YuanmingyuanYuanmingyuan or the Garden of Perfection and Brightness, located on the northwestern outskirts of Beijing, is one of the five famous gardens built during the Qing Dynasty. With its charming landscape and numerous springs, the area has always been the site of gardens and parks. In 1723 when Qing Emperor Yongzheng came to the throne, he ordered Yuanmingyuan be built and its construction lasted over a period of 150 years.
Yuanmingyuan actually included three separate gardens. The one dating back to the Yongzheng period was called Yuanmingyuan and the other two gardens added in its vicinity under the Qianlong’s reign were called Changchunyuan (Garden of Everlasting Spring) and Wanchunyuan (Garden of Eternal Spring). The three put together, Yuanmingyuan covered an area of nearly 350 hectares.

In the southern part of the garden were built three rows of palaces, with the Hall of Uprightness and Brilliance standing at its centre.
The garden was later expanded. Lakes and canals were excavated, hills made and trees planted. More palaces and pavilions were built to add beauty to the landscape. Five Qing emperors, from Yongzheng to Xianfeng, spent most of their time in Yuanmingyuan, holding audiences and attending to state affairs.

The landscaping of Yuanmingyuan was based on the famous gar-dens in south China, which embodied the fine tradition of Chinese gardening and the refined skills of Chinese art and architecture. .

Halls and pavilions were built into the landscape, halfway up the hills, in the valleys or in mid-lakes. The interiors used partitions, screens and decorative windows to give a sense of close proximity to the outside world.

Some Western-style buildings were constructed in the northeastern corner of the garden. Built mainly of stone and in Renaissance style, the buildings were decorated with glazed-tiled roofs. Unfortunately, when the Anglo-French forces invaded Beijing in 1860, the whole grounds were set on fire. In 1900, Yuanmingyuan was again plundered by the Allied Forces of the Eight Powers. Warlords and bandits stole or destroyed what was left.

The pieces that escaped destruction include the marble columns standing on the Peking University campus and the Beijing Library courtyard. The stone screens with carvings of banners and armour, which were moved to other places, have been returned to Yuan mingyuan.
Soon after the founding of new China, the late Premier Zhou Enlai gave an instruction that Yuanmingyuan should be preserved. Now, outlines of the imperial garden can still be traced, and much of the area has been planted with trees. Paths and bridges have been renovated
A museum has been set up showing the history of Yuanmingyuan and plans for its future restoration.

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