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The Eight Great Sights of Yanjing
Yanjing (Capital of Yan) is an alternative name for the city of Beijing, which was first used in the Liao and Yuan dynasties. The Eight Great Sights of Yanjing are places of historic interest and scenic beauty in and around Beijing. Each of them has a name in which their particular qualities are summarized in lyrical four0character phrases, which may be translated as follows: “The Great Wall Surrounded by Lush Greenery at the Juyong Pass”; “Trees Enveloped in Mist at eh Ancient City of Jizhou”; “The Moon over the Lugou Bridge at Dawn”; “The Rainbow Floating over the Jade spring”; “The Western Hills Shimmering in Snow”; “Jade Islet in Shady Springtime”; “Autumn Winds on Taiye”; and “The Golden Terrace in the Glow of the Setting Sun.” They are introduced individually below.

The Great Wall Surrounded by Lush Greenery at the Juyong Pass (Juyongdiecui)

The first and finest of the “Eight Great Sights of Yanjing” is the “Great Wall Surrounded by Lush Greenery at the Juyong Pass.” This comprises a small river valley approximately 15 kilometers long which is crossed by the lofty peaks and lush mountain vegetation. The undulating mountain tops stretches into the distance like leaping sea waves, creating a scene of outstanding natural beauty. As early as the Jin Dynasty, this spot was known by its present title.

In some places, the valley is extremely narrow with only a small passage through which the stream water can flow. At these points the mountains loom overhead as if about to cave in. Visitors are then tempted to turn back at this point, since the valley looks quite impassable. If they do, however, they will miss the experience of wonder that these imposing rock formations inspire. Trees also abound in this area, their red and white blossoms decorating the valley with bright splashes of color against a background of lush green leaves.

Trees Enveloped in Mist at the Ancient City of Jizhou (Jimenyanshu)

This spot is reputed the site of the ancient city of Jizhou, also called Jiqiu and popularly named the “Earthen Walls”(Tucheng). The remains date from the Liao and Yuan dynasties and are situated about four kilometers northwest of the Deshengmen Gate. The ancient city walls and buildings of Jizhou have all disappeared, and all that remain are two long stretches of earthen mounds that mark the former gateway into the city. From the Ming Dynasty onwards this spot has often been extolled in poetry, and on the site itself there is a stone tablet inscribed in the calligraphy of the Qing Emperor Qianlong with the four-character phrase, which gives the place its title.

The Moon over the Lugou (Marco Polo) Bridge at Dawn (Lugouxiaoyue)

Ever since Emperor Zhangzong of the Jin Dynasty (reigned 1190-1208) penned the phrase “The Moon over the Lugou Bridge at Dawn,” this site has been known by this poetic name. Emperor Qianlong, who inscribed it upon a commemorative tablet at the site, hence further spreading its renown, adopted the title once more in the Qing Dynasty. In those days, the scenery comprised only “a pale moon over a river bridge” with a few “scattered clouds” floating occasionally overhead. However, it attracted “so many travelers passing by this spot that by early dawn the air was filled with the clattering of horses hooves.”

At daybreak nowadays, the lamps suspended on the bridge and the stars gleam through the early morning mists, sparkling on the clear waters of the river. A light wind sends silvery ripples running across the water, making the pale reflection of the moon on its surface quiver and dissolve-a scene of truly poetic beauty. But as one strolls along the bridge, stopping to lean over its parapet and gaze into the distance, one will notice the first colors of early morning appear on the horizon. Mountain peaks, treetops and tall buildings are bathed in the rosy glow of the sun.

The Rainbow Floating over the Jade Spring (Yuquanchuihong)

The Jade Spring was originally called the Baotu Spring in Jude Spring Mountain (after a famous spring in Shandong Province). However, when the Qing Emperor Qianlong Wrote the phrase “Rainbow Floating over the Jade Spring” and a stone tablet bearing this inscription was erected on the spot, the site was henceforth known by this name.

The Jade Spring is famous for its pure cool waters, which flow, in abundant supply from its underground source, spurting from the dragon-head-shaped stone fountainhead in a fine spray that resembles snowflakes. For this reason it is also known as the “Snowflake Spring.” In the Qing Dynasty, the spring was praised as the “Finest Spring Under Heaven,” a description which seems fully deserved when one witnesses it in its wonderful natural setting. This mountain source flows down the mountain and feeds Kunming Lake in the Summer Palace and a number of the other lakes in the city.

