Summer Palace, an Imperial Garden in Beijing (1998)

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China 1979. The Summer Palace and gardens in Beijing.

The Summer Palace in Beijing first built in 1750, largely destroyed in the war of 1860 and restored on its original foundations in 1886 is a masterpiece of Chinese landscape garden design. The natural landscape of hills and open water is combined with artificial features such as pavilions, halls, palaces, temples and bridges to form a harmonious ensemble of outstanding aesthetic value. 

  • China 1979. Summer Palace in Beijing. 

Around 16 km northwest of Beijing, the great aesthetician, Emperor Qianlong (1736-1795) had built a masterpiece of garden art and architecture, "Yuanming Yuan", better known under the name "The Old Summer Palace. It was erected in the most lavish style ever seen in China, and planned by the Italian Jesuit missionary and artist Giuseppe Castiglione, who had the castle of Versailles in his mind for pleasing the emperor. But during the second Opium War (1856-1860) the western powers, headed by the British and French governments, plundered the palace and transformed it into brickbats.  

Cixi, originally concubine of the third rank, instated herself on the Dragon Throne after the Emperor's death, and reigned China in a most unscrupulous and egocentric way for the next 50 years, to begin with in her youngest son's name.  By the help of young women and other secular temptations she kept him away from politics until his death as 18 years old.  

Disregarding the established hereditary order she now instated her young nephew as emperor, but continued reigning "behind the throne" until he had come of age.  At this moment she finally retired to Yiheyuan Palace.  

  • Photograph of Empress Cixi. 

Photograph of Empress Cixi.

Photograph of the Summer Palace and the Pagoda, Beijing. Photograph of the Pagoda in the gardens of the Summer Palace, Beijing.

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. The imperial Chinese garden, illustrated by the Summer Palace, is a potent symbol of one of the major world civilizations. 

Sources and links:

Other World Heritage Sites in China (on this site). Inactive links are not described on stamps. Please refer to the UNESCO-listing, section China for further information about the individual properties.  

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Revised 20 jun 2007  
Copyright 1999 Heindorffhus
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