Through the Wonderland (Huazhongyou)

Through the Wonderland (Huazhongyou, also literarily Strolling Through a Picture Scroll) covers the west part of the front area of Longevity Hill, corresponding to the Hall of Utmost Blessing in the eastern hillside. The building complex was built to the north of Hall for Listening the Orioles, on the slope with a gradient of 20 degrees. It provides a panoramic view on the Kunming Lake and Jade Spring Mountain (with the symbolic pagoda on the hill top) from where the slopes meet each other.

The Hall of Through the Wonderland also features Chenghui Pavilion, Jieqiu Tower and Aishan Tower prominently. Buildings harmonize with the terrain by standing on platforms of variable height and interconnected by sloping galleries with green and yellow glazed tiles. The entrance fronts south toward the Kunming Lake. Chenghui Pavilion, at the south end of the complex’s axis, is the central focal point. On the second level of the two-storeyed octahedral pavilion one gets a good lake front view with rocks in the backdrop. Sloping galleries weave backward to meet Aishan Tower in the east and Jieqiu Tower in the West. Built on rockeries, sloping galleries has pillars of different height. These buildings embrace the first layer of the courtyard.

One then comes upon a white marble archway which is one among forty-one in the Summer Palace. The exquisite archway has low relief engravings all over. The flowers patterns on the stone drums are especially beautiful. Some engravings are shallow, not legible, but still fancy after 260 years of weathering. The excellence of the archways also lies in the size of raw stone. One pillar with side support, drum stone and cloud-shaped top is made out of one integrated marble stone.

Behind the archway is another layer of the courtyard. The Hall of Through the Wonderland is the central building, carried in arms of the sloping galleries. When you turn around to see Aishan and Jieqiu Towers before exiting the decorated back door, you will find them merged into one. A path leads from the back door up to an airy spacious hall, named ‘Hu Shan Zhen Yi’, literarily ‘the true meaning of lake and mountain scenery’. Its front window frame is a natural view finder to keep the back of Through the Wonderland and the further lake within.

Do you feel puzzled about the name of ‘Through the Wonderland’? It is attributed to a dream Emperor Qianlong had after some misgivings with the model of the Summer Palace. In his dream, an old man with flowing white beards came to see him accompanied by two maids each holding a painted scroll with live pictures. The old man invited the emperor to enter the pavilions and towers inside. Emperor Qianlong enjoyed himself thoroughly inside and then recorded his experience from memory for posterity.
 
Anyway, it is a legend, but the emperor could have had a hand in the landscape design. Through the Wonderland can be a masterpiece of refinement. A cluster of compact structures give rise to a perfect combination of rockeries and ancient garden buildings.

Next: Hall of the Sea of Wisdom

 Related Link: Summer Palace Travel Tips

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