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 ideal brightness" to lifestyles as he leads readers on a grand travel of its structure and background.
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Extra info for A Paradise Lost: The Imperial Garden Yuanming Yuan
Further back was an expansive complex of structures consisting of the Memorial Hall (Ji’en Tang) in the middle, the Nourishing Simplicity Study (Yangsu Shuwu) to the west, and the Resting Cloud Chamber (Qiyun Lou) to the east (Yu Mingzhong 1985, 2:1336; Yuanming Yuan sishijing tuyong 1985: 13). The central theme of this scene was the peony. The great Song philosopher Zhou Dunyi (1017–1073) had designated this particular flower to symbolize riches and honor, and Kangxi identiﬁed ninety di¤erent kinds of peony in his imperial garden (Wu Zhenyu 1983, 278).
The principal structure of Pinghu Qiuyue (Calm Lake under Autumn Moon). Sketch by Joseph C. Wang and Xingbai Yue. Impartiality (Kuoran Dagong) at the northwest corner of the lake. This scenery consisted of a seven-column main structure also called the Boundless Impartiality; the All-Round Pretty Cottage (Huanxiu Shanfang); the Double Cranes Chapel (Shuanghe Zhai); the Lakeside Chamber (Linhu Lou), and a large pond. At the southern end of the lake’s west shore stood the Bath in Virtue (Zaoshen Yongde), which features the three-column Clear Void Gazebo (Chengyuan Xie) facing east with two smaller structures on its sides, namely, the Conceiving Pure Light (Han Qinghui) and the Conceiving Wonderful View (Han Miaoshi).
Moreover, the terrain allowed a gigantic garden to achieve its maximum aesthetic e¤ects. As the great modern Chinese architect Liang Sicheng summarizes, the Yuanming Yuan was essentially a design of hillocks and lakes with buildings, courts, chambers, pavilions, arbors, and other structures in between. Even though symmetry and balance were stressed, Liang goes on, greater emphasis was placed on variations and liveliness in accordance with topography to the extent of being unconventional. Although the garden, for Liang’s critical eyes, perhaps contained too many man-made structures, which jeopardized the beauty of the landscape, he has no doubt about its lively creativity (1985, 3:225, 231).
A Paradise Lost: The Imperial Garden Yuanming Yuan by Young-tsu Wong