The Western Hills Shimmering in Snow (Xishanqingxue)

To find the spot known as “The Western Hills Shimmering in Snow” in the Xiangshan (Fragrant Hills) Park, one must turn northwards after reaching the Halfway Pavilion and then climb upwards past the Cave Facing the Sun (Chaoyangdong). The spot was originally one of the “28 Scenic Beauties of Xiangshan Park” and known as the “Grotto of Fragrant Mists”( Xiangwuku). The stone pillar on which the four characters “Western Hills Shimmering in Snow” are inscribed in the calligraphy of Emperor Qianlong stands on the rocky slope to the north of the grotto. Here on a winter day, as the weather clears after a fresh snowfall, the glittering silver mantle covering the numerous jutting peaks seems to stretch away boundlessly, offering a spectacle of great beauty.

Today there are differing opinions as to the true meaning of the words “shimmering snow.” Some believe that the “snow” is in fact peach blossoms. Others maintain that it is simply snow. Adherents of the latter interpretation cite a verse from a Qing Dynasty anthology to back their claim: “In the depths of winter, the sky clears after a fresh fall of snow. A traveler gazes away into the distance at the cold crispness of this winter scene. The trees and villages are transformed and the Western Hills with white jade, so that from after they look like silver. This silver blanket smothers the rugged slopes and misty peaks so that they resemble an expanse of plum blossoms, and sheer cliffs rise up like screens, touching the sky. The light of dusk bathes the distant hills and scattered clouds weave about the dark green pines. A solitary woodcutter trudges his way home along the narrow mountain path with only his broad rimmed hat visible through the trees…”

Jade Islet in Shady Springtime (Qiongdaochunyin)

The site known as “Jade Islet in Shady Springtime” is located on the eastern slope of Jade Islet (Qiongdao) in Beihai Park. Here, the buildings are few while trees abound creating an air of tranquility and solitude. In 1751, Emperor Qianlong was so moved by the scene that he had a stone tablet inscribed with the name of the site erected in the shade of the trees. Two winding paths lead up from the tablet to the Spring View Pavilion (Jianchunting) and the Corridor for Viewing Paintings (Kanhualang). As you meander through the corridor, the view closely resembles a landscape painting.

Autumn Winds on Taiye (Taiyeqiufeng)

A stone tablet in the Pavilion of Clouds on the Water (Shuiyunxie) int4eh Central Lake (Zhonghai) bears an inscription in the handwriting of Emperor Qianlong, which permanently records the name of the site. Taiye, or the “Great Secretion,” is the name the lake was known in the Qing Dynasty. The open-air pavilion stands on an island in the lake amidst the loveliest surroundings: bright white clouds are reflected on the water; the pavilion rests on the lake like a lotus blossoms permeates the air. This fine scene is lyrically described in the poem The Pavilion of Clouds on the Water in Early Autumn by the Qing poet Zhu Yizun: “In the blazing heat of autumn, a cool breeze at noon stirs the air. The lotus leaves bob in the ripples and sweet pea flowers bloom after fresh rains. The bridge casts gentle shadows in the clear cool river. In the evening light, the mountains take on added beauty as blue and gold reflections from the palace swell in the water’s surface.”

Previously, a ferryboat stationed to the right of the pavilion connected the pavilion to the Hall of Benevolence (Jurentang), the Hall of Diligent Government (Qinzhengdian) and to the Golden Turtle and Jade Rainbow Bridge.

The Golden Terrace in the Glow of the Setting Sun (Jintaixizhao)

The Golden Terrace in the Glow of the Setting Sun is situated at the former Miao Family Estate near the Altar of the Sun (Ritan). In the Qing Dynasty, this area originally served as frill grounds for the Manchurian and Mongolian troops of the Emblazoned White Banner. It is said That there was once a tall platform called the “golden Terrace” within the grounds, and that on spring and autumn evenings, the sunlight would continue to fall on this terrace for a few moments after the sun had set. This was, of course, a natural phenomenon, but when Emperor Qianlong came here on an inspection tour, he was disturbed by the strange spectacle. Enquiring after the name of the place, the emperor became worried that a site so well endowed by nature would bring its owners inordinate good fortune and feared that this would threaten the supremacy of the Qing court. He therefore ordered the name “Miao Family Estate” (Miaojiadi) changed to “The Golden Terrace in the Glow of the Setting Sun,” and erected a stone tablet to record this. In this manner the last of the “Eight Great Sights” acquired its present name. The original inscription on the stone tablet in the drill ground conveyed the emperor’s wish that he Manchus and Mongols should unite in assuring the prosperity of China.


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