Talk:Old Summer Palace

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Peabody Essex Museum Edit-a-thon Spring 2014[edit]

(1 image added) — Preceding unsigned comment added by Cathypem (talkcontribs) 14:44, 6 May 2014 (UTC)

I'd recommend removing the reference to "ethnocentric westerners". The misconception about the original architectural composition is not confined to the West. Since the only remains that are visible are in a western classical style, many people within China are not aware of the vast complexes of traditional building that were burnt (or, at least they were not aware until just recently when discussions about a possible future reconstruction fell into the public eye). 20:11, 24 Mar 2005 (UTC)

I had exactly the same thought. In addition, even "ignorant foreigners" need not be "Westerners" in all cases, they could just as well come from other Asian countries. The term "ethnocentric Westerners" is even worse, because it may be seen to imply that Westerners are prone to "ethnocentric" thinking. I will change the reference to "Westerners" into "vistors unfamiliar with the past ..." rm 15:13, 31 Mar 2005 (UTC)

I have also tried to talk of "European-style" and "Chinese-style" buildings thoughout the revision of the article's wording. All buildings in the Old Summerpalace were presumably "Chinese buildings" in the sense that they were erected on the orders of Chinese rulers by Chinese craftsmen on Chinese soil. The style is only one aspect of a building and it should be stressed that most likely the "European", "Tibetan", or "Mongol" nature of the buildings was limited to style and maybe some contributions from relatively few foreign craftsmen (I don't know that). rm 16:06, 31 Mar 2005 (UTC)

You are both wrongs actually. First of all, the western style buildings are not the only remain that survived the burning of the Old Summer Palace. There is also a complex of temples in the Chinese style located south of the Elegant Spring Garden that survived the burning. All the chinese people perfectly know that the Yuanmingyuan, as it is known in China, was essentially containing Chinese style buildings. There are many paintings representing it. It is only in the West that I have found that people are confused about the nature of the Old Summer Palace. Secondly, user rm is wrong when he says that all the buildings were erected by Chinese craftsmen. The European style buildings were actually built by the Jesuits living at the Imperial Court. These Jesuits were essentially French and Italian. The masons and workers were Chinese of course, but the designers and architects were undoubtly European. Hardouin 11:24, 23 Jun 2005 (UTC)

We should leave the name Elegant Spring Garden, and not replace with Garden of Elegant Spring. From the Chinese name, it is hard to tell if it is the Spring which is elegant, or if it is the Spring garden which is elegant. The wording Elegant Spring Garden leaves the ambiguity in English, as it is in Chinese. Hardouin 11:57, 23 Jun 2005 (UTC)

Here is my view on Hardouin's comments:

  • Even if we assume that all 1.3 billion Chinese are aware of the nature of the Yuanmingyuan's former architecture, there may still be some non-western foreigners who don't know the history of the site, for instance visitors from Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, and so on.
  • A craftsman is a person who performs a skilled manual work. An architect would probably not be called a "craftsman".
  • I am aware that the architects of the buildings were french and italian jesuits (I started the articles on Michel Benoist and Jean Denis Attiret, I also worked on the one on Giuseppe Castiglione). When I spoke of "craftsmen", I meant the skilled manual workers, not the architects.

rm 12:54, 23 Jun 2005 (UTC)

300 eunuchs and maids claim[edit]

I can't find any mention of the "300 eunuchs and maids" burned alive during the palace sacking in any book about the Summer Palace or website (apart from mirrors of wikipedia) about the Summer Palace or any newspaper article, including Chinese English-language newspapers. Unless good sources can be found for this claim, I'm going to take it out after a week or so. Bwithh 00:18, 27 July 2006 (UTC)

Well, the Chinese Wikipedia article stated such claim, and I would imagine that's probably where this article got its statement from. Due to the enormous size of the Old Summer Palace, and how many people occupied in it, it wouldn't be illogical to question a large number of death due to the burning and destruction of the site. Whether how many did die, that would depends upon the sources. -- 06:50, 29 July 2006 (UTC)
My point is that I can't find ANY mention of deaths / massacre etc. in English language accounts, even when the account is from Chinese publications, and goes into great detail about how bad the looting was and how barbaric it was for the Western imperialists to burn the place, there is no mention of a massacre. It's not logical to assume that there were many deaths - people could run away, be taken prisoner, be released, or - if you want to believe that there was a massacre - "X" number of people could have been killed by other means. So the 300 figure is totally unverified speculation at this point. WP:V is non-negotiable. I'll give this a few more days and then I'm taking it out. Bwithh 16:14, 29 July 2006 (UTC)

I can't find any sources either, which is surprising if it's true, so I'm moving the claim here:

More than 300 eunuchs and palace maids were burned to death [citation needed].

