Beijing Old Summer Palace 4——Labyrint...
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Beijing Old Summer Palace 4——Labyrinth in Yuanmingyuan

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The Old Summer Palace which is also known as the Ruins of the Yuanmingyuan (the Garden of Perfection and Light) is located northwest of Beijing and to the east of the (present-day) Summer Palace. The Garden was first constructed in the year of 1709 during the reign of the Emperor Kangxi of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). Over the next 150 years of the Qing Dynasty, this Garden was expanded to be a large-scale Chinese emperors' private pleasure garden, covering a total area of 350 hectares (over 864 acres).

 Generally speaking, the Old Summer Palace consists of three parts - Yuanmingyuan, Wanchunyuan (the Garden of Blossoming Spring) and Changchunyuan (the Garden of Eternal Spring). These three gardens are often referred to as one common name: Yuanmingyuan. Hundreds of scenic spots in the Garden are made up of exquisitely constructed halls, pavilions, chambers, kiosks, earth and rock hills, rivers and ponds, and exotic flowers and grasses from different parts of the country. Indeed, it embodies the essence of Chinese ancient landscape gardening.
 To be distinct from other traditional Chinese Gardens, the garden construction and horticulture of Yuanmingyuan is a harmonious blend of typical Chinese scenery and western architecture. The more famous scenic spots include, for example, the Grand Waterworks, the Throne for viewing the Waterworks and the Labyrinth. No wonder Yuanmingyuan was also called the 'garden of gardens' or the 'Versailles of the East' in Europe during that era. Furthermore, Yuanmingyuan was also an imperial museum that collected a large number of books, treasures and cultural artifacts. However, a large number of these collections were plundered by the Anglo-French Allied Forces in 1860, at the same time as the Garden was burnt down. Now, most of these historical curiosities are displayed in the other countries' museums, including the British Museum; Bibliotheque Nationale de France; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, USA; Oslo Museum of Applied Art and so on.
The vast majority of the remaining scenic spots were destroyed in the 1980's, but under the due protection of the ruins of Yuanmingyuan, a park has been established on the ruin site. So visitors can imagine the former grandeur of the Old Summer Palace from the crumbling walls and ruins. What's more, there is also an opportunity for visitors to view the complete picture of Yuanmingyuan in its 'heyday' in the exhibition hall. The reconstruction of some of the original structures and scenic spots provides people with a lovely place to relax.
 Today, the destruction of the Gardens of Perfect Brightness is still regarded as a symbol of foreign aggression and humiliation in China.
http://www.travelchinaguide.com/attraction/beijing/yuanmingyuan.htm

360-degree panorama photography by yunzeng liu

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Questo panorama è stato scattato in Beijing

Questa è una vista generale di Beijing

Overview and History

In the Stone Age, "Peking Man" lived near Beijing -- as many as 500,000 years ago. The earliest relics in China are stone tools dating to this time period. Between four and five thousand years ago there were agricultural settlements southwest of Beijing. They were the beginning of a city that would go through several name changes over the millenia.

The legendary Yellow Emperor Huang Di battled Chiyou "in the wilderness of the Zhou prefecture." Zhoulu is a town to the west of modern Beijing. The Yellow Emperor's successor, Emperor Yao, established a capital city called Youdo. Youdo became a place called Ji, and Ji was taken over by the Marquis of Yan during the period of the Warring States (475 B.C.)

Ji remained an important city for ten centuries. From China's first feudal empire through to the end of the Tang Dynasty, Ji was a strategic military center in the campaign to unite all of China.

By the end of the Tang Dynasty in 907 A.D., the Qidan army came from the north and occupied Ji. They called it Nanjing, which meant "southern capital." During this time the Liao Dynasty ruled and carried out many reconstruction projects in the city, fortifying it for greater military use.

The Nuzhen army conquered the Liao and established the Jin dynasty as of 1115 A.D., moving the city of Ji and renaming it "Zhongdu" which means "Central Capital." This meant more expansion and construction of palaces until the city spanned five kilometers across and contained an estimated one million people.

