China Peony Festival Tour April 2009


The Yuanmingyuan Garden

Yuanmingyuan was originally built in 1709, or the 48th year of the reign of Emperor Kangxi, whose reign of 61 years was the longest among all Qing monarchs. Repeated expansions conducted by his successors, emperors Yongzheng and Qianlong, resulted in an imperial garden of unprecedented scale. Yuanmingyuan covered an area of 350 hectares and consisted of Yuanmignyuan, Changchunyuan and Qichunyuan, which were collectively known as Yuanmingyuan. Its surface structures covered exactly the same floor space as the Former Imperial Palace, while its water surface was as large as the entire Summer Palace. During the Qing Dynasty, emperors Yongzheng, Qianlong, Jiaqing. Daoguang and Xianfeng had all lived in this garden on a permanent basis. While they enjoyed life there, they also handled state affairs. Like the Forbidden City, Yuanmingyuan became another political center of China. For this reason it was also known as Imperial Garden.

It was a man-made cultural phenomenon unseen elsewhere in this world. The southern part of the garden was where emperors handled state affairs, while the other parts were studded with more than 150 scenic spots, which comprised exquisitely constructed halls, pavilions, chambers, kiosks, earth and rock hills, rivers and ponds, and exotic flowers and strange trees from different parts of the country. It was, indeed, a museum of garden construction and horticulture. Yuanmingyuan differed from other classical Chinese gardens in that its typical Chinese scenery was mingled with Western architecture. It was a colossal botanical garden as well, having been planted with millions of precious trees and flowers.

It was pity that Yuanmingyuan was sacked during the invasion of Anglo-French Allied forces in 1860 and again during the invasion of the Eight-Power Allied Force 1900. The buildings were burned to the ground, and the treasures in it were rooted. A world-famous garden was thus reduced to ruins. This was a catastrophe in the world history of civilization. Today the ruins of Yuanmingyuan have been put under due protection. A park was established at the site so that from the crumbling walls and ruins people could gain some idea about the former glory of this imperial garden. Luxurious woods and sparkling lakes and ponds combine to create a scene of captivating beauty. Some of the original structures and scenic spots have been restored.

What this place must have looked like before it was destroyed must have been truly unbelievable.

The Summer Palace, the grand garden park of the Empress Dowager, Cixi. The Summer Palace is the largest imperial garden in the world. It contains classical Chinese garden architecture. The initial construction of the Summer Palace started in the year 1750, commissioned by Emperor Qianlong as a gift for his mother's birthday. The construction took fifteen years to complete. It had the name "Qingyi Yuan" (Garden of Clear Ripples) at that time. Plundering by foreign troops in the year 1860 destroyed most of the buildings, but they were renovated in 1888 by Empress Dowager Cixi, who was said to have embezzled funds of the Imperial Navy to build the garden. After the year 1949, the garden became a park and got the name Yiheyuan (Summer Palace).

One of my joys while traveling as you can see by the pictures is taking pictures of people. You have to be careful in China though because a lot of the older folks believe that if you take a picture of them, that their soul is taken. But when I saw this old man with the glasses and nosepiece on for his grandchild I showed him my camera and he happily posed for this….what a memory. I shall never forget that. His wife was beside him with as big a smile as he had. The fellow writing on the sidewalk gathered a lot of attention as well. Our guide is explaining what he is writing.

A stop to see pearls – look how many are in that oyster!

On the way back stop at one of the 13 Ming Tombs then a stroll down the beautiful Sacred Way, lined with trees and huge statues. Among the many Sacred Ways, the one of Ming Tombs' is best preserved and complete. The Sacred Way starts with a huge stone memorial archway lying at the front of the area. Constructed in 1540, during the Ming Dynasty, this archway is the earliest and biggest stone archway existing in China today. Farther in, the Shengong Shengde Stele Pavilion can be seen. Inside it, there lies a 50-ton tortoise carrying a stone tablet. A white marble Huabiao (ornamental pillar) is positioned at each corner of the stele pavilion. At the top of each is stationed a mythical beast facing either inward or outward, expressing hope that the emperor will neither cling to the palace nor forget to return to the Palace to handle state affairs. Then come two Roof Pillars on each side of the road, whose surfaces are carved with the cloud design, and tops are shaped like a rounded cylinder. After the 18 pairs of stone statues which are all sculpted from whole stones, and larger than life size, comes the Dragon and Phoenix Gate.

This place is so restful. While many of our group took the little golfcart I chose to walk as that way I could take pictures at my own speed. Just look at that magnificent walkway lined with trees and huge statues.

The other shots are those of the city….

After lunch we transferred to the airport and flew to Xian. Upon arrival, we transferred to the Xian Hotel for the next two nights. Xian Hotel


  • New Eden
  • Kids Garden
  • Plant a Row Grow a Row