A calling of history

2021-03-23 12:04:23

A photograph, taken in 1877 by Thomas Child, shows the remains of Haiyantang, and its Western-style architecture, in Yuanmingyuan in Beijing.[Photo provided to China Daily] Quest for photos of the Old Summer Palace after 1860 sees one man enhance our present by examining the past, Wang Kaihao reports. For Chinese people, the name Yuanmingyuan, or the Old Summer Palace in Beijing, resonates through history. It represents an inerasable collective memory-of glory or pain. Strangely, for something that ushers in such an emotional response, no one knows exactly how it looked in its heyday. First constructed in 1707, this former royal resort of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), covering roughly 350 hectares in the northwest of Beijing, witnessed the rules of six emperors, and is generally considered to represent the zenith of ancient Chinese gardening art, as its name indicates-"the garden of perfect brightness". Nevertheless, the sabotage and destruction left in the wake of the invading Anglo-French alliance forces in 1860 changed everything. This infamous incident was the backdrop to a myriad national treasures being looted and marked a turning point in the imperial resort's destiny. In the following decades, history's scattered debris seemed to speak across the generations, right up to today's visitors to Yuanmingyuan Ruins Park.