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Museum of Chinese Garden Culture

The Summer Palace is a veritable museum of garden-type architecture of different styles from different regions. Virtually all the classical Chinese forms of architecture can be found there - halls, chambers, corridors, studios, waterside pavilions, kiosks, bridges, and whatnot. Apart from wooden structures, there are also ones cast of bronze, built of masonry, or imbedded with glazed tiles. In terms of architectural style, the Summer Palace has incorporated the fine elements of various places in China.

The buildings in the palatial and inner court zone in the east are fashioned in the typical style of the northern Chinese courtyard houses, where enclosed courtyards are linked to each other with winding corridors. The lake zone in the south is typical of Hangzhou's West Lake, where a single dyke divides the lake in two, a typical style south of the Yangtze River. The northern side of the Longevity Hill is characteristic of the style of Tibetan lamaseries that are complete with white pagodas and castle-like structures.

The Suzhou Street with its line of shops in the northern part of the garden is evocative of the water-bound part of south China. The Summer Palace is quintessential of the Chinese art of garden construction and horticulture. The natural terrain of the Longevity Hill and the Kunming Lake are fully utilized to create a world of water and hills, with winding streams and square courtyards tucked away in the repose of the back slope of the hill. The beautiful scenery of the Western Hills and the Jade Spring Hill is skillfully borrowed to enhance the beauty of the garden. The structures in the Summer Palace are arranged in an overall way, with a clear demarcation between main structures and minor ones, so that they set off each other in striking contrast. Meticulous attention is paid to details, so that despite the huge number of buildings on the premises, the entire place looks orderly, and scenes and sights are widespread but not overly scattered. The superb groups of buildings and unique techniques in landscaping are combined to bring about the original style of this imperial garden.

The combination of gardens and temples is yet another salient feature of Chinese art of garden construction. The popular worship of Buddhism resulted in the presence of numerous Buddhist buildings in the garden, adding a touch of otherworldliness to the entire scene.

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