Gardens of a Chinese Emperor: Imperial Creations of the Qianlong Era, 1736-1796
"The Garden of Perfect Brightness (Yuanming Yuan) in the western suburbs of a Qing capital, Beijing, was begun by the great Kangxi emperor (r. 1661-1722), expanded by his son, the Yongzheng emperor (r. 1722-1736), and brought to its greatest glory by his grandson, the Qianlong emperor (r. 1736-1796). A lover of literature and art, the Qianlong emperor sought an earthly reflection of his greatness in his Yuanming Yuan. For many years he designed and directed an elaborate program of garden arrangements. Representing two generations of painstaking research, this book follows the Qianlong emperor as he ruled his empire from within his garden. In a landscape of lush plants, artificial mountains and lakes, and colorful buildings, he sought to represent his wealth and power to his diverse subjects and to the world at large. Having been looted and burned in the mid-nineteenth century by Western forces, it now lies mostly in ruins, but it was the world’s most elaborate garden in the eighteenth century. The garden suggested a whole set of concepts—religious, philosophical, political, artistic, and popular—represented in landscapes and architecture. Just as bonsai portrays a garden in miniature, the imperial Yuanming Yuan at the height of its splendor represented the Qing Empire in microcosm."--
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