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Story about Long Corridor of the Summer Palace

Long corridor, Summer Palace, Beijing, China

The long corridor of the Summer Palace(Yi He Yuan, 颐和园) was said to be built for facilitating Emperor Qianlong’s mother to view the snowy and raining landscape of Kunming Lake(昆明湖). Qianlong(乾隆) was the fourth emperor of Qing Dynasty and he liked horticulture very much and also had filial piety to his mother. For celebrating his mother’s 60th birthday, Emperor Qianlong mobilized massive manpower and resources to expand Kunming Lake and built Qingyi Garden(清漪园) as well as Da Baoen Temple(大报恩寺) on Wen Mountain. Hereafter, Wen Mountain(翁山) was named Wanshou Mountain(Longevity Hill, 万寿山). Emperor’s mother often appreciated the snow view in garden. For pleasing his mother as well as for avoiding his mother suffering from raining and snowing, Emperor Qianlong built a long corridor as well on the border between Wanshou Mountain and Kunming Lake.

Emperor Qianlong’s mother liked listening to kinds of stories. She used to be enjoying the various stories of her ladies-in-waiting when viewing the landscape of the outside. Some of stories that she preferred were narrated again and again. As the time went, the stories of these ladies-in-waiting were run out and the stories told before have almost been heard too many times by Emperor’s mother. Meanwhile, some stories told in earlier time were partly forgotten by the ladies-in-waiting and the situation really troubled them. Afterwards, they came up with a perfect idea that they suggested the workmen painted the contents of stories onto the beams. Later on, the told stories collected more and more, and the paintings on the beams also became more and more diversified. From then on, the ladies-in-waiting were never worried about being lack of stories or temporarily forgetful. This is said to be one of the origins of these life-like paintings on beams in corridors of The Summer Palace. 

Long corridor, Summer Palace, Beijing, China

The Summer Palace was also closely connected with Empress Dowager Cixi who on her 70th birthday embezzled the military expenditure to decorate the Summer Palace. One day Empress Dowager turned around in Foxiang Pavilion (the pavilion of Buddhist fragrance, 佛香阁) and felt there was always something lacked. She questioned an old craftsman: “Why not building dragon statues on lakeside and in the lake?” The old craftsman found Empress Dowager was not happy and instantly answered, “Your majesty, there is only the Fengwei (Phoenix tail) Corridor in Foxiang Pavilion, but on lakeside and in the lake, there were no dragon statues.” Ci Xi was furious and shouted at the understrappers: “Go! To summon all the dragon-players nearby and let them non-stop play dragon-games on the lakeside! I must see the ‘dragon’!” It troubled these players too much. They took all-out efforts to play the dragons all day long; many players were too exhausted to play. A group of players was dead beat, and another group followed. The Empress Dowager just watched a half hour per day but she never had these players stop. The old craftsman quite regretted his wrongdoings and contemplated for three days but still thought out a solution.

One night, an old men entered his room as he was about to sleep and begged for something to eat. The old craftsman saw he was a beggar and gave him a bowl of noodle with meat. The old man just watched the noodle and sighed, and he said to this old craftsman: “I am not comfortable these days!” He put the bowl in reverse and took some pieces of noodles to encircle along the verge of bowl. And then the old man sighed and walked out. The old craftsman suddenly waked up. It is a dream!He reminded the appearance gesture of that old man and believed that old man was Lu Ban(鲁班),the forefather of Chinese craftsmanship. And the noodles Lu Ban took to encircle the verge of the bowl quite looked like a dragon. In a flash, he got an idea that built a long dragon-shaped corridor. He right away reported to Empress Dowager and promised to build a dragon in next three months; meanwhile he requested to release the dragon-players. Empress Dowager agreed. After three months, Empress Dowager once again stepped up into Foxiang Pavilion and suddenly found a long dragon swimming along the side of Kunming Lake. She was exultant and rewarded this old craftsman a lot. In fact, this dragon is this long corridor with 273 spaces.
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