The Summer Palace
The Yuanming Yuan - or the Garden of Perfect Brightness - was the residence of the emperor Qianlong, and was known in the west as the Summer Palace. It covered 350 hectares in the northwest of Peking and housed priceless treasures. It was renovated at the beginning of the 18th century for Yongzheng, future third emperor of the manchu Qing dynasty.
Installed on the Dragon Throne since 1644, the Qing emperors acquired their legitimacy by adopting Chinese cultural codes: in the political domain, the manchus followed Confucian doctrine and promoted the scholarly class; in the artistic demain, they continued the ancestral traditions of calligraphy and garden design.
The creation of the imperial park
It was in 1677 that the emperor Kangxi (1662-1722) decided to restore a garden inherited from the fallen Ming dynasty, not far from the capital. Renamed 'Glorious Spring', the park became the pleasure palace for the monarch when he fled the Forbidden City, stiflingly hot in summer and glacially cold in winter.
In 1709, Kangxi offered his son, the future emperor Yongzheng (1723-1735), a garden attached to his domain which he named Yuanming, 'Perfect Brightness'.
On his ascension to the throne, Yongzheng made the place his principal residence. The site was enlarged and remodelled to mimic the geophysical configuration of China, in a way that made it a microcosm of the empire of which it had become the political centre.