In the northwest suburbs of Beijing, a 68.5-square-km historic area waits to be protected and managed.
Located in Haidian District and collectively called "Three Hills and Five Gardens," or "San Shan Wu Yuan" in Chinese, the area covers the Fragrant Hills, Yuquan Hills, and Wanshou Hills, as well as Jingyi Garden, Jingming Garden, Summer Palace, Old Summer Palace, and Changchun Garden. The area includes many historical cultural sites, including royal gardens from the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).
Shan Jixiang, the director the Palace Museum, said the area has had deep cultural significance since the Jin Dynasty (1115-1234).
On Sept. 29, 2017, Beijing authorities released the full text of a general city plan for 2016 to 2035. The plan aims to build an overall and completed protection system for the historical and cultural city of Beijing.
It specifically calls for strengthening the overall protection of both the old city of Beijing and the area of Three Hills and Five Gardens.
This was unprecedented among previous city plans.
The general plan declared that archaeological work and repairs should be carried out to protect and restore the historical features and vegetation quality should also be improved.
Fan Zhipeng, from the management office of the Summer Palace, said that the Three Hills and Five Gardens contains many of Beijing's classical gardens.
The area is considered to be a concentrated encyclopedia of Chinese traditional culture. It was once the hub of politics, culture, and military in the Qing Dynasty.
Since the time of Emperor Kangxi, most of the emperors held courts and diplomatic activities inside the area. It was also the primary base for recreation and many emperors spent much of the year living in the Three Hills and Five Gardens during the 268 years of the Qing Dynasty.
According to Fan, there were more than 90 royal gardens within the area during that time.
But the prosperity ended in 1860 when British and French troops burned down the Old Summer Palace during the Second Opium War. It was sacked and burned again in 1900 when the Eight-Nation Alliance -- troops from Britain, the United States, Germany, France, Russia, Japan, Italy and Austro-Hungary -- occupied Beijing.
Witnessing the country's fall and rise, the area has more significance than just the royal gardens. It contains the country's ancient and modern heritage from the Jin Dynasty until now.
"The Three Hills and Five Gardens could be a drawcard for Beijing," said Chen Mingjie, a Beijing local official. "It is expected to be even more splendid when more people can enjoy the beauty and recognize the cultural charm of the historic sites."
More detailed and specific planning is required to begin the process of the area's protection and restoration.
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