Baoyun Pavilion (Baoyunge)
To the west of the Tower of Buddhist Incense (Foxiangge) on Longevity Hill of the Summer Palace, there stands a bronze pavilion: Baoyun Pavilion. As the entire structure is made of bronze, it is also called "golden pavilion". Baoyun Pavilion is one of the three best and largest bronze buildings existing in China. It is a pity that tourists from all over the world are often unaware of this "golden pavilion" on Longevity Hill while they enjoy the beautiful scenery of the grand imperial garden. Interested? Just read the following paragraphs.
Baoyun Bronze Pavilion is a structure with a double-eaved roof. With a height of 7.55m, it weighs 207 tonnes. The pillars, rafters, brackets, tiles, beasts on the ridges, windows and doors and even the lintel of the bronze pavilion are all made from wood. Greenish-grey in color, it is delicately and intricately made. It is documented that the copper cuttings accumulated in the process of polishing the surface amounted to 2,500kg. The pavilion sits on a white Buddhist-style marble base with carvings. Bells with the same material and color hang by brackets from the four corners. The bells ring in the wind. The sunlit painted pavilion looks dainty and delicate, giving a sense of perpetuity.
When the construction of the bronze pavilion was finished, Emperor Qianlong (1736-1795) wrote poetry on the stele standing before it. In the reign of Emperor Qianlong, Lamas from Tibet came here to pray for the emperors and empresses of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912) on the first and fifteenth day of each lunar month. The 10-meter-high brackets on the stone cliff behind the pavilion were all used to hang Buddha figures during the ceremony.
Four names were engraved on the inner wall of this rare bronze pavilion: Yangguozhu, Zhangcheng, Hanzhong, and Gaoyonggu. It is likely that these four people cast this pavilion. The casting method applied in this bronze pavilion is one of the three greatest methods in ancient China that came into existence in the Spring and Autumn Period. Artisans cast all the components of the pavilion separately, big and small and then integrated them. The accomplishment of this magnificent and fancy bronze pavilion was a breakthrough for the casting industry of China.
Constructed in the twentieth year of the reign of Qing Qianlong, Baoyun Bronze Pavilion survived many calamities and historical shifts.
In 1860, the Allied Forces of Britain and France burned the Garden of Clear Ripples (former name of the Summer Palace) but the Baoyun Bronze Pavilion remained intact due to its bronze material. Nevertheless, the furnishings inside the pavilion were all destroyed, leaving a bronze table alone. In 1900, the Eight Allied Armies ransacked the Summer Palace, yet could do nothing to the bronze pavilion. One day in 1908, the eunuch in charge of the Summer Palace was shocked to find that the 4 big and 6 small bronze windows had disappeared. According to the Statutes and Precedents of the Great Qing Empire, those guilty of dereliction of duty should be killed at once, therefore, the eunuch tried his best to gloss over the news. With the downfall of the Qing Dynasty and the passing of the time, the loss of the ten windows, each of which weighed around 100kg, became a mystery of the Summer Palace.
In 1970s, the lost bronze windows were rediscovered. An overseas informant claimed to know the whereabouts of the windows and wrote to the Summer Palace saying that the windows could be returned if a certain amount of money was paid. Later, it is said that the person who wrote the letter persuaded a wealthy man to pay for the ten bronze windows and donated them to the Summer Palace. On December 2, 1993, the donation ceremony was held in the Summer Palace and the ten bronze windows were returned to their rightful home after 90 years, later Baoyun Bronze Pavilion was restored to its original condition. However, it remains an unsolved mystery how the ten bronze windows disappeared.
Next: Through the Wonderland
Further Reading: Summer Palace Travel Tips