The Summer Palace, located 15 km northwest of Beijing, has seen the earth revolve around the sun more than 900 times. It was the leisure retreat of the emperor and his family. It covers almost 300 hectares and three-quarters of them surround the immense Kunming Lake and Longevity Hill. In its 70 000 m² of constructed area, a wide variety of palaces, gardens, pagodas, temples and other remarkable buildings can be found, representing in a certain way a miniature model of the Middle Empire, a genuine living museum of Chinese art. Built by Emperor Qianlong the palace was looted and destroyed twice, during the invasion of Anglo-French troops in 1860, and during the Boxer Rebellion in 1900. The Empress Cixi rebuilt it in 1886 and 1902. In 1888, she spent considerable sums to rebuild and expand what she called “Yiheyuan”, the garden where Concord can blossom.
Even today, it is the largest imperial site of the world, recognized as a treasure of the World Heritage Sites. The UNESCO describes it as an "outstanding expression of the creative art of Chinese landscape garden design, incorporating the works of humankind and nature in a harmonious whole". But it is also the archetype of the philosophy and practice of Chinese land art, which played a key role in the development of this culture throughout the Far East. Finally, the imperial Chinese gardens, illustrated by the Palace Summer, embody a strong symbol of one of the major world civilizations.
Assured of unrestricted access, the images captured by our team enable the viewer to experience the daily life of the imperial court of China, a private and secret world as it has existed in so many dynasties, and thereby to understand the spirit of this civilization, the essence of this culture. In other words: the essence of what the Chinese traditional lifestyle represents.
Volume 1: Qianlong and the Splendors of the Middle Empire
Volume 2: Cixi and the decline of the Qing Dynasty
Part of the China Screen Series when entire collection is purchased.