The Summer Palace Burns

The Qing court initially refused to enforce the edicts of the Treaty of Tianjin, which called for more treaty ports and freedom of movement for foreigners in China. When the Chinese stalled, the British and French quickly reopened hostilities, this time in the north of China, to set, in the words of historian James Hevia, “an object lesson for others who might contemplate defying British power.”

The European allies attempted, and failed, to sack the Dagu Fort, but China’s joy at this victory was short lived. The British and French armies marched straight to the outskirts of Beijing and proceeded to systematically destroy one of the emperor’s most prized possessions, the Garden of Perfect Brightness, or Yuanmingyuan (colloquially, “Summer Palace”).

Very few photos of the original Summer Palace remain, but MIT’s Visualizing Culture project has put together a fantastic visual history of the palace.

CCTV has produced a full-length documentary reenacting the sacking of the Yuanmingyuan. Watch a preview below, or find the full film (in Chinese) here.