ARTIST RESIDENCY CHINA — BEIJING, no. 5
Imagine tours of Buckingham Palace and Versailles leading to graveyards of empty space, vestiges of devastation caused by invading foreign armies. In China, that place is Yuanmingyuan, the Old Summer Palace in Beijing. Its annihilation in 1860 by the Anglo-French and American belligerents against the Qing dynasty feels recent.
Instead of reveling in 18th & early 19th century architecture, design, furniture, gardens, and vast ornamentation of human imagination, visitors view hand drawn images on stanchions and stone markers that line paths leading to piles of rubble and picturesque views. A vibrant spring day in an enormous urban park barely masks the utter waste.
The torture and deaths of 20 European delegates toward the end of four years of global military conflict — summarized as the second Opium Wars — provoked British High Commissioner to China Lord Elgin to order the complete destruction of the vast site. Victor Hugo’s letter of outrage, engraved in stone, is moving, though of small consequence given the violence that took place.
stone markers describe former architectural sites
sole remaining original stone bridge
stone labyrinth — recent restoration
Victor Hugo and letter engraved in stone in Chinese and French
confronted by the spirit of the goldfish
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