Here we shortly present monuments from the Haidian region of Beijing, China.
Fragrant Hills Park (Xiangshan Park) is an imperial garden at the foot of the Western Mountains in the Haidian District, in the northwestern part of Beijing, China. It covers 1.6 km² (395 acres) and consists of a natural pine-cypress forest, hills with maple trees, smoke trees and persimmon trees, as well as landscaped areas with traditional architecture and cultural relics.
The name derives from the park’s highest peak, Xianglu Feng (Incense Burner Peak), a 557 meters (1827 ft) hill with two large stones resembling incense burners at the top.
The park was built in 1186 in the Jin dynasty (1115 to 1234) and expanded during the Yuan dynasty and Ming dynasty.
In 1745, the Qianlong Emperor (1711–1799) of the Qing dynasty ordered the addition of many new halls, pavilions and gardens and gave it a new name, Jingyi Palace (Garden of Tranquility and Pleasure).
Many of the relics in the park were damaged by foreign troops during two major attacks. In 1860, British troops set the Old Summer Palace ablaze, burning it to the ground along with the Gardens of Perfect Brightness, causing extensive damage to many relics in the park. Another attack in 1900 by the Eight-Nation Alliance caused destruction to the park and to the Summer Palace built by Empress Dowager Cixi.
The Old Summer Palace, known in Chinese as Yuanming Yuan (‘Gardens of Perfect Brightness’), and originally called the Imperial Gardens, was a complex of palaces and gardens in present-day Haidian District, Beijing, China.
It is 8 kilometres (5.0 mi) northwest of the walls of the former Imperial City section of Beijing.
Constructed throughout the 18th and early 19th centuries, the Old Summer Palace was the main imperial residence of Qianlong Emperor of the Qing dynasty and his successors, and where they handled state affairs; the Forbidden City was used for formal ceremonies.
Widely perceived as the pinnacle work of Chinese imperial garden and palace design, the Old Summer Palace was known for its extensive collection of gardens, its building architecture and numerous art and historical treasures.
It was reputed as the “Garden of Gardens” in its heyday.
In 1860, during the Second Opium War, as the Anglo-French expedition force relentlessly approached Beijing, two British envoys, a journalist for The Times and a small escort of British and Indian troopers were sent to meet Prince Yi under a flag of truce to negotiate a Qing surrender.
Meanwhile, the French and British troops reached the palace and conducted extensive looting and destruction.
Later on, as news emerged that the negotiation delegation had been imprisoned and tortured, resulting in 20 deaths, the British High Commissioner to China, Lord Elgin, retaliated by ordering the complete destruction of the palace, which was then carried out by British troops.
The palace was so large – covering more than 800 acres – that it took 4000 men 3 days of burning to destroy it.
Many exquisite artworks – sculptures, porcelain, jade, silk robes, elaborate textiles, gold objects and more – were stolen and are now found in 47 museums around the world, according to UNESCO.
Biyun Temple in Xiangshan Park
The Temple of Azure Clouds, or Biyun Temple, is a Buddhist temple located in the eastern part of the Western Hills, just outside the north gate of Fragrant Hills Park (Xiangshan Gongyuan), in the Haidian District, a northwestern suburb of Beijing, China, approximately 20 km from the city center.
It was built in the 14th century (possibly in 1331), during the Yuan dynasty (1271–1368) and was expanded in 1748.
The temple, which is built on six different levels over an elevation of nearly 100 meters, is known for its fine scenery.
The temple also includes the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, which is located at the center of the temple complex.
Two other prominent features are the Arhats Hall and the Vajrasana Pagoda.
Inside Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall lies an empty crystal coffin presented by the Soviet government in 1925 in memory of Sun Yat-sen (his body had already been entombed and placed at the temple pagoda until its relocation to Nanjing in 1929).
There are 512 statues, which include 500 wooden Arhats, 11 Bodhisattvas and one statue of Ji Gong (a famous Buddhist monk) inside the Hall of Arhats.
All the Arhats are vivid, life-size statues with different poses and expressions.
It has been said that two of these Arhats were the statues of the Kangxi Emperor and the Qianlong Emperor of the Qing dynasty (1644–1911).
In addition to these life-sized images, there is a miniature statue of Ji Gong perched on an overhead beam.
(Important Note: ALL photographs of this article added to the sourced texts by NovoScriptorium after kind courtesy of our friend Ben Lee – ALL photographs originally taken by Ben Lee)