china edition


Summer Palace - Garden of Virtue and Harmony

Walking northwards from the Hall of Benevolence and Longevity, you'll see the Garden of Virtue and Harmony (Deheyuan), where Emperor Guangxu and Empress Dowager Cixi watched the performances of the Peking opera. Borrowing from the meaning in the Zuo Commentary, the name "Dehe" suggests "listen to a fine melody and the mind will becalm". This garden consists of the Grand Theater Building, the Hall of Nurtured Joy, and the Dressing House.

21 m in height, the Grand Theater Building was the biggest of the 3 main theaters in operation during the Qing Dynasty, the other 2 being the Qingyin Pavilion in the Mountain Resort of Chengde, and the Changyin Pavilion in the Forbidden City.

Garden of Virtue and HarmonyIt was built in honor of the Empress Dowager Cixi's 60th birthday. Its 3 stories, from top to bottom, are the Fu Stage (Happiness Stage), the Lu Stage (Affluence Stage), and the Shou Stage (Longevity Stage). The floors of each stage are trapdoors and under the Shou Stage are a deep well and 5 ponds. The well and ponds were used to amplify the sound effects through acoustic resonance and to make water appear to spout from a dragon's mouth. Special effects could be performed from underneath the 3 stages. It made scenes involving immortals and apparitions more vivid and realistic as they emerged or flew onto the stage by means of a winch installed on the ceiling of the theater.

Directly facing the Grand Theater Building, the Hall of Nurtured Joy was for the exclusive use of the Empress Dowager Cixi when she watched the opera. Her luxurious seat, carved with a hundred larks flying towards a phoenix, plus a collection of caged songbirds from faraway lands, and a florid jade-inlaid screen with flower and bird motifs are on display. 5 additional rooms, located behind the hall, were for the Empress to rest.

The Dressing House was a place for the actors to put on their costumes and make up. Today, Cixi's vintage Benz and the costumes from those days are exhibited there.