By Young-tsu Wong
Famous for its magnificient structure and heritage, 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 journey of its structure and background.
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Additional info for A Paradise Lost: The Imperial Garden Yuanming Yuan
In the Yuanming Yuan, except for the ostentatious Main Audience Hall displaying Confucian solemnity, many other structures, in particular those located in the Eternal Spring Garden, showed an explicit Daoist influence of cheerfulness and relaxation. The Mind-Opening Isle (Haiyue Kaijin) in the Eternal Spring Garden appeared extraordinarily unconventional and lively. The Daoist universe, however, weaves a network of the man-nature relationship no less, if not more, harmonious than the Confucian universe.
It featured a sumptuous chamber designed especially for the Yongzheng emperor to admire the sunset. The design was to bring the magniﬁcent mountain view of sunsets into the broad and bright windows on the west side of the chamber, a good example of the “view borrowing” technique. In fact, as Yongzheng’s poem indicates, this design borrowed from the sunset view at the famed Mountain Lu (Lushan) in Jiangxi province (Yu Mingzhong 1985, 3:1365; cf. commentaries in Yuanming yuan tuyong 1987). East of this viewing chamber was a larger structure named the Hanyuan Zhai surrounded by magnolia trees, which ﬁll the air with fragrance when they blossom.
That is, the harmonious unity of Heaven, Earth, and Man reflected a cohesive impression of natural components and artiﬁcial creation. They no doubt took into consideration the Confucian interpretation of the human world. Many palace buildings, including their interior decoration, indeed followed the Confucian views of appropriation contained in the Book of Rites (Zhouli), which stresses solemnity and dignity. At the same time, since the purpose of the garden was for pleasure, Confucian conformity was emphasized less in the garden design.
A Paradise Lost: The Imperial Garden Yuanming Yuan by Young-tsu Wong