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Historical images revive Yuanmingyuan

08-04-2010 08:50 BJT

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Some of the earliest and most important photographs of Yuanmingyuan, or the old Summer Palace in Beijing, are now on display at the World Art Museum in Beijing.

A German photographer documented the remains of the imperial garden around 1870, ten years after its destruction by the allied forces of France and Britain. This is the first time these precious photographs have been introduced to the public.

Many stories are told through these extremely rare photographs of the burned architectural and landscape complex taken 140 years ago. Its continuous expansion by several generations of Qing Emperors for 150 years. And its tragic destruction in only a few hours.

The exhibition offers an emotional account for Chinese to mourn their past relics, as well as a support for an extensive study of the building of the palaces and their subsequent destruction.

This is the first time these precious photographs have been introduced to the public. 
This is the first time these precious photographs have been
introduced to the public. 

Ernst Ohlmer worked as a professional photographer and ran his own studio in Xiamen, a coastal city in east China in 1867. He later became a customs officer and worked in China for 46 years.

In 1873, Ohlmer shot many photographs on the ruins of Yuanmingyuan. He retired in 1914 and took the negatives to Germany. After his death in 1927, his widow gave them to German architect Ernst Boerschmann who kept them in the German town of Hildesheim.

In 1933, Chinese scholar Teng Gu discovered the negatives during his visit to Germany. Amazed, Teng Gu borrowed the negatives, brought them to China and published a photo album. Later, he returned them to Germany, but the negatives were said to be lost during World War Two.

Qin Feng, a Taiwan collector who has been tracking down this set of negatives for many years, finally bought them this May and put them on public display for the first time.

Qin Feng said, "I decided to buy them immediately after I saw these pictures. They should be owned by the Chinese. We encountered many difficulties during our negotiations with the owner. But how lucky we are to finally succeed."

The Old Summer Palace, known in China as the Gardens of Perfect Brightness, was built in the 18th and 19th century. It was where the emperors of the Qing Dynasty resided and handled government affairs.

Known for its extensive collection of gardens, period architectures, and other works of art, the imperial gardens were destroyed by British and French troops in 1860 during the Second Opium War.

"Disturbed Dreams in the Ruins of the Garden -- Ernst Ohlmer and Historical Images of the Old Summer Palace" is a commemoration for the 150th anniversary of the destruction of the Garden. It will be on display in Beijing until August 30th before touring to Dongguan of Guangdong Province.

Editor:Liu Fang |Source:

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