- Hall of Benevolence and Longevity
- Hall of Jade Ripples
- Yiyun House
- The Hall of Happiness and Longevity
- The Hall of Dispelling Clouds
Hall of Benevolence and Longevity
The Hall of Benevolence and Longevity is the main construction of the political center in Summer Palace. It was first built by Emperor Qianlong (1711-1799) within the predecessor of Summer Palace. Burned down by the Anglo-French allied forces during the first Opium war in 1860, it was reconstructed in 1888.
This spacious and plush hall was originally called ‘the Hall of Diligent Government’ to inspire rulers to manage state affairs diligently. During Emperor Guangxu’s reign(1875-1908), this hall was rebuilt and the name was changed to the current one, from the famous Confucian saying - ‘the ruler who reigns benevolently will have the key to eternity’.
Hall of Jade Ripples
The Hall of Jade Ripples was first built in 1750 by Emperor Qianlong, a wonderful place where Emperor Qianlong managed state affairs. It was rebuilt in 1892 during Emperor Guangxu’s reign and used his living quarters.
Constructed in traditional Siheyuan style, a historical type of residence that was commonly found in Beijing with a main hall in the middle and two annex halls beside. This courtyard took the name of the main hall from a verse, ‘Jade Spring with Rippling Water’. The main hall is south facing, and the back door of it leads to Yiyun House, the House where his Empress Longyu once lived. The annex hall is in the east, and another is in the west, both of which have back doors, with the former leading to the Hall of Benevolence and Longevity where the Emperor conducted government business there and later to lake front wharf where you can find the most spectacular view in the Summer Palace.
Hall of Jade Ripples is famous for a historical event - the Hundred Days’ Reform in 1898. The Reform Movement was a national cultural, political, and educational reform movement , aiming at reforming the outdated feudal system and creating a new edict. However, due to sharp disagreements between Guangxu and Empress Dowager Cixi as well as their fellows, the movement only lasted for 103 days, ending in a coup by powerful conservative opponents led by Empress Dowager Cixi. After the failure of 103 days reform, Emperor Guangxu, who advocated reform, was put under house arrest here by Empress Dowager Cixi. In order to prevent him from escaping and accessing the outside world, brick walls were built in both annex halls so that both exits in the east and west were blocked. To the south, Cixi assigned eunuchs to watch him continuously. Although most of the walls have been dismantled now, a vestige of them can still be seen, as a witness of that part of Chinese history.
Constructed in traditional Chinese Siheyuan style, the Yiyun House was first built by Emperor Qianlong for collecting his numerous books. It was named ‘Yiyun’ because ‘Yun’ in Chinese is a kind of aromatic plant that can protect books from moths. Burned down by the Anglo-French allied forces in 1860, it was rebuilt during Emperor Guangxu’s reign and used as the abode of his Empress Longyu.
Yiyun House is a complex of structures including the main hall, Yiyun House, two annexes hall and corridors. The main hall is south facing, with a bat-shaped plaque hung in the middle.The owner of Yiyun House, Empress Longyu, was the last Empress of the Qing dynasty. She is best remembered signing the abdication on behalf of the child Emperor Puyi, in 1912, ending the imperial rule in China.
The Hall of Happiness and Longevity
With the Kunming Lake in the front and Longevity Hill at the back, the Hall of Happiness and Longevity was the major construction in the royal community. It was also the best place in the Summer Palace for leisure since it leads west to the Long Corridor, and east to the Garden of Virtue and Harmony.
During the reign of Emperor Qianlong, the Hall of Happiness and Longevity was first built as a two story building with the hall for Buddha worship upstairs and study below. It was burnt down by Anglo-French Allied Forces in 1860 and rebuilt into a one-story building later as the residence for Empress Dowager Cixi after she rebuilt the Summer Palace.
Compound with a courtyard in the center, there are small yards on two sides as the east wing and west wing. There is also a back hall on the north of the main hall where Empress Dowager Cixi put her clothes and jewelries in.
Divided into five parts, the main hall was well decorated. Living room can be seen from the outside. The west room was used as her bedroom and the east for a dressing room. There are also a room for Cixi to manage the state affairs and a dining room.
In the midst of hall, there is a carved sandalwood throne. On both sides of the throne are two porcelain plates. It is said that these plates were placed here as the fruit container. However the fruit is placed here not for eat, but functioned to adjust the air with fruit fragrance. There are also four big copper incense burners served for burning incense. There is a colorful pendant lamp hung on the ceiling. Just over there. The colorful pendant lamp was imported from Germany in 1903.
Outside the hall, there are several bronze statues stringed out in front of the main hall. The bronze deer, the bronze crane and the bronze vase all symbolize peace. And there are magnolias on both side of the main hall, and once planted some peonies by the Empress Dowager Cixi that are now transplanted to another place. These plants as a combination in Chinese culture means prosperity.
The Hall of Dispelling Clouds
The hall of Dispelling Clouds is the most dignified building in the Summer Palace. Originated from the Temple for Praying Great Gratitude and Wishing for Longevity built by Emperor Qianlong within the Garden of Clear Ripples, it was burned down together with the Garden of Clear Ripples in 1860 and rebuilt by Empress Dowager Cixi to celebrate her birthday. The front lower part was changed to the complex of the Hall of Dispelling Clouds. This name was derived from a verse by a poet, saying ‘in such splendid hall, supernatural being will emerge’ which also indicates the occupants were blessed with a prolonged life. It is said that Empress Dowager Cixi meant to make it her bedchamber when the building was topped out. But she was taken ill when she moved in cause she believed this building was so close to the Tower of Buddhist Incense, the Buddhist territory. So she went to live in the Hall of Happiness and Longevity, and only accepted tributes and congratulations on her birthday.
The hall of Dispelling Clouds is architecturally the highest-ranking building in the Summer Palace. Golden tiles dominate the hall’s exterior decor.