Mongolian raiders invaded Zhongdu in 1215 A.D. and renamed it Dadu. Under Kublai Khan the Yuan Dynasty took Dadu as its capital and unified China!

Since Zhongdu had been destroyed by fire in the change from Jin to Yuan dynasties, Kublai Khan took on a reconstruction project that was to expand the city into rectangular shape. It became the political center of the country with three main areas -- imperial palaces, the city walls, and the canal.

By the coming of the thirteenth century, Dadu was a world famous city which astounded Marco Polo when he arrived. In his record he writes, "You must know that it is the greatest palace that ever was..."

In 1368 Ming soldiers captured Dadu and renamed it Beiping or "Northern Peace." It went through another period of reconstruction which saw walls twelve meters high built around its perimeter, walls ten meters thick which took fifteen years to build. When they were done, Beiping became the official capital of the Ming Dynasty. With the completion of the palaces and gardens in 1420, Emperor Yongle renamed the city Beijing, "Northern Capital."

Beijing grew once more and took on a rectangular shape with two distinct sections, the Inner City (Tartar) and the Outer City (Chinese). Its city planners gave it an organized arrangement that still felt relaxed.

The Qing Dynasty came along circa 1644 A.D. and the Manchus built extended suburban gardens. These took more than a whole century to make, but when they were finished the open-air pavilions and palaces stood as a masterpiece of Chinese architecture. This was proper to show the power and refinement of traditional China, a fitting design for the capital of the empire.

The Qing Dynasty lasted until 1911 but collapsed into chaos at the hands of the Northern Warlords. Beijing suffered a lack of leadership until 1949, when the People's Liberation Army entered the city. From Tian'anmen Square in the center of the city, Chairman Mao Zedong proclaimed the foundation of the People's Republic of China, with Beijing as its capital.

Since then it has continued to expand, surpassing the nine gates of the inner city wall, beyond the seven outer gates, and into the suburbs. Beijing now takes up 750 square kilometers! The city retains its old symmetry with a central axis that runs north-south, and the Imperial Palace Museum at the center. This palace was once called the "Forbidden City" but it is now a museum open to the public.

Getting There

The Beijing Capital International Airport is located 25km northeast of the city. It is the center of China's civil aviation network and it connects to 69 cities worldwide. The airport is linked to the city by bus, taxi and Beijing Subway Airport Line.

The city government operates one bus line and private buses go and come from several hotels. The taxi stand is outside the terminal, as always, so don't ride with the drivers who harass you inside the terminal. A ride to the city center should cost about 70 RMB plus 15 RMB highway toll. You should also know that there's an airport tax of 90 RMB for international travelers. Keep your receipt!

Transportation

Within the city you can choose from 67,000 GPS-equipped taxis, the bus or the metro. Half of their buses are running on natural gas now, which is a good move considering the city is adding fifty new bus routes per year. Whoa!

The metro has two routes, the Loop Line and Line One. The Loop has sixteen stations and it runs parallel to where the city wall stood in the Ming era. Line One has twenty-one stops going from the suburbs on one side all the way across to the other side. It is safe to assume that there will be more metro lines to follow as Beijing grows.

People and Culture

One of the unique sights in Beijing is a park filled with retired people doing their exercises early in the morning. Tai ch'i, QiGong, sword dancing and shadow boxing are forms of exercise and relaxation which have existed for more than two thousand years and are still popular today.

Drinking tea in a teahouse and enjoying a folk opera in an old-style theater are both popular activities in Beijing culture. Beijing has more bars and pubs than any other Chinese city (more than 400), and it's also full of antique shops, silk markets and museums.

Things to do, Recommendations

Beijing is massive and filled with interesting things to explore. For just a few examples, take a look at these:

The National Stadium (bird's nest), the Water Cube, and ruins of the Yuan Dynasty city wall.

If you like art, you have to check out the 798 Art District. It's named for Factory #798 and the district contains hundreds of galleries, bookstores and restaurants. Have fun!

Text by Steve Smith.

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