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Beijing Municipal Commission of Tourism Development

Beijing restores imperial garden


An imperial garden in downtown Beijing's Beihai Park opened Thursday to tourists after a restaurant that had operated for 60 years was moved out as part of the city's campaign to protect its cultural heritage.

Yilan Hall, with a history of over 260 years, is a cluster of buildings built in the ancient architectural style of Jinshan Temple in east China's Jiangsu Province. It was the preferred place for reading for Emperor Qianlong, an 18th-century emperor of the Qing dynasty.

In the 1950s, the Fangshan Restaurant opened in the building, offering "emperor's dishes." Taking advantage of the historical atmosphere and settings, the hotel, which boasted a lake view, earned fame by providing customers with a taste of Qing dynasty luxury. It only had 11 dining rooms.

Lyu Xinjie, the park's Party chief, said the restaurant was closed and relocated in April last year, while restorations of the 200-square meter area, or one-third of the complex, were carried out to reproduce the site's former appearance.

He said operation of the restaurant had impeded the protection of the historical building, and also posed safety risks.

Replicas of study furniture as well as paintings and calligraphy favored by Emperor Qianlong were arranged in the hall. Professionals from the Palace Museum created illustrations to help visitors better understand the building's history.

Lyu said that for the protection of the place, the park will cap the number of visitors at 80 at any time of the day, because renovation and archaeological studies of the rest of the complex are still under way.

First built in the 12 century during the Jin Dynasty (1115-1234), Beihai Park is Beijing's oldest and best-preserved imperial garden. The park covers 68.2 hectares with a lake taking up more than half of the area.

The gardens in the park were built to imitate renowned scenic spots and architecture from various regions in China. Plans to inscribe Beihai Park on UNESCO's World Heritage List were proposed as early as 2005.

Lyu said the park is the oldest Chinese imperial park. It has also witnessed more than 850 years of change in Beijing.

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