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Bower of Ancient Catalpa:
An old man's paradise after retiring from diligent service

Updated: Oct 08, 2018 Print

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Bower of Ancient Catalpa [Photo/en.dpm.org.cn]

The Bower is the centerpiece of this garden enclosure. It's most unique feature is the unpainted nanmu wood ceiling - grids of floral pattern carved in relief. Built in 1772, the bower is named after the then age-old catalpa bungei now leaning against its facade on the right, which still blossoms magnificently at each year's turn from spring to summer. The Qianlong Emperor (r. 1736-1795), a shrewdly intellectual ruler and the commissioner and designer of the bower, and indeed of the entire garden, composed couplets and poems in admiration of the long life of the tree and had them displayed in the interior space of the bower in his personal handwriting. Proper enjoyment of a blessed long life is a major theme of the Garden. The Area charges 10 yuan for admission.

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Nearby

Old trees, eccentric rocks, covered corridors, delicate pavilions high and low, and a bower constitute this enclosure. The courtyard where the Bower is seated encompasses a continuous range of piled lake rocks, creating an ambience of intimacy and serenity. Accessed through a narrow paved path formed by piled rocks, it is the first of the four enclosures of the Qianlong Garden (Qianlong huayuan, also known as the Garden of the Palace of Tranquil Longevity) which occupies an elongated band of land (160 meters long and 40 meters wide); but the landscape is subtly designed. The Garden was intended for the Qianlong Emperor's retirement from rulership, or in his words, retreat from secular affairs to dwell in the mountain and streams, a paragon of his ideal of Chinese elite culture and aesthetics. He never had a chance to live such a life, for he was already at the advanced age of eighty-five when he decided to pass on power to his successor. To the south of the Bower is the Pavilion of Purification Ceremony - a building with a porch connected to the ground where a meandering canal imitates a winding stream. Ancient Chinese literati would sit beside such a stream to observe the traditional purification ceremony in spring. The bamboo stalks carved in shallow relief on the stone panels around the porch allude to the legendary gathering at the Orchid Pavilion in China's 4th century Eastern Jin dynasty.

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