Old Summer Palace
The ruins of the Old Summer Palace are a few hundred
meters away from the existing Summer Palace, not far from the Beijing
and Qinghua Universities. The northern entrance is guarded by two
stone lions and the little paths lead to a field of ruins. Unexpectedly,
visitors will find the remains of pillars and frescos that are more
likely to be associated with the European baroque style than with
The palace and park were built under the Qing
emperors in the 18th century. The grounds were at the time referred
to as the "garden of perfect purity" and a classic example
of Chinese landscape gardening. Emperor Yonzheng redesigned and
extended the park, but it was Emperor Qianlong who brought it to
Inspired by French and Italian palaces, Qianlong
gave order for buildings to be built in the rococo style. Between
1747-1759, under the supervision of the Jesuit Guiseppe Castiglione
from Genoa, beautiful palaces akin to those in Europe were built,
complete with European furniture and mazes in the garden.
This grandeur was destroyed over 3 days by French
and British troops during the Second Opium War (1860-1862). Angered
by China’s foreign policies, the allied forces punished the imperial
court by ordering troops to pillage and set fire to the palaces.
The Chinese part of the palace made from wood was completely destroyed
and only a few ruins of the European buildings remain.
The grounds remain an oasis among the hustle and bustle of modern day Beijing. Visitors will enjoy the serenity and beauty of the Fu Hai lake where in the summer, paddle and rowing boats can be hired. There is also a Garden History Exhibition Hall with drawings and models of the palace in its former glory as well as a synopsis of the history of the Old Summer Palace. The maze was also restored in concrete form by French architects and historians in the 1980s.