SUMMER PALACE, Garden Of Harmony

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English / USA Language: English / USA

The splendid Garden of Virtue and Harmony was the place where the Emperor Guangxu and the Empress Dowager Cixi watched the performances of the Beijing Opera, in one of the three most famous opera theaters of the Qing dynasty: the Grand Theater, the best-preserved and the largest in China. You can see it in the second courtyard of the four that the garden is divided into.

The Empress Dowager Cixi was such a keen opera fan that when the Summer Palace was undergoing reconstruction work after the ravages of the war in 1860, she had this theater built in 1891, where over 200 operas were performed for her.

The three-storey building is 21 meters high. Below the stage are a well and five pools, which were used to amplify the sound effects through acoustic resonance. Chinese opera featured numerous tricks on stage, including water effects, acrobatics and performers flying across the stage using winches.

In the dressing rooms behind the stage, you can now see an exhibition of costumes and props, and even Cixi’s car.


Now press pause and press play again when you come out of the theater.


In the same courtyard is the Hall of Nurtured Joy, for the exclusive use of the Empress Cixi when she was attending the opera. In the magnificently furnished interior, you can see her luxurious throne, carved with a hundred or so larks flying towards a phoenix, plus a collection of caged birds and a screen with jade inlay work of flower and bird patterns. It is said that Cixi did not like watching the performances from the throne, but from the large, heated Kang bed built on bricks, which can be found behind a window.

There are also corridors at the sides between the hall and the theater, from which the princes and their ministers would watch the performances, while during the intervals, the empress dowager could rest in the Hall of Celebrating Virtue, located in the third courtyard, and on which you can also spot a gate opening to the path leading to the hill.


An interesting fact: Cixi was so fond of opera that a performance was held the very day after she arrived at the Palace.

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