blooms, and chrysanthemums herald the arrival of fall. Evergreen bamboo and pine grow in almost every ensemble in the park, as they symbolize steadfastness, the immovable center of the universe and the inflexibility of a strong personality. Dark cypresses and juniper trees are signs of memory, which connects today with the past centuries.
Bridges are interesting examples of the stone architecture of feudal China. The humpback bridge in Yheyuan Park is especially famous. Its tall, beautifully curved arch, together with its reflection in the water, forms a ring. The full width of the bridge has stairs for ascending and descending.
No less exquisite in the patterned decoration of Iheyuan Park are the winding paths lined with colorful pebbles. The sculptural decoration of the park is also very diverse: there are marble sculptures, relief carvings on stone balustrades depicting dragons, phoenixes and lions, as well as bronze statues of the four sacred animals of the Celestial Empire (the dragon, tiger, unicorn and tortoise). They are usually placed in small courtyard-gardens among a group of stones or on a special pedestal. All elements of architectural decoration of the summer residence of Chinese emperors are intended to surprise and impress with the unusualness of their artistic embodiment, surprise, strangeness and joy.
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Iheyuan Park in Beijing – a fusion of architectural beauty and the magic of nature
A tourist trip to Beijing is undoubtedly filled with exciting and vivid impressions. After all, the “Middle Kingdom” combines amazingly beautiful examples of architecture with the magic of nature and the best example of this is the summer residence of Chinese emperors of the Qing dynasty – Yiheyuan Park in Beijing.
Planning a trip to Yiheyuan Park in Beijing
Bustling and crowded Beijing has for years attracted tourists from all over the world, fascinated by the mystery of Chinese culture and way of life. In addition to visiting the Great Wall of China, the Forbidden City in downtown Beijing, or Victoria Peak in Hong Kong, a trip to the Iheyuan palace and park complex is worthwhile.
At the time of the emperors this was a favorite resting place for members of the Qing dynasty. Today it is the perfect place for a day trip before discovering all of the vast and mysterious Beijing.
When I was planning my trip to China, I had time to read about many of its sights and hoped not only to see everything with my own eyes, but also to take pictures of what interested me. I was probably very involved in the preparations, so much so that I missed one important point: the weather is beyond our control.
All my clear hourly plans were disrupted, and I can’t boast of a hundred pictures of beautiful landscapes at sunrise or sunset, panoramas opening from high observation decks or beautiful reflections in the water of luxurious pagodas, with their amazing curved roofs. Still, I will show you something interesting, as I always do.
Today I present some of the pictures I took of the Summer Imperial Palace – Yheyuan Park in Beijing. It is one of forty Chinese sites inscribed on the World Heritage List as an Outstanding World Heritage Site back in 1998.
What is Yheyuan Park today
The park is now located within the city, not far from the subway station, and is very popular with the citizens just for a walk in the fresh air. Not only for them, but also for people from other parts of China, it’s a desirable place to relax.
Numerous boats float on the large man-made Kunming Lake, and there are 3,000 different structures: pavilions, halls, palaces, temples and bridges on 290 hectares of land. All these structures are amazingly diverse and unique, but at the same time, united in a harmonious ensemble of the highest aesthetic value, thanks to the art of landscape designers and architects.
The land from the excavation of the lake was transformed into a man-made mountain, the Mountain of Longevity, on which the Palace of Incense in honor of the Buddhas (Foxianghe), a symbol of Iheyuan Park, was built.
To get up to the top and see the whole complex, there are not simple stairs but covered painted galleries, and only at the highest point is a fairly steep ascent in the open space.
The views from the top are amazing. The descent in the opposite direction from the ascent leads to the lake and a wonderful Suzhou-style shopping street.
Before descending to the water, one has to walk steep, winding paths of stone steps: a serious challenge for untrained hikers. However, the beauty that opens up is really worth the effort. There is a lot to see. And the views tell us that we didn’t come all this way for nothing.
It is not easy at all to get on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The object must meet very strict selection criteria, and be truly unique on several fronts. Around the world today 911 such sites. Forty of them belong to China, Russia has 24 such sites, Ukraine and Belarus – 4, and Kazakhstan – only 3.
