Those interesting piers in the Summer Palace

The Summer Palace is blessed with mountains and longevity, with the Yuquan Mountain and the peaks of the West Mountain as the background. With the moon rising and the sun setting and the clouds rolling, you can see a lot of scenic spots, cultural relics and allusions, including several pairs of interesting Qing Dynasty gateposts.
The gate piers of the Summer Palace are often found under the pendulous door. Not every courtyard has them, nor are they old. In terms of theme, it draws on some auspicious patterns widely circulated among the people. Compared with the formal palace decoration, it shows the characteristics of the royal garden, such as freedom, leisure, and advocating nature.
There are many experts, scholars, cultural and museum predecessors, monuments and photographers who study the gate piers, but there are few articles and little attention to the gate piers of the Summer Palace, except for Fan Zhipeng’s “Qin, Chess, Calligraphy and Painting on the Gate Pier of the Jieshou Hall in the Summer Palace”. Here are a few simple examples.
Cloud Pine Nest Gate Pier
The pattern of one-legged moon watcher in the cloud is particularly intriguing
On the front Shanxi slope of the Longevity Hill, between the two groups of buildings on the first floor of the Paiyun Hall and the lake, there is a group of landscape courtyards built according to the mountain, called Yunsong Nest. From the Qiushui Pavilion on the long corridor to the north, you will step up along the cloud steps stacked with natural mountains and stones, and come to a flower gate, namely the main gate of Yunsong Nest. The hanging door is closed all day long, and the courtyard wall with mosaic glass windows on both sides extends to the mountain, hidden in the depths of pines and cypresses.
There is a pair of piers under the pendulous door of the Yunsong Nest, which is a standard drum shape and consists of four parts, namely, animal head, big drum, small drum and Xumizuo. The head of the beast is a common magic beast, that is, a dragon and lion with a ring in its mouth, lying on the drum, staring at the visitors with eyebrows and mouth cocked and eyes wide open. They are quiet and loyal to their duties, so they are often decorated as doorrings or carved on the stone drums of the door piers, and are responsible for frightening evil spirits and guarding the door. The drum body with the animal head lying on its back is carved with a ring of drum nail patterns on both sides. A blooming peony and persimmon flower are carved on the front and back of the animal head, and the flowers and leaves are complete and full.
On the outer side of the gate pier, a six-petal lotus is carved, solemn and holy; The small drum is carved with horizontal lotus leaves and auspicious clouds, and the big drum is on the seat of Xumizuo; Xumizuo has a bundle corner carved with auspicious flowers and plants such as chrysanthemums.
What is intriguing is the inner side of the drum: a cow with a round plate, long tail, standing on one leg and looking back is surrounded by a circle of auspicious clouds. Looking down the cow’s eyes, there seems to be an oval jade plate in the cloud, with two horizontal lines carved in the middle and a faint word “month”. From the decorative patterns, we can see that the cow has three obvious characteristics: cloud, one leg and moon watching.
As for the Yunzhong cattle, some teachers believe that since Li Er, the curator of the National Library of the Eastern Zhou Dynasty, rode the green cattle across the Hangu Pass, the cattle on which the Taoist overlord Laojun was riding became more and more dignified and appeared on jade, inkstone, bronze mirror, door post, brick carving and other artworks. In addition to the sea god beast on the “water plate” under the stone tablet and flagpole, the cattle carved in stone relief are surrounded by auspicious clouds, no matter with four legs or one leg, no matter whether they are looking at the moon or not, no matter whether they are stepping on the river cliff or wading in the sea, without exception. Clouds and clouds appear together, with the implication of rising.
One-legged cattle are relatively rare. You can see it in the stone lion Xumizuo Jinpu in front of the throne of the Vajra in the Stone Carving Museum, two stone monuments in the Dongyue Temple, the stone table in front of the Sangong Pagoda in the Yunju Temple, and the stone shoulder of the Fulong’an Tombstone in front of the entrance of the Imperial Examination Plaque Museum. The shapes of these stone carved cattle are standing in the sea or river cliffs with one leg, surrounded by auspicious clouds, and the body is coiled into a round shape. Looking back. It should be noted that among the six one-legged cattle, two of the two stone steles in Dongyue Temple look back but do not look at the moon, because the moon cannot be found in the pattern.
Some teachers believe that the one-legged cow is not a cow, but Kui or Kui Niu. According to the “The Book of Mountains and Seas · The Great Wild East Sutra”, “There is Liubo Mountain in the East China Sea, seven thousand miles into the sea, on which there is an animal, which is like an ox, has no horns, and has one foot. When entering or leaving the water, there will be wind and rain, its light is like the sun and the moon, its sound is like thunder, and its name is Kui. The Yellow Emperor got it, with its skin as the drum, its pin as the bone of a thunderous animal, and its sound is 500 miles to the world.” From this passage, we can see that the features of the divine animal are “like an ox” and “one foot”, Unlike the common four-legged cattle in life, it is called “Kui Niu” because of its name.
