The Circular Wall (Tuancheng)

The Circular Wall (Tuancheng) is situated at the southern end of the Beihai Park immediately to the east of the great marble bridge. There are two gates-the Clear View Gate (Zhaojingmen) to the east and the Gate of Extended Auspiciousness (Yanxiangmen) to the west. The latter was destroyed by the Eight-Power Allied Forces in 1900 and rebuilt by the People' s Government in 1953.

The 4,500-square-meter Circular Wall is actually a round terrace. To the east is the Prospect Hill (Jingshan) with five hilltop pavilions; to the south the gold and green halls and pavilions of Zhongnanhai (Central and South Lakes); to the west the waters of Beihai (North Lake); to the southeast the gold-tiled roofs of the Forbidden City; and to the north the awe-inspiring White Dagoba.

The main structure of the Circular Wall is the Hall of Received Light (Chengguangdian), a spacious building with a double-eaved roof made of yellow glazed tiles bordered in green. The rafters are decorated with swirling golden designs.

Inside is a 1.6-meter-tall Buddha carved from a single piece of pure white jade inlaid with precious stoned which was presented to Emperor Guangxu (reigned 1875-1908) by a Cambodian king. The Eight-Power Allied Forces damaged the statue's left arm when they invaded Beijing in 1900.

In the center of the Circular Wall is the Jade Urn Pavilion (Yuwengting) with its blue roof and white pillars. The jade urn was placed in the Palace of the Moon in Beihai Park in 1268 during the Yuan Dynasty. Under the Ming, the Palace of the Moon was demolished and the urn was moved to the Temple of the God of True Prowess (Zhenwumiao). In 1745, Qianlong had the present pavilion erected within the Circular Wall to house the urn and had his poem The Song of the Jade Urn engraves on the inside of the vessel. The pavilion itself was inscribed with poems written in a rhyme scheme identical to the emperor' s by members of the Imperial Academy. Carved from a single block of jade, the urn' s surface is decorated with fish, dragons and other sea creatures.

Like Beihai Park, the Circular Wall was part of the imperial gardens under the Liao and Jin dynasties when the land was a small island in Taiye Lake. The Jin rulers built a small hall and planted pine trees, one of which is still growing today. The Ming rulers constructed the Circular Wall around the perimeter of the island. In 1669 during the reign of Emperor Kangxi, the Hall of Received Light collapsed and was rebuilt the following year. Qianlong also carried out major reconstruction in 1764. The buildings and layout of today' s Circular Wall date from that period.

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