Getting on the list created by the staff of UNESCO, provides an opportunity to promote the natural and historical monuments, provides an influx of funding for the maintenance of historical and cultural sites in good condition.
Having on its territory a lot of very diverse cultural and natural complexes and developed infrastructure, any country becomes more attractive for tourism. On the example of China it is very well seen.
The world famous monastery in Shaolin, which has become synonymous with strength of spirit and martial arts mastery, is also officially included in the list of UNESCO, as a valuable cultural heritage site. Actually, this list includes not only the monastery itself, but the entire temple complex located in the central province of Henan near the town of Dengfeng.
It consists of ten other buildings and structures of similar cultural value. This observatory, several buildings of religious significance and the ancient academy of Sunyang. Tour operators have been encouraged by the news, preparing to increase the number of tours. However, many are already noticing an over-commercialization due to the influx of tourists.
The same problem of “overcrowding” exists on all the most popular tourist routes. The summer palace is no exception.
A stroll through the Emperor’s Summer Palace
The central point of Iheyuan is the 60-meter-high Longevity Hill and the artificial Kunming Lake, which covers an area of 2.2 square kilometers. And the complex itself is really huge, so wandering around it, it seems to me, can be endless.
It is extremely difficult to find a place free of groups of tourists to photograph any monument. The Chinese themselves just love to take pictures everywhere and everywhere, almost at every stone. They shout, fuss and constantly move from place to place.
I suffered through a long wait for the crowd to clear out, moved at the call of the guide to the right or left, and before I had time to make even a single shot, another group immediately took my place. The tourist conveyor belt works smoothly. Or maybe I’m not as nimble as I used to be.
Do not hope that you will be able to shoot as the cameramen of the same Dmitry Krylov do. The gates won’t open early for you, and no one will disperse the crowd of curious and incessantly yapping tourists. Recognizing this fact as an inevitability, I decided to shoot what you can do in China without problems: people.
Look at the different-aged tourists. A lot of very young children travel literally in the arms of their parents! By the way, not quite young, but also in their arms.
Many times I met such scenes: old people were accompanied by their relatives. Cute pictures, aren’t they?
The famous painted gallery became a kind of fair for enterprising sellers of all kinds of tourist and not only garbage.
In the picture below, for example, a woman with an ugly false nose sells whistles that you don’t have to blow – you just pull the string and you hear a shrill, unpleasant whistle, which for some reason delighted the kids. I am not going to scare you, you’d better listen to the sounds more suitable for the images of Chinese nature and architecture.
And one point that is not clear to me personally. Why is there a metal net around this beast? One can only guess. Not so long ago it was “walking” freely, as evidenced by the numerous pictures on the Internet. Did he bite someone who stepped on his tail?
But all this (the crowds of tourists and vendors) are, of course, trifles, which cannot be compared to the positive feelings that emerge during a tour of the Emperor’s Summer Residence – Iheyuan Park. Yes, and Kunming Lake itself is quite pleasant.
Here you can take a boat ride. From here you have the most beautiful view of the Summer Palace! A perfect place to relax and take a walk.
How much is the ticket to Yheyuan Park and what are the opening hours
A schematic map of the Summer Palace is below. It gives you a good idea of the size of the complex and where you are. By the way on it are marked eating places.
The map is laid out for the general idea of the complex. I myself think that in our age of smartphones it is much easier to go to the official Summer Palace summerpalace-china.com, and there . there is all the interactive and relevant information about the complex and the park.
As I said wander around the park can be pretty long, until the close. And it closes, depending on the season or at 19.00 or 20.00. Season also determines the cost of admission tickets. In more detail, like this:
- From April 1 to October 31, the complex begins operating at 6:30 and ends at 8 p.m., with the entrance gates open from 6:30 to 6 p.m. (to enter). The cost of a regular entrance ticket is 30 yuan;
- From November 1 to March 31, the complex begins at 7 a.m. and ends at 7 p.m. and the entrance gate is open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. (for visitors). The entrance fee for a standard ticket is 20 yuan.
We spent more than half of the day in the park and we liked it better than the Forbidden City. I definitely recommend it as a good self-guided tour for an economical trip when visiting Beijing!