Other teachers believe that this is “bullfight”, also known as Qiu Chi or Qiu Long, which is an incarnation of the dragon, or a dragon that has not yet become a dragon. It is included in the “Qing Palace Beast Manual” compiled by the Palace Museum. Its main feature is one-legged. Its main responsibility is to swallow clouds and smoke, eliminate disasters and eliminate disasters. It is said that the bullfight will appear in a peaceful time, which is a kind of auspicious sign reflecting the peace of the prosperous times. In a word, whether it is Kui bull or bullfight, because the one-leg has divinity, it is no longer a auspicious animal in the world, but a strange animal in the fairyland.
The moon-watching ox makes people often think of rhinoceros watching the moon, Xiniu watching the moon, Wuniu panting the moon or Kunniu watching the moon. Among these moon cows, the moon is divided into a full moon and a curved moon. The meaning should be different.
On the stele of Zhang Sangjie’s tombstone in the Ming Dynasty, there are four-legged cattle looking back at the moon, looking at the crescent moon, and many one-legged cattle, including the one-legged cattle on the pillar of the Yunsong Nest, looking at the full moon.
Why do cattle watch the moon? There are many explanations in the academic circles, including Guo Xuelei, deputy curator and research librarian of Shenzhen Museum, who put forward the theory of “Kunniu Watching the Moon”, and the “Commentary on the Sand” in Volume II of Song Lai Wenjun’s “Expedition of Officials”. “The scripture says:” The dry horse is in the sky, the kunniu is looking at the moon, the gong dog is in the city, the sun rooster is in the sky, the sun rooster is in the sky, the sky pillar is in the four dimensions, and the fame is at hand. “Mr. Guo explained that the kunniu Watching the Moon is a very popular auspicious allegorical theme in the Song and Jin Dynasties, from the perspective of divination, Kun cattle can pass through the sky and divide water, so the ancients used cattle to control water; The tide phenomenon is mostly related to the moon, so cattle care about the moon. The common picture is that cattle look at the moon in the sea, which should be the moral of praying for good weather and peace of the country.
In short, the gate pier of the Yunsong Nest and the decoration of the one-legged moon cow in the cloud are rare and intriguing, with a strong cultural background, which is very worthy of appreciation. Unfortunately, the right part of this pair of piers is damaged, which seems to have been hit by human beings.
Endless Yixuan Square Pier
In front of Futou, there is an auspicious picture of deer and crane in the same spring
In the major houses in the capital, the use of gate piers is probably related to the owner’s status, interests and cultural fashion at that time. In a royal garden such as the Summer Palace, whether there are convincing requirements and standards for the use of drum-shaped or square gate piers seems to have nothing to do with the function of the courtyard. The objects we see are both square and round. Most of them are round piers. There are at least two square piers, namely, Endless Yixuan and Yishoutang.
At the east foot of the south slope of the Longevity Hill, there is a group of quadrangle buildings, with the back of Cangshan Mountain and the door of Lotus Pond. The main hall of the courtyard is hung with a plaque inscribed by the Qianlong Emperor, “Endless Yixuan”. During the period of Qingyi Garden, Emperor Qianlong often watched and appreciated paintings here.
Endless Yixuan is built on the platform close to the hillside. The gate is a beautiful flower gate. Step up along the vertical belt on both sides of the gate and you will come to the entrance of Endless Yixuan. In front of the gate is a pair of square piers, also known as box-shaped piers, which should be from the Qianlong period. Compared with the drum-shaped pier, the square pier has a simpler structure, which roughly includes three parts: Pushi, Futou and Xumizuo.
The portico is mottled and weathered, and the local coating is glossy and mellow. The upper part of the portico is a small lion with a high relief in the shape of prostrate, with round eyes, large rabbit ears, wide mouth, rows of teeth, licking on the tip of the tongue, drooping beard, thick hair on the head and curling into 6 circles. The tail is divided into three locks, the middle one is swung up to the back, the limbs crawl forward, and the chest and abdomen are tightly attached to the fu head of the door post, without openwork. The two lying lions of this pair of gate posts seem to have a close relationship with each other, and both of them squint at each other slightly. Although the lying lion is like a pet dog, it is still a doorkeeper. It not only has the function of decoration, but also reflects the status of the owner, as well as the responsibility of exorcism and disaster prevention. Unfortunately, the nose parts of the two lying lions are damaged.
In the middle of the pier is Futou, which is the middle box part of the rectangular pier. The square box Futou is divided into six sides: upper, lower, front, rear, inner and outer. The Futou cap bears the lion on the top, and the Futou cap is connected with Xumizuo under it. There is a gap of three fingers wide between the Futou cap and the door frame, which is plain white without carving. The remaining three sides of Futou are carved with auspicious patterns and patterns.
