Philipp Neumann (Germany)
Yuanmingyuan -also called the Old Summer Palace- is located at north-west Beijing close to the "New" Summer Palace and became famous for his beauty by including exquisite gardens, Chinese palaces and Western Baroque buildings, treasures of art and cultural relics and an precious imperial library of books which was built up under the mandate of many emperor of the Qing-Dynasty since 1709. Especially during Qianlong's mandate many Western Baroque buildings were constructed due to his foreigner consultants. Finally the park comprised three separate parks, the Garden of Perfection and Brightness (Yuanmingyuan) to the west, the Garden of Ten Thousand (Eternal) Springs (Wanchunyuan) to the south and the Garden of Everlasting Spring (Changchunyuan) to the east, all centered around Fuhai, (Lake/Sea of Fortune/Blessings). All in all, the compound covered an area of 350 hectares (about 150,000 square meters) and approximately 140 buildings such as temples, pavilions, halls, palaces and bridges.
However, in 1860 during the second opium war the garden was plundered and burned down by French and British army forces. In 1900 during the Eight-Nation Alliance invasion the garden was completely destroyed for the second time and almost nothing remained.
The government decided to keep the ruins site as a symbol to show the consequences of being dominated by foreign powers. Moreover it is still regarded as a symbol of foreign aggression in China. Only some parts are restored such as the lakes in the eastern half of the garden.
Do you know that certain kind of feeling which you sometimes experience when visiting places? If not, please visit Yuanmingyuan. However I know, oftentimes it is difficult to describe or to express this feeling. It is the same with clouds. You are able to see them but it is impossible to catch them with your fingers, holding them. Some of you would maybe call it atmosphere. However, I think that this kind of feeling and atmosphere are two different parts which of course relates to each other. The atmosphere is composed of every element of a place such as plants, trees, artifacts, stones, buildings etc. but every element itself can evoke single feelings. Everything together creates a picture with many details, colors and light conditions in your head. Now it is up to you if you whether like the picture or not. In my case, Yuanminyuan is definitely one of my favorites. It is not a picture which you would normally aspect from a city with approximately 17.6 million citizens. The picture consists of warm and colorful colors which fall into place, forming a coherent whole. Moreover the picture is characterized by attention to detail and a never ending process of discovering new details. Finally the light conditions shed the picture in a mysterious way, probably caused by the historical background of Yuanmingyuan. Anyway I don't want to explain where all the colors and details are referred to. I am sure, if you visit the Yuanmingyuan you will create your own picture. However I took some photos there. Have a look and maybe you will recover some of my thoughts in the picture :).
All in all, there are many of these pictures in Beijing -in my opinion more than in other cities- which make the city that special. Every time you are able to discover a new world with different aspects and oftentimes you don't feel like being in a huge city with a lot of traffic and noise.
That's one of the main reasons why Beijing is so attractive to me.