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Places to Go: Yuanming Yuan (Old Summer Palace)

The Chinese pride themselves in the fact that it once was considered the greatest gardens in the world: Yuanming Yuan (Garden of Perfect Brightness), the Old Summer Palace. Far more extensive than the Summer Palace, it held large garden and building architectures and first rate works of art. Due to all its splendor and vastness, Yuanming Yuan also was called the “Garden of Gardens.”

In 1860, however, the majority of buildings and gardens were destroyed by British and French troops, and the Old Summer Palace was robbed of all its treasures, never to be rebuilt again.

Today, the area basically is a vast natural reserve right in the vicinity of some of  China’s most famous universities, Qinghua and Beijing University. Only few sites have been reconstructed, but an exhibit shows the garden in its former glory, and ruins still bear witness of its once impressive grandeur.

For those, tired of all the sightseeing and shopping in Beijing, Yuanming Yuan could be a welcome change of scene.

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