Yuanmingyuan, located in the northwestern suburbs of Beijing next to the Summer Palace, is a theme park with particular historic meaning renovated on the ruins of the famous imperial garden in the Qing Dynasty.
Yuanmingyuan was composed of three separate gardens: Yuanmingyuan (Garden of Perfect Splendor), Changchunyuan (Garden of Eternal Spring), Qichunyuan (Garden of Blossoming Spring). It covers an area of about 350 hectares with scenic spots up to one hundred. In 1707 the Qing Emperor Kangxi built the first garden on this site. In the next 150 years through the reigns of other five emperors¡ªYongzheng, Qianlong, Jiaqing, Daoguang and Xianfeng¡ªthe garden was constantly expanded to be the largest imperial garden in the world at the time. The builders of Yuanmingyuan not only inherited and developed the traditional gardening art of China by reproducing many famous natural scenes and gardens south of the Yuangtze River, but also introduced some European horticultural techniques. Streams and lakes enlivened the garden's hills. The man-made landscapes looked very natural. During its heyday the Europeans extolled it as the ¡°Garden of Gardens¡± and ¡°Versailles of the East¡±. Unfortunately this wonder of human civilization¡± was sacked, looted and burned to the ground by the Anglo-French Allied Forces in October 1860.
Since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, the Chinese government and the Communist Party of China have paid great attention to the preservation of the ruins. A special administrative office was set up. The Chinese government has listed Yuanmingyuan as one of the key cultural sites under special national protection. After many years of renovation the greater part of the water system and hills have been restored. Some of its original splendor has reappeared. A number of important sites have been repaired. A complex of ruins represented by the European Palaces has taken shape.