A PLACE OF BEAUTY AND WHERE YOUNG GIRLS WERE SELECTED FOR THE EMPEROR’S HAREM:
At the rear of the Imperial Palace, behind the Palace of Earthly Peace, is the Imperial Garden. This private garden is the retreat for the imperial family and the emperor, empress, imperial concubines and other family members come here for recreation and to enjoy the scenery. It is also within the walls of these gardens that beautiful young girls are selected for the emperor’s harem in the Qing Dynasty.
Impressive Rocks and Trees
What catches your attention on entering the Gardens are the impressive rock formations and amazing pines trees, cypresses and Chinese wisteria. Some of these trees are several hundred years old.
Cypress trees are often planted in classical gardens, courtyards and temples as they are long-living and the tree’s beautiful shape complements imperial architecture. In fact these unique trees are themselves an attraction.
Here Tony gets up close to an ancient and hardy cypress tree that looks like it’s got giant walnuts growing from the tree trunk.
Yes, people love posing against these giant cypress trees and this image gives an idea of just how huge the trees are.
Rock garden in the Imperial Garden.
Pavilions and Halls
The Imperial Garden and most of the buildings within are Ming Dynasty creations. The rectangular-shaped garden covers an area of some 12,000 square meters and within the grounds are various halls, pavilions, shrines, towers and gates. At each corner of the Gardens is a pavilion, like the Pavilion of Myriad Springtimes above.
One of the interesting buildings in the Imperial Garden is the Yang Xing Zhai (Study of the Cultivation of Nature). This two-story building is set in a secluded section of the garden, with beautiful surroundings. Emperors of the Qing Dynasty frequently come to this Study to rest or have a quiet read. The building is also noted as the place where the Englishman Sir Reginald Johnston used to give English lessons to the abdicated Emperor Pu Yi.
Yet another important building in the Imperial Garden is the Hall of Imperial Peace (Qin’an dian). Located in the centre of the Imperial Garden, it used to house the spirit of the True Martial Ruler(Zhenwu dadi) who was the northern god of Daoist teaching. The Qing emperors worshipped here and burnt incense sticks to the Daoist deities on special occasions such as the lunar New Year and other festivities.
In front of the Hall of Imperial Peace the branches of two ancient cypress trees cross to form an interesting arch. This is a popular spot to have your photo taken.
The Imperial Garden is a huge place and if you get weary, you can always have a rest in one of the many garden benches and enjoy the scenery like the Imperial family used to do. If you want a souvenir of your visit here, there are artists around who can paint your portrait on porcelain plates.
The Imperial Garden is the oldest and largest imperial garden in the Forbidden City and is well worth visiting. It’s a shame that we have too short a time here to enjoy this beautiful garden.