China's Old Summer Palace starts new round of cultural relic restoration

Beijing's Yuanmingyuan, or the Old Summer Palace, has launched the third phase of its restoration project, "Restoration 1860," to repair broken cultural relics. 

Archaeologists started with restoring 24 cultural relics unearthed from Xiyang Lou, also known as Western Mansions, a European-style garden of marble monuments and glaze decorations. The worn appearance of glazed tiles and other decorative elements still reflect the colors from within, revealing the glory of the destroyed garden. 

The relics include colored glaze pieces and a blue bowl with a dragon and phoenix made during the reign of Emperor Kangxi (1654-1722). They first repaired the missing parts and then wore them out so that the cultural relics look antiquated.

"Our project is named 'Restoration 1860' because the Old Summer Palace was sacked and burned down by the Anglo-French allied forces in 1860," said Chen Hui, the archaeologist at the Old Summer Palace's administrative office. 

Archaeologists restore cultural relics unearthed from the Old Summer Palace on December 24, 2020. /Xinhua

Archaeologists restore cultural relics unearthed from the Old Summer Palace on December 24, 2020. /Xinhua

"The cultural relics in the palace were made by the same standard as the Forbidden City's cultural relics. The aforementioned were as beautiful and impressive as the relics in the Forbidden City, but were destroyed by the Anglo-French allied forces," added Chen. 

The Old Summer Palace was a masterpiece of Chinese landscape garden design and is eight kilometers northwest of the walls of the Forbidden City. It was destroyed by Anglo-French allied forces during the Second Opium War, with its collection looted and is now found in 47 museums around the world, according to UNESCO. 

A bronze horse head which was looted by foreign forces from the Old Summer Palace returned home on December 1 after 160 years. 

(Cover image: Screenshot of a cultural relic unearthed from Xiyang Lou, or Western Mansions in the Old Summer Palace.)

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