The water systems in Yuanmingyuan have evolved over more than 300 years, including the preliminary creation in the initial construction period of the imperial garden, the continuous improvement in its heyday, the man-made destruction in the ruins period and the repair in the contemporary development period. Our study expounds the evolution characteristics of the water system pattern in important historical periods by using quantitative data and has arrived at the following conclusions:
With the large-scale expansion from Kang Xi’s last years to Xian Feng’s decade(1860), the area of the water systems increased from 9.27 hm² to 123.26 hm², but decreased to 24.38 hm² around 1965 due to continual destruction. Then, the area returned to 102.05 hm² in 2016, which is equivalent to 82.79% of the area in its heyday, as a result of water system repairs undertaken following the establishment of Yuanmingyuan Administrative Department.
In terms of the water surface ratio, the index was only 19.03% in the initial construction period of Yuanmingyuan and reached 35.15% during the heyday of the three gardens, including Yuanmingyuan. Accordingly, these gardens became a large-scale waterscape resort. Around 1965, a substantial portion of the waterscapes was converted to farmland, reducing the water surface ratio to 6.95%. The renovation of the hills and water systems in Yuanmingyuan began in 1976. By 2016, the ratio has recovered to 30.46%, leaving approximately 5% potential for full recovery.
The increased number of scenic spots in Yuanmingyuan resulted in a large number of linear and planar water patches, which substantially increased from the Kang Xi’s last years(about 1707–1722) to the 10th Year of Xian Feng (1860) until it reached 59 in the heyday. Around 1965, the linear water systems (e.g. rivers and canals) were levelled up, while the planar water systems (e.g. lakes, pools and the Sea of Blessing) were converted to farmland, reducing the number of patches to 28. Then, after a 40 year recovery, the number of patches reached 36 by 2016, although it was still 23 less than the number in the heyday.
Meanwhile, the number of scenic spots set off by waterscapes increased from 6 in the Kang Xi’s last years(about 1707–1722) to 52 in the 10th Year of Xian Feng(1860). Around 1965, the number of waterscapes drastically declined, including 30 completely disappearing and 11 partially levelling up, with only 9 experiencing an increase in the water area. After the Yuanmingyuan Administrative Department was established, 13 scenic spots of waterscapes were restored, with 21 yet to be restored in the scenic spots in the north of Yuanmingyuan, including approximately 2.67 hm² in the ‘Purple-Blue Mountain House’, ‘Fish Leaping & Bird Flying’, ‘Far Northern Mountain Village’, ‘Ruofan Zhige’ and ‘Tianyu Kongming’; about 0.37 hm² in Ruyuan, Qianyuan and Jianyuan of Changchun Garden; the riverway in an east–west extension in Xiyanglou scenic spot; and 4.17 hm² in ‘Xinjingxuan’, ‘Spring Rain Mountain House’, ‘Yanying Lundao’, ‘Hanhuilou’ and ‘Qingxiazhai’ of Qichun Garden.
①.This article is to be read at the “2021 International Academic Seminar on the Research and Protection of Yuanmingyuan”.
②.Before plotting the map in the last years of Kang Xi(about 1707–1722), the inferred plan for the architectural layout of Yuanmingyuan in the period of Prince Yin Zhen and the water system pattern map in the 9th year of Qian Long(1744) were compared for geographical matching to extract and find landscape elements.
③.The designers in the Style House of the Qing Court corrected the drawings of previous dynasties or covered the corresponding positions of the original drawings with reconstruction plans of equal proportion and scale to reduce drawing-plotting workload. Therefore, the resulting drawings record all the major changes that occurred in Yuanmingyuan from the 44th year of Qian Long(1779) to the 11th year of Dao Guang(1831).
④.The local landscape drawings of Yuanmingyuan in the period from the 19th year to the early years of Xian Feng describe individual scenic zones only and cover sporadic years until the last years of Xiang Feng, when the “Riverway Map of Yuanmingyuan, Changchun Garden and Qichun Garden” clearly describes the complete pattern of the three gardens.