Summer Palace

-- Garden of Virtue and Harmony --

Great Theater in Garden of Virtue and Harmony, where performances used to be showed here for royal family. Located to the north of the Hall of Benevolence and Longevity, this garden, covering an area of 3000sqm, mainly consists of the Theatre Building and Hall of Nurtured Joy.

The theatre building, constructed in 1892 with a cost of 1.6 million taels of silver, is the largest stage in China at the time. The stage is three-storied with a height of 21m and width of 17m. Performances could be staged simultaneously on three levels. The three levels are connected by trap-doors, which provide convenience for actors to appear and disappear. A winch was installed on the top level, through which performers, settings and props could be lowered and raised. At the bottom of the lower floor, a deep well and five ponds were set to strengthen acoustic resonance and supply water for special effects. In the course of the performance, a grand water scene could easily be produced when necessary on the stage.

When there were plays on show, Empress Dowager Cixi often sit in the Hall of Nurtured Joy to watch the performances. While Emperor Guangxu would sit outside the door since the hall was only open to concubines and female guests.

Around the stage are seven exhibition rooms, in which many national treasures as well as the daily articles of the Empress Dowager Cixi are on display. Among this exhibits, a vintage Benz is worth the whistle. Engineers from German concluded that it was a second-generation Benz made in 1898. As the first car China imported, it was presented to Cixi as a gift by Yuan Shikai, a wily warlord.

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