Wenchang Gallery, Summer Palace
The East Palace Gate 东宫门 is the major entrance to the Summer Palace with two side doors for royal family members and court officials, and three grand doors in the middle exclusively for the Emperor, Empress and queen mothers. On the gate hangs a plaque inscribed 'Yiheyuan' (Summer Palace) meaning 'to maintain energy and mellow the soul'. The road for the emperors leading to the entrance is chiseled with two relief dragons playing with a ball, symbolizing royal dignity. About 200 meters (218.7 yards) from the superb East Palace Gate is a lion-guarded inscribed archway. One inscription, 'Hanxu', indicates 'picturesque scenery', the other 'Yanxiu', means 'capturing beauty'. This tells visitors about the enchanting scenery inside the garden. Upon entering the gate, visitors will be impressed by the three big and vigorous characters "颐和园" (Summer Palace) written on the plaque. It is said to be the handwriting of Emperor Guangxu, and about the origin of these characters, there was an interesting story passed down from generation to generation. During the restoration of Summer Palace, craftsmen appealed to Emperor Guangxu for an inscription on the plaque. The Emperor was pleased to accept their request. He quickly picked up a writing brush and wrote the three words "颐和园", but these words were terribly twisting. When Empress Cixi saw it, she angrily asked the craftsmen to take it off. Hearing about this, the Emperor Guangxu felt ashamed and made up his mind to practice calligraphy. Finally through earnest effort and by apprenticing a master who had good handwriting, the Emperor could finish the three words with one stroke, and his calligraphy work was so satisfactory to be hung above the East Palace Gate. Regardless the truth of the story, the East Palace Gate of Summer Palace, added by these vigorous and forceful words, become more magnificent and grand. Pass through the gate, and you will enter a picturesque garden with charming landscape and historical connections waiting for your exploration. The biggest of the six gate forts(Purple Cloud Tower, Tower of Cloud-Retaining Eaves, Tower of Dawn Light, Tongyun Chengguan, Qianfengcaicui Chengguan, Wenchang Tower) in the Summer Palace garden, the Wenchang Tower 文昌阁 was first built in the 15th year of Emperor Qianlong's reign (1750) and rebuilt under Emperor Guangxu after it was burned down in 1860 by the Anglo-French Allied Forces. A bronze statue of the god, Wenchang, and statues of two followers, the celestial boy, and the bronze steed, were placed in the two-storey pavilion. This tower pairs up with the Tower of Cloud-Retaining Eaves, located on the west bank of Kunming Lake, in which a statue of the Martial God was placed. The twin towers symbolize the support by both scholars and warriors to the ruling emperor.
Located to the east of the Wenchang Tower in the Summer Palace, the Wenchang Gallery 文昌院 is the largest and the most impressive gallery of its kind in any classical Chinese garden. On display in its six halls are thousands of artifacts extracted from the Summer Palace, covering some 3,600 years from the Shang and Zhou dynasties to the fall of the Qing Dynasty in 1911. The exhibits include bronzeware, jewelry, chinaware, furniture, paintings, calligraphy, ancient books, enamels, clocks, handicrafts made of gold, silver, bamboo, wood, ivory, horn and lacquer, and other miscellaneous items, representing almost all types of Chinese antiques. As one would expect in an imperial garden, these artifacts demonstrate the highest techniques and craftsmanship of their times, and many were once highly important symbols of the state. Also on display in the halls are objects related to the everyday life of emperors and empresses in the Qing court. They are of great historical value and provide some of the most reliable material evidence of the court culture in imperial China.