Gardening

A Paradise Lost: The Imperial Garden Yuanming Yuan by Young-tsu Wong

By Young-tsu Wong

Famous for its magnificient structure and background, the Yuanming Yuan is China's most famed imperial backyard. the writer brings "the backyard of excellent brightness" to lifestyles as he leads readers on a grand travel of its structure and background.

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Additional info for A Paradise Lost: The Imperial Garden Yuanming Yuan

Example text

A more recent scholar has called the Yuanming Yuan the “the garden of ten-thousand gardens” (wanyuan zhi yuan) in reference to its ingenious and judicious disposition on a large lake and near the tall West Hills in the neighborhood (Chen Congzhou 1994, 5). Indeed, due to the excellent location, pleasant country homes appeared here as early as the Yuan dynasty in the thirteenth century. By the sixteenth century, natural beauty made this region so attractive that the Marquis Li Wei of the Ming was inspired to construct the wellknown Clear Flowery Garden (Qinghua Yuan), which had claims to be “the leading garden in the region” (jingguo diyiyuan).

Sandwiched between two small lakes, the emperor’s own bedroom was also located in this vast compound, which Qianlong designated as the Nine Continents in Peace (Yu Mingzhong 1985, 2:1331–1332; Wang Wei 1992, 21). This designation seems to suggest that the emperor wished to survey “all under heaven” in microcosm. The imperial bedroom and seraglio in the Nine Continents were forbidden ground, and yet the European visitor Father Attiret was able to see them. He found there “all the most beautiful things that can be imagined as to furniture, ornaments, and paintings.

Crossing a stream over a flat bridge from the site of the Five-Fortunes Hall, one arrived at the Blue Phoenix-Tree Academy (Bitong Shuyuan). Its main structure, facing south, included a three-column front house, a fivecolumn main court, and a five-column rear court. Tidy Wutong trees grew on each side of the courtyards to provide long shade over the houses, which appeared to be hidden. Qianlong is said to have loved coming here to hear the sounds of rain, which inspired him to write poems. Westward from the academy was the Gentle Clouds Cover All (Ciyun Puhu).

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