A visitor takes a photo of displays in Beihai Park's Yilan Hall in Beijing after the facility opened to the public on Thursday. (Zhao Rong / For China Daily)
An imperial garden in downtown Beijing's Beihai Park opened to tourists after a restaurant that had operated for 60 years was moved out as part of a campaign to protect the city's cultural heritage.
Yilan Hall, whose history spans more than 260 years, is a cluster of buildings designed in the architectural style of the Jinshan Temple in Jiangsu province. It was the preferred reading place for Emperor Qianlong, an 18th-century ruler of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).
In the 1950s, the Fangshan restaurant and hotel opened in the building, offering "emperor's dishes". Taking advantage of the historical setting, the hotel, which boasted a lake view, earned fame by providing customers with a taste of Qing luxury. It had 11 small private dining rooms
Lyu Xinjie, the park's Party chief, said the restaurant was closed and relocated in April last year, while restoration of the 200-square-meter area, one-third of the complex, was carried out to reproduce the site's former appearance.
He said the restaurant had impeded protection of the historical building, and also posed safety risks.
Replicas of study furniture, as well as paintings and calligraphy favored by Emperor Qianlong, were arranged in the hall. Professionals from the capital's Palace Museum created illustrations to help visitors better understand the building's history.
Lyu said for protection purposes, the park will cap the number of visitors at a maximum of 80 at a time, because renovations and archaeological studies of the rest of the complex are still underway.
A two-part exhibition is currently open to the public: one a show about Yilan Hall's history and culture, and another about Emperor Qianlong.]
Deng Min, curator of the show and director of the Beihai Park Institute of Heritage Studies, said the exhibition would be on display until the renovations begin on Yilan Hall.
The park is now working on the renovation plan, and work is expected to start next year. It plans to complete repairs on the old buildings and environment over the next two to three years, according to the park administration.
Visitors' applauded the opening of the heritage site.
Peng Shixiang, 60, who came to the exhibition with his wife on Friday morning, said, "It's good for us to have access to authentic cultural heritage; before, I could only walk by the door."
First built in the 12th century, during the Jin Dynasty (1115-1234), Beihai Park is Beijing's oldest and best-preserved imperial garden. The park covers 68.2 hectares with a lake taking up more than half the area.
The park's gardens were built to imitate renowned scenic spots and architecture from various regions in China.
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