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Old Summer Palace

A melancholic tangle of broken columns and marble chunks, the original Summer Palace was laid out in the 12th century. The subdued ruins can be mulled over in the Eternal Spring Garden (Chángch?n Yuán), where you can find the Great Fountain Ruins, considered the best-preserved relic in the palace. West of the ruins is an artful reproduction of a former labyrinth called the Garden of Yellow Flowers.


The ever-capable Jesuits were employed by Emperor Qianlong to fashion European-style palaces for the gardens, incorporating elaborate fountains and baroque statuary. During the Second Opium War, British and French troops vandalized the palace and sent the booty abroad, an event forever inscribed in Chinese history books as a nadir in China's humiliation by foreign powers. Most of the palace was destroyed.


The palace gardens cover a huge area - 2.5km from east to west - so is prepared for some walking. Besides the ruins, there's the western section, the Perfection & Brightness Garden (Yuánmíng Yuán) and in the southern compound, the 10,000 Springs Garden (Wànch?n Yuán).
 

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