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Garden of Compassion and Tranquility (Cining gong huayuan)

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Situated to the south of the Palace of Compassion and Tranquility and the Palace of Longevity and Health (Shoukang Gong), the Garden of Compassion and Tranquility was a place where empress dowagers and imperial dowager consorts worshiped the Buddha, entertained themselves, and rested. It was first constructed in 1536 (the fifteenth year of the Ming dynasty Jiajing reign). To provide his mother, the Empress Dowager Xiaoshengxian (a faithful Buddhist who was living in the Palace of Longevity and Health) a place to worship the Buddha, the Qianlong Emperor had the Garden renovated in 1765 (the thirtieth year of his reign); as seen in today, this imperial garden runs 130m north-south and 50m east-west, covering an area of 6,800 square meters and containing nine architectural features, including the Hall of Understanding and Bringing Peace (Xianruo guan), the Pavilion of Benevolent Sanctuary (Ciyin lou), the Building of Auspicious Clouds (Jiyun lou), the Hall of the Solemn Buddha (Baoxiang lou), the Hall of Prolonged Longevity (Yanshou tang), the Lodge of Enclosed Purity (Hanqing zhai) and the Pavilion over the Stream (Linxi ting). These buildings structures are concentrated in the northern part of the garden; standing in the center among them, the Hall of Understanding and Bringing Peace is the main architecture of the garden.

  After the completion of renovation was completed, the Garden of Compassion and Tranquility is open to the public, mainly to showcase the thousands of religious artifacts housed in the Hall of Understanding and Bringing Peace as well as to open the Pavilion over the Stream for visual pleasure and recreational purposes.

  The Hall of Understanding and Bringing Peace is located in the northern part of the Garden of Compassion and Tranquility; the main hall has a hip-and-gable roof in yellow glazed tiles and the enclosed porch has a round-ridge hip-and-gable roof, of which the six wing corners are embellished with a bronze bell each. Here was originally a place to enshrine the statues of Buddha and to store the Buddhist scriptures. The Pavilion of Benevolent Sanctuary is located to the north of the Hall of Understanding and Bringing Peace, which is flanked by Hall of the Solemn Buddha and the Building of Auspicious Clouds to the east and the west. To the south of the Garden is a pond, over which is a white marble bridge; on the bridge is the Pavilion over the Stream, facing the Hall of Understanding and Bringing Peace. These buildings have also been renovated. The Garden of Compassion and Tranquility is a spacious and pleasant site, to which the open access will accommodate more visitors and their short stay.

  Due to the constraint of various factors such as rites, patriarch, and fengshui, the buildings in the Garden of Compassion and Tranquility are in a hierarchical and symmetrical layout, which is orderly neat yet somehow monotonous. The garden atmosphere is enhanced by sophisticated interior embellishment as well as the ponds, rockery, and a wide variety of plants in the courtyards. The garden trees, mostly pine and cypress with occasionally Chinese parasol tree, ginkgo, magnolia, and clove, are densely planted in front of the Hall of Understanding and Bringing Peace and around the Pavilion over the Stream, while the flower terraces see profuse peony. With the changes of seasons and time, different sentiments and feelings are thus created in this garden ground.

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