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Hangzhou West Lake Temporary Imperial Palace of Qing Dynasty (Hangzhou Sun Yat-sen Park)

West Lake Temporary Imperial Palace
The Painting of Hangzhou West Lake
Temporary Imperial Palace

Hangzhou West Lake was written into the list of world heritage site as a special cultural landscape in 2011. This is quite distinct from other themed world heritage sites in China like Great Wall, Forbidden City and internationally famous mountains. In China, honored to be the cultural landscape, there are only two sites, the former is Mountain Lushan in Jiangxi province, and the latter is Hangzhou West Lake Scenic Area. In accordance with the interpretation from UNESCO on the definition of cultural landscape, the basic and ordinary understanding is that the historic and cultural tangible and intangible sites well preserved in natural beauty under the partial reconstruction of humankind. Based on this comprehension, Hangzhou west lake is absolutely surely qualified to be the world-class cultural landscape for its legendary history and romantic environment of humanity and nature shaped over the past thousands of years. One of the spotlights of West Lake Scenic Area is its historic architectural complex. Among the innumerous ancient buildings surrounding the west lake, the temporary imperial palaces are the most eye-catching part of west lake highlights. As the capital of South Song Dynasty, there are some imperial palaces built nearby West Lake. In Qing Dynasty, there also used to be a temporary imperial palace located at the current site of Hangzhou Sun Yat-sen Park, and it is locally famous as Xihu Xinggong(西湖行宫, West Lake Temporary Imperial Palace). Nowadays, the relics of Hangzhou west lake temporary imperial palace are well protected in this lakeside park at the neighborhood of Solitary Hill, Zhejiang Museum, Xiling Society of Seal Arts and the Scenic Spot of Pinghu Qiuyyue(Autumnal Moon on the Calm Lake).



Hangzhou West Lake Temporary Imperial Palace of Qing Dynasty

There is a huge and decorative paifang-style building with an attractive tablet of Fu Dan Guang Hua(复旦光华, The Glorious Light of Daytimes), which reminds us of the origin of Fudan University, a domestic famous university in Shanghai, from ancient classics of Confucianism. In park, we can see the bases and raw materials of the former palaces. The main way through the gate of the park is connected to a stone wall with two huge red characters “Gu Shan” (Solitary Hill). Historically, the former imperial palace is one time larger than the current park. Currently, the second gate of Sun Yat-sen Park or Zhongshan Park formerly was called Chuihuamen(垂花门, the gate of hanging flowers). And the fourth line of building complex was Nanmu Qingong(楠木寝宫,Nanmu Sleeping Palace). During Qing Dynasty, Emperor Qianlong went through the Chuihuamen and slept in Nanmu Qingong. Also, strongly aiming at resurfacing the original of west lake scenic area and protecting the valued historic and cultural sites, several years ago, a large protection and reconstruction project was operated in Sun Yat-sen Park. The flagstones and cements after 1927 were removed and the original appearance was absolutely shown, the original site of the temporary imperial palace was buried under the flagstones. During the protection project, the re-designers take the experience of restoring the Leifeng Pagoda and put some parts of the relics into the glass covers. The archeologists verify the location of Nanmu Qingong : approximately 70 meters far from the entrance site of axe. The floor of the Nanmu Sleeping Palace was all paved with the special bricks transported from Beijing, and the dais and steps were all built by bluestones.

