Scenes from Another Time

The Day the Old Summer Palace Burned

Architects who are poets build the thousand and one dreams of the thousand and one nights…. [The Old Summer Palace], glimpsed from the distance in a kind of twilight, [is] like a silhouette of the civilization of Asia on the horizon of the civilization of Europe. --Victor Hugo (1802-1885)

October 18, 1860 - the Old Summer Palace perishes in a great fire. A documentary of this tumultuous event enables audiences to understand how the Palace was destroyed in a conflict between two different cultures.

This part of the exhibit presents the earliest glass-negative photography of the Old Summer Palace by Ernst Ohlmer. It includes original photographs, fragments of craftwork that made their way into foreign collections, medals of honor awarded to foreign officers, and accounts founds in diaries. The history of the period is reconstructed from the perspectives of both eastern and western cultures for audiences to experience the Qing Empire’s “World of Memories.”