Please move it back if someone can find a good source for it. --Apyule 11:53, 10 September 2006 (UTC)

Oops... I must have forgot to check back on this. My bad. Thanks, Apyule Bwithh 00:27, 13 September 2006 (UTC)

"According the historic document of Qing, on Oct 18, 1860, due to the gate of the Palace Anyou were still locked, more than 300 eunuchs, maids and workers in the palace were unable to esacpe and burned to death" - Flywhc (talk) 22:38, 11 April 2008 (UTC)

This seems to be a very old discussion, and I am unsure if any of these users are still working on this topic but seeing as the last poster has indeed found a source, I will add this back into the article. TheObsidianFriar (talk) 06:14, 20 August 2010 (UTC)

The source for the 300 eunuchs claim is an unverifiable Chinese language source; given the complete lack of any other corroborating source I am removing the claim. I also note that this claim references the locking of the "palace door"--this is inconsistent with the fact that the "Summer Palace" was not a single building, but an 8 mile long series of gardens and buildings of various sizes. I am also adding a NPOV tag based on some clearly biased comments in this discussion from editors with obvious Chinese nationalist sympathies. — Preceding unsigned comment added by JLL1964 (talkcontribs) 20:52, 9 March 2011 (UTC)

The Yuanming Yuan Movie[edit]

A movie on the history of Yuanming Yuan was aired in China not long contains some 3D renderings of the palace along with the histrical events that took also mentioned the 300 eunuchs and maids burned alive in the room where the portraits of the former emperors are.Apeerantly, the forgein invaders did not know there were 300 people buring inside,'s not really a massacre. Where did the movie get this info, I do not know, but you guys should watch it. DivineBaboon 05:06, 25 November 2006 (UTC)

Here's what i have found on the movie with a short promo video and pictures.CCTV link some other link they have some fuzzy screenshots of the 3D rendering and such. Interstingly enough i can't find any information of the movie on the English google....hmmm Edit:I found a link that has it's describtion in English "" DivineBaboon 05:13, 25 November 2006 (UTC)
Full documentary on YouTube here: It draws heavily on written accounts of Western witnesses to the construction and destruction. It also does indeed tell the story about the eunuchs and the maids, although it does not cite a source.TheCormac (talk) 03:24, 12 February 2015 (UTC)

Han Chauvanism[edit]

I won't claim to be an expert on great lootings of the world, but the sentence, "The burning of the old summer palace is regarded as the most destructive action ever in history," smacks of textbook CCP propaganda designed to escalate nationalist sentiment. I'm sure many events could easily qualify for this dubious "distinction," such as the sack of Constantinople in the Fourth Crusade. ValensNYC 06:21, 25 February 2007 (UTC)

I myself, wouldn't go to say that I am an expert in history of the world (yet), but you're comparing different sections of the world, Eastern and Western. It may also be noted; inside the Old Summer Palace were artifacts dating over 3,500 years old. Now regardless of what orientation in the world (Western or Eastern), the destruction of something, of that age is pretty much barbaric. Trs Dailly Rubbings 19:11, 14 May 2007 (UTC)

Yes, but to quantify it with a label like that is completely against Neutral Point-of-View.

Crimson Phantom - April 2, 2008 18:04

All the other versions of this statement come with the term "one of". Also, Han Chauvanism? Not that the word is spelled Chauvinism, but to put a label like that here can only be described as chaos. You do know China was not ruled under Han that time, do you?

Startwiki (talk) 01:57, 16 December 2008 (UTC)

Efforts to recover objects[edit]

I'd like to see more discussion of efforts by the Chinese government to recover the stolen objects. Also, does anyone know if the Beijing National Museum is the same as the National Museum of China? Historian932 (talk) 15:12, 25 July 2008 (UTC)

Not balanced, shallow, hard to contribute something[edit]

First, this article is not balanced. This is invasion and looting we are talking about. And the article did nothing but to justify them in most parts. To be balanced, fair reasons should be added from both sides with size suits either of their importance.

Further more, this page is shallow. People come to here to see the glory of the legendary palace, and all they get is how it was destroyed in some "democratic" kind of looting. And when it comes to the reason of the looting, it is only people's revenge. And people who built it even seemed to be indifferent about it. Some of us would think corruption could have happened during the looting. But no, not a word about it, not even care to explain why corruption did not happen. Oh, come on, are the world that simple in the eyes of some? At lest make it more sound please.