Emperor Qianlong was the most famous householder of Hangzhou west lake temporary imperial palace. Emperor Qianlong was a quite elegant and well-cultivated emperor. He considerably cherished his lakeside temporary imperial villa. He wrote many poems for five times to highly speak of Eight Sights of West Lake Temporary Imperial Palace(西湖行宫八景), roughly 40 poems. In Qing Dynasty, Emperor Yongzheng did not like visiting Jiangnan region of China, but his son Emperor Qianlong quite similar to his grandfather Emperor Kangxi preferred to visit Jiangnan. Emperor Kangxi’s visiting to Jiangnan for four times. Initially, he lived in Temporary Imperial Palace of Hangzhou Official Residence located at Taipingfang. However, this palace was too little and the surrounding scenery was also too bad. The local governor of Hangzhou selected the site of Solitary Hill to build a new temporary imperial palace. In 1705, during the fourth visit of Emperor Kangxi, he lived in this temporary palace. Subsequently, during the reign of Emperor Yongzheng, he changed the temporary palace to be Shengyin Temple(圣因寺) in order to decrease the maintenance fee. In regard to the layout of the West Lake Temporary Imperial Palace, the basic buildings include the Buddhism hall, opera-performance hall and more than 40 houses excluding the pavilions on the hills, the little plazas in the palaces, the subsidiary houses and other featured buildings. And the main parts of the temporary imperial palaces include Zhongshan Park, and the office part of Emperor, the dining and sleeping room as well as opera appreciation are mostly located at today’s area of Zhongshan Park. Additionally, the west side of Zhongshan Park, the classics branch of Zhejiang Library, the Police Office of General Yue Memorial Administrative Bureau of West Lake Scenic Area, east side of Zhongshan Park, Wenlan Pavilion and Zhejiang Museum are all in the area of Temporary Imperial Palace. Interestingly, on the painting of West Lake Temporary Imperial Palace, there is a sign of A Ge’s Residence(阿哥所, the place where A Ge, the son of emperor, lived). Originally, the residence of emperors was quite far away from the sleeping rooms of their sons. The residence of emperors was located at the center of Zhongshan Park and the sleeping rooms of their sons were located at the site close to today’s gate of Classics Branch of Zhejiang Library. Today, we do not know whether there was the bathroom in bedroom of emperors or not. According to the painting, the bathroom was a little bit far from the bedroom of emperors. The toilet is closely near to the Solitary Hill, and the Emperors had to go through several houses. In Temporary Imperial Palace, there used to be two opera performance platforms, one was located at the west part of the palace and historically called Hall of Opera Appreciation(看戏殿), roughly located today’s site of toilet of Zhongshan Park, and the other one is located at today’s Zhejiang Museum. Similar to Emperor Kangxi, Emperor Qianlong also preferred to visit Hangzhou, and he traveled to Hangzhou for many times. And he renamed Shengyin Temple to be Temporary Imperial Palace. Unfortunately, the palace was burned down.



The Ancient Painting of West Lake Temporary Imperial Palace

The painting called West Lake Temporary Imperial Palace(Xihu Xinggong Tu) was a royal one during the reign of Emperor Qianlong(1736-1795). The painting partially pictured colorfully on the silk, and the handwriting part was written on the paper. Originally folded, but later it turned to be the scroll style. The painting is vertically 14 centimeters and horizontally 518 centimeters. Anciently, West Lake was called Wulinshui, Qiantanghu and Xizihu. Three sides of West Lake Scenic Area are surrounded by hills, and the fourth side was close to downtown Hangzhou. Located on the west side of Hanghzou, this lake was widely and officially called West Lake since Song Dynasty. In history, West Lake was a shallow sea bay connected to Qiantang River. Due to the stagnation of mud and sand, and the sea was separated; the inner part gradually became a lagoon. This lake with many times of dredging in the past several centuries, West Lake becomes internationally famous. The scenic area centering on West Lake has more than 49 square kilometers composed of more than 40 scenic spots, and more than 30 of them are the key historic sites. The most famous representative is the top ten classic scenes of west lake scenic area, though it has different names and annotations in different phases.

In different dynasties, there were many famous paintings themed with the beauty of west lake scenic area, but majority of them were lost. Furthermore, these paintings were mostly created after Qing Dynasty. Some of them were painted by folk artists, and some painted by officials. The Painting of Xihu Xinggong Tu was an officially-painted painting. This painting illustrates the temporary imperial palaces of West Lake and Eighteen Views of West Lake, and particularly recorded the specific distance between the temporary imperial palaces and different scenic spots. The whole painting is comprised of five sections. Each section has the elaborative and colorful map and then the perfect handwritings to illustrate the painting, which surely facilitate the visits of Emperors. By the way, there was also another painting painted in 1765 named 32 Views of West Lake, which painted on the silk and was as beautiful as the painting of Xihu Xinggong Tu. This painting is comprised of four volumes and created by Qian Weicheng(钱维城). But this painting is smaller than Xihu Xinggong Tu in size. Another painting called Xihu Fengjing Tu was created during the phase from 1796 to 1820, and it was also quite elaborative and significant. There are also a lot of paintings appeared. But compared to Xihu Xinggong Tu, they were inferior and less famous indeed.




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