Also known as the Ruins of the Yuanmingyuan, the Old Summer Palace 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). To be distinct from other traditional Chinese Gardens, the garden construction and horticulture of the Old Summer Palace is a harmonious blend of typical Chinese scenery and western architecture. Famous scenic spots in it include the Grand Waterworks, the Throne for viewing the Waterworks and the Labyrinth. No wonder the Old Summer Palace was also called the ‘garden
of gardens’ or the ‘Versailles of the East’ in Europe during that era. Furthermore, it 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 1900s, but under the due protection of the ruins, a park has been established on the ruin site. So visitors can imagine the former grandeur of it from the crumbling walls and ruins. What’s more, there is also an opportunity for visitors to view the complete picture of the garden 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.
By the way, my alma mater Beijing 101 Middle/high School is located to the southern part of the park, it is actually one part of the park. We used to be able to access the ruins for free.