At last, some editors are not helping. Along with other things, I added how Chinese people think about the destruction of it, in order to enrich the part states "it is sensitive issue in China today", which has no reference BTW. What is the point to delete that? The terms implies: if it is not from an ill attention, edits should be respected. Its intention, to avoid the contents to be controlled by a few people who have the time to undo again and again, has clearly failed. You can just review the history to find that.

OK, I may be POV according to some people reverted my edits. But to simply delete them silently and ignore my intention to make it more fair and rich is very rude. Shouldn't we talk about it first?

Startwiki (talk) 14:24, 16 December 2008 (UTC)

We should talk about it - starting with the assumption that invasion, and even looting are always and everywhere wrong. However, it is certainly a sensitive issue in China today, and the article should state that fact. (talk) 04:53, 23 March 2009 (UTC)

I am estonished that on the 22nd of February 2009, the last sentence of this paragraph has 

been added by Clee7903, to serve as a proof that the bronze heads of Christie's Yves Saint Laurent auction had indeed been stolen by the french-english troops, which is questionable:

" One consolation for the Chinese was that the British and French looters preferred porcelain (much of which still graces English and French country houses) while neglecting bronze vessels prized locally for cooking and burial in tombs. Many such treasures dated back to the Shang, Zhou and Han dynasties and were up to 3,600 years old. A specific exception was the looting of the Haiyantang Zodiac fountain with its twelve bronze animal heads. " —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:21, 4 March 2009 (UTC)


I can't contain my reaction after reading this article. It goes too much in detailing the excuse of the burning, while the primary reason was simply to awe-strike the Qing Emperor into accepting whatever terms the Allied troops demanded --- if you didn't, the next to be burned would be the Forbidden City. The mention of mistreatment of prisoners of war seems ridiculous in the context of war, while hundreds, if not thousands, of Chinese soldiers who only had swords and spears were slaughtered at Western gunpowder.

Another widespread misconception is that the burning also included three other Imperial Gardens to the west, 清漪園, 靜明園, and 靜宜園, each associated with a hill. The last one is so far off (5 miles) that it must have been a deliberate action. I don't need to give any reference as many photographs taken in late 1800s have shown it clearly. The first of the three was (partly) rebuilt in 1888 and renamed 頤和園, which is known as Summer Palace (hence the name Old Summer Palace for this one). The description in this article is simply wrong on this point. The second one, better known as 玉泉山 (Jade Spring Hill), remained in ruin until the Communist leaders took it as their residence. The main temple of the third one (better known as 香山 Fragrance Hill) is still in ruin to this day, though it's a much better scenic attraction than Old Summer Palace.

Of course the destruction did not happen in a day insomuch as Rome was not built in a day. The article mentions that the Allied troops of 1900 also had to do with it, though I had heard that they were never anywhere near it. They may have caused its further destruction because Qing troops were no longer guarding the Summer Palaces.

It's certainly true that no ordinary Chinese had the fortune to behold the scenes of Old Summer Palace, which means that it must have taken a great deal of propaganda and nationalistic indoctrination for this to become a sensitive issue in China. Palaces have been burned down at pretty much every dynastic transition, but this one seems particular memorable, largely due to the rise of nationalism. If we Chinese can properly face that part of history (as in the 2006 documentary), why can't the West just admit it and stop making excuses. Unless you fear military retaliation from a mightier China. Liuyao (talk) 11:03, 31 July 2010 (UTC)

I believe the wars/rebellions and even this destruction happened because of one reason : China under the Qing dynasty had not yet developed the strong and competitive sense of nationalism that Europeans had at the time. While the west was undergoing the great changes of the Industrial Age, Qing proper had changed very little from the previous Ming Dynasty. Most of the population were simply never told of the empires of Great Britain, France, or (insert imperialistic country name here) and simply put they could had no clue of the danger that these nations posed. The most important portions of government (namely officials and the Emperor) held on to conservative beliefs and refused to change or "modernize". There was never a shortage of chances to modernize, but with a top down system as was the Qing Dynasty, even in weaponry they fell behind. Many individual armies were outfitted by knowledgeable generals while the country's forces as a whole stayed unchanged (with the traditional banner system still in place). Had a 18th or 19th century Qing Emperor developed this realization that change was necessary (as exampled later in well known figures such as Sun Yat-Sen or the Guangxu Emperor), the populace could have been properly educated and the country would not have been humiliated as such and crafted into various spheres of influence as it so happened. TheObsidianFriar (talk) 07:06, 29 August 2010 (UTC)

I am appalled by your statement here. Granted it was posted more than three years ago, but I still want to point out that your statement shows almost no signs of civilization. Your statement advocates the use of brutal force or even barbarianism towards weaker entities. If this value is upheld in our current times, we would have been living in a chaos - laws are useless. If you are strong enough you can go out and beat, rape or kill any one you want. Furthermore, many sources show that China back then was not the weakest force among all the parties. However, China fought the entire war alone. The allied troops was consisted of eight countries.

