The Garden of Harmonious Interest was originally built in 1751. It was first named Huishan Garden after the Jichang Garden ( Garden for Ease of Mind) in Huishan of Wuxi, Jiangsu Province. Jichang Garden used to be the private garden of Qin Jin, Minister of the Board of War, towards the end of the Qing Dynasty. Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty went to South china for inspections and resided there several times. He greatly admired the architectural art for the garden. Later on, he decided to build a similar garden in Beijing. In 1881, after the Huishan Garden was renovated,Emperor Jiaqing, the 15th son of Emperor Qianlong, renamed it the Garden of Harmonious Interest. In 1860, the Anglo-French Allied Forces burned down the garden. The garden was reconstructed in 1892. When the dowager empress Cixi lived in the Summer Palace during summer time, she often came to the garden to angle for pleasure. The Far Vistas, the main building within the garden, used to be the place where the dowager empress Cixi relaxed.
In the middle of the garden lies a pond occupying half an acre of land (about 2,000 square metres ). Fish teem in the pond with lotus. Fish and flowers in the pond, weeping willows along the banks, artificial rockeries by the side of the paths, green pines on the mounds and water pavilions form distinctively different paintings. They ingeniously make up a garden within a garden.
The Garden of Harmonious Interest has eight following “interests”.
Interest of the Four Different Seasons
In spring, water in the pond is as smooth as a mirror with weeping willows wavering in the breeze. In summer, lotuses are in blossom with the flowers sending out a fragrant smell. In autumn, water pavilions and green weeping willows are reflected in the pond.
In winter, when snow falls, all buildings, corridors, water pavilions and weeping willows are heavily covered with snow.
Interest of Water
Water for the pond comes from the Rear Lake of the he summer Palace through the bamboo groves. Here there is a “Jade Violin Gorge” which was a copy of the “Eight-Sound Brook” in Jichang Garden in Wuxi, Jiangsu Province.
Interest of Bridge
In the garden, there are eight small bridges with different styles. The longest bridge is about 10 metres and shortest being less than 2 metres. The most interesting of all is the bridge known as “Know the Fish Bridge.” Legend claims that more than 2, 500 years ago during the Warring States period(475-221 BC), two philosophers named Zhuang Zi (c. 369-286 BC) and Hui Zi or Hui Shi (c.370-c.310 BC) ( both of them were intimate friends) had an interesting argument by the side of a pond.
This famous dialogue between Zhuang Zi and Hui Zi quoted from Zhuang Zi.Autumn Water Zhuang Zi went out for pleasure with his friend Hui Zi on the bridge over River Hao in northeast Fengyang of Anhui Province.
“ How happily those little silver fish are swimming in the water! I wish I were a fish, too,” said Zhung Zi.
At this Hui Zi said, “You aren’t a fish, are you? How can you know whether the fish are happy or not?”
“ You aren’t me,” retorted the other, “how do you know that I do not know the happiness of the fish?”
“ Quite so,” Hui Zi said, taking advantage of what the other had said. “It is true that I don’t know your happiness because I am not you, and for the same reason, you don’t know the happiness of the fish, because you are not a fish. Isn’t it clear enough?”
Interest of Calligraphy
In the garden there are lots of stone engravings, couplets and poems.
Emperor Qianlong wrote some of them. People who show great interest in them come here to study the engravings.
Interest of Pavilion
At northwest corner of the garden, looking eastward from outside the garden, visitors can view a structure with a plaque hanging from it, reading Fresh View Tower. But the structure is merely an ordinary house with three room units. It is not a building. People would ask why an ordinary house like this was named Fresh View Tower. When visitors step into the garden, looking eastward while standing on the bank of the pond, Fresh View Tower is not an ordinary house. It looks like a delicate and exquisite two-storeyed building. The gardening craftsmen employing topographical advantages and landforms create this.
Interest of painting
Within the garden there are hundreds of paintings on the buildings. Some of them are flowers and scenery. Others are paintings based on the figures and historical stories. Flanking the main gate of the garden there is scenery of Guilin (Guilin claims to be second to none in scenery )in the south; in the north there are a giant panda and a baby panda (panda is regarded as national treasure, by the end of 2006 there were more than 1, 500 pandas in China).
Interest of Corridor
Around the pond there are structures such as Pavilion for Perceiving the Spring, House of Clear Sky, House of Clear Water and cool Breeze which are connected by winding corridors. Visitors can enjoy ancient Chinese buildings with unique styles.
Interest of Imitation
Jichang Garden (Garden for Ease of Mind) used to be the famous private garden of South China, and the Garden of Harmonious Interest was the imperial garden in the ancient Capital City. New creation was made in imitation and new creation didn’t betray the original designs. The Garden of Harmonious Interest originated from Jichang Garden in Wuxi, Jiangsu Province, but has exceeded it.