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Scenic Area of ‘Pictures of Farming and Weaving’

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The Scenic Area of ‘Pictures of Farming and Weaving’ is in the northwest corner of the Summer Palace. In contrast to the hustle and bustle of the other scenic spots, it is a place of peace and tranquility. Therefore, few people know of its existence usually.

The Pictures of Farming and Weaving records the farming and weaving life in ancient times through pictures. Drawing the Pictures of Farming and Weaving was one of the most important ways for the ancient emperors and their official governments to encourage farmers to be committed to agriculture. This activity originated in the Song Dynasty (960 - 1279). During the reign of Emperor Kangxi and Yongzheng of the Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1911), a total of 23 pictures of Farming and Weaving were drawn.

Built in 1750, the Scenic Area of ‘Pictures of Farming and Weaving’ is rich in the beautiful scenery of the water towns south of the lower reaches of the Yangtze River. During the chaos of the wars of 1860, this scenic area was razed to the ground, only leaving a stele carved with pictures of the farming and weaving by Emperor Qianlong. Later, a navy school was built here by Empress Dowager Cixi to deceive the public when she embezzled from the military fund to build the Summer Palace. In recent years, the Chinese government raised funds to refurbish the area. Finally, the Scenic Area of ‘Pictures of Farming and Weaving’ reopened to the public in 2004. Currently, the major scenic spots in this area include the Hall of Clearness and Freshness (Chengxian Tang), the Hall of Ample Good View (Yanshang Zhai), the Waterfront Village (Shuicun Ju) and the Navy Institute (Shuishi Xuetang).

 Hall of Clearness and Freshness (Chengxian Tang)
Constructed in 1750, the Hall of Clearness and Freshness faces the Yuhe River, on whose bank there was a quay for the emperors and empresses to take shifts as they boated on the river. Standing on the stone steps of the quay, you can embrace a full view of the Farming and Weaving Picture. 

 Hall of Ample Good View (Yanshang Zhai)
The Hall of Ample Good View was the site where Emperor Qianlong inspected the farming. It was built on the bank of the Yuhe River, with 13 verandas on its east and west sides. According to the original set in the verandas, 48 pillars of farming pictures are displayed. The original steles were damaged in the war of 1860. Some of the remaining relics were taken by a northern warlord who placed them in his garden. In 1960 those remains were collected and preserved by Chinese History Museum. 

 Waterfront Village (Shuicun Ju)
The Waterfront Village is the best example of the unique architecture of the lower reaches of the Yangtze River. It is said that Emperor Qianlong could never forget the lovely landscape in the water towns south of the Yangtze River after he came back from his incognito visit. He then ordered the Waterfront Village to be built. The Waterfront Village is surrounded by water on three sides and  is simple and elegant. Presently, it is a perfect place for gathering and composed of three major parts: art gallery, teahouse and VIP reception room. 

 Navy Institute (Shuishi Xuetang)
Completed in 1886, the Navy Institute recruited 36 students after its first opening ceremony. All of the recruits were descendants of the Eight Banners (administrative divisions of the Manchu families in the Qing Dynasty). The Navy Institute was founded by the Navy Prime Minister to appeal to Empress Dowager Cixi. He was the biological father of Emperor Guangxu and intended to guarantee that his son could grasp the state power as early as possible. In order to ensure this, he actively cooperated with Empress Dowager Cix to rebuild the Summer Palace for her entertainment under the pretense of navy training. In 1895 the North Marine Navy was completely destroyed during the Sino-Japanese War and the Navy Institute was forced to be closed.

There is also a well preserved modern ship in China, which was named 'Forever Peace' (Yonghehao) by Empress Dowager Cixi. It was a modern naval vessel given by Japan. The ship was built with an appealing design and grand woodcarved decorations. At that time, the ship was driven by the students of the Navy Institute. Yonghehao actually served as the Imperial ship of Empress Dowager Cixi.

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