More importantly, your entire statement did not deny that fact that Liuyao had mentioned - that this destruction to the Old Summer Palace was an act of barbarianism and should be condemned. We should all learn from the past so similar atrocities won't happen ever again. If you keep having this kind of attitude and believe whoever is stronger can do anything without a second thought, I could do nothing but attribute you an uncivilized barbarian. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 11:49, 26 January 2014 (UTC)

Implication of French troops?[edit]

It's well known that the French were involved in the destruction of the palace, however from the text it's not clear what they did. Right now, it seems that only the British are responsible, since it's written:

- "British High Commissioner to China Lord Elgin ordered the destruction of the palace."

Then later:

- "It took 3,500 British troops to set the entire place ablaze"

So what was the orders of the French troops? And how many troops were involved? Or was it just some random French soldiers looting the palace but without following any specific order? Laurent (talk) 17:31, 15 May 2011 (UTC)



The Wikipedia page for the Daoguang Emperor states:

Consort Chang (常妃) (?–1860) of the Heseri clan. She died during the burning of the Yuan Ming Yuan summer palace

This is quoted from an unsourced "Draft history of the Qing Dynasty." TYK1986 placed this line.

I am traveling to Beijing and Xi'an in September. I plan on doing some research on yuanmingyuan while I'm there for a project. It is likely that the source material will be in Mandarin. How do we reference this? I can scan the original documents, but then what?

Daniel Daniel Reyes (talk) 02:21, 14 June 2012 (UTC)

NPOV Tag for section Destruction[edit]

The sources for the second paragraph of the lede and much of the narrative in the "Destruction" section are from British writers at the time, without reference to later western and Chinese scholars who shed more light on Chinese understandings and Chinese motives. For instance, Harry Parkes, who "went ahead ... under a flag of truce" was "suddenly surroundeded...." True, but he had been the moving force at Canton in the Arrow Incident earlier and had shown contempt and arrogance to the Chinese, so the other side of the story needs to also be represent. It is not "neutral" to simply accept Wolsleley's 1862 (!) account at face value, which is Original Research.

I don't have time to do it now, but it would not take long for someone to write this infamous episode up using Young-Tsu Wong. A Paradise Lost: The Imperial Garden Yuanming Yuan. (Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2001). ISBN 0824822269), Hevia, James Louis (2003). English Lessons: The Pedagogy of Imperialism in Nineteenth-Century China. Durham; Hong Kong: Duke University Press; Hong Kong University Press. ISBN 0822331519. , Bickers, Robert (1999). Britain in China: Community, Culture, and Colonialism, 1900-1949. Manchester; New York: Manchester University Press, distributed in the USA by St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0719046971. , and/or Lovell, Julia (2011). Opium War. London: Picador. ISBN 9780330537858.  ch (talk) 05:22, 13 February 2014 (UTC)

I think a useful approach would be to create a separate article on the Destruction of the Summer Palace with only a short summary here. As others have pointed out, this article should focus on the palace and gardens themselves, while their despoliation is an important episode which deserves thorough, distinct consideration. Happydemic (talk) 08:57, 15 October 2014 (UTC)

I have some comments to make about this article. 1. If you look at reference 3 which is a photocopy of a book it does not contain or make the assertion "Their bodies were barely recognizable.". Maybe that sentence is correct but the reference does not support it so the correct reference should be put up or this statement should be removed.

2. "British and French looters preferred porcelain (much of which still graces English and French country houses[15]) while neglecting bronze vessels prized locally for cooking and burial in tombs. Many such treasures dated back to the Shang, Zhou and Han dynasties and were up to 3,600 years old. A specific exception was the looting of the Haiyantang Zodiac fountain with its twelve bronze animal heads.[16] Some of the most notable treasures ended up at the Chinese Museum in the Palace of Fontainebleau, which Empress Eugénie specifically set up in 1867 to house these newly acquired collections.". The way that last sentence is just thrown there leaves the impression that most of/the best treasures from the summer palace are in China today even without using the words best/most of. In order not to be biassed it needs to state that some are in overseas museums like the British museum too. 'some of' is a bit of a weasel word too because _some_ of the most notable treasures are destroyed and _some_ of most notable treasures are overseas but the sentence only cares to mention the _some_ in China. Lenneth (talk) 21:58, 16 August 2016 (UTC)