Each side of the pattern is engraved with a circle of brocade patterns, or rich and noble edge patterns, and some teachers call the T-word Jiaotai pattern, which is a frame pattern that is repeatedly used by the T-word engraved with one positive and one negative negative, which means endless, auspicious and profound, rich and noble will not break, and also has the meaning of harmony between heaven and earth, and harmony between yin and yang.
In front of Futou is the south and front of the pier, which is slightly narrower than the left and right sides or the inside and outside sides, and is carved with the auspicious pattern “deer and crane in the same spring”. On the side of the pattern, a stout old tree grows among the rocks, and the branches are covered with five plum blossoms; Under the ancient tree is a deer looking back, like a ganoderma lucidum fairy grass in its mouth. The deer is dotted with five-petal flowers, just like the plum flowers on the ancient tree. It is obviously a sika deer; On the upper part of the deer, there is carved a crane with wings ready to fly or close. The crane’s beak seems to be pecking at the petals on the plum tree, and the deer looking back seems to be watching the crane vigilantly.
The cranes in stone carvings and other works of art refer to the hermits, such as the plum wife and the crane son Lin Hejing, which is a metaphor for the reclusive life and the calm and comfortable lofty mood, and also a metaphor for the owner’s living or yearning for the life of seclusion and leisure. Deer is the homonym of “Lu” and “Lu”, that is, “Six”. It means “fortune”, “official salary” and “salary”.
In short, the plum, the crane and the deer all have rich and beautiful meanings. The homonym of deer and crane is “Six Harmonies”, which means the east, west, south, north and the sky and the earth, referring to the world in general. In the whole design, the deer and crane under the ancient plum tree should be the scene of the deer and crane in the same spring or the six contract spring.
Is it “fish like dragon” or “dragon godson”?
The design on the outside of the Futou head at the gate post is a common piece of wishful ribbon. The end of Ruyi handle is carved into a symmetrical curly cloud, the end is connected with a square long handle from thin to thick, and the tail section is rhombic, which appears smooth, balanced and three-dimensional. Ruyi appeared around the Warring States Period. Wu Zeng of the Southern Song Dynasty recorded that “Ruyi has a finger-like handle, which can be used for itching, and can be named as expected.” Wu Zeng of the Qing Dynasty also said that “Ruyi has an ancient claw stick.” Later, Ruyi’s handle gradually changed from a finger-like shape to a ganoderma lucidum or auspicious cloud shape, forming a common appearance of slightly curved handle and smooth handle body, which enhances the appreciation and beautiful meaning on the basis of practicality. Ganoderma lucidum is also a legendary fairy grass. Therefore, the sculpture of Ruyi wrapped with ribbons on the pier is a popular and popular pattern among the people, with auspicious implications such as lingering wealth and longevity.
Although the pattern on the inside of Futou at the gate post is weathered, it can still be recognized as the common Haima Xiangyun. In the picture, a horse with four hooves and long tail is running in the sea and river cliffs. At the same time, it spits out auspicious clouds. Looking back, it spits out three wisps of auspicious clouds floating to the sky. There are no river maps, Luoshu and other decorations in the auspicious clouds. There are also auspicious clouds rising from the rocks behind the horse.
Patterns like Haima Xiangyun are also common in stone carvings, such as the stone lion Xumizuo Brocade Shop in front of the Vajra throne in the Five Pagoda Temple, the stone table in front of the Sangong Pagoda in the Yunju Temple, the stele shoulder of the Fulong’an Tombstone in front of the entrance of the Imperial Examination Plaque Museum, and the drum face of the gate pier of Prince Gong’s Mansion. However, the difference is that the mouth of the horse does not spit auspicious clouds, so some teachers also call this pattern “Heavenly Horse Travels in the Sky”, which means that the horse can ride in the clouds.
The lower part of the gate post is a standard carved Xumizuo, which supports the upper Futou and is carved with Futou as a whole stone, which is the foundation of the gate post. There is a brocade shop on the Xumizuo, that is, a bundle towel, with bundle corners hanging on the front, left and right sides. Although both the left and right corners are mottled and weathered, we can still see the rising clouds of Ruyi.
On the corner of the bag in front of the Xumizuo, there is a highly embossed fish-like dragon pattern. In the picture, a black dragon looks sideways at the lower part of the slope, and a long cloud bursts out of its mouth. The dragon’s body looms in the clouds, and under the clouds are layers of billowing waves. A carp poked its head out of the waves, looking like an old dragon in the air. The whole design, the dragon’s eye, the dragon’s horn and the fish’s gills and other details are carved exquisitely and vividly.
Some teachers believe that from the perspective of the royal garden, the pattern should be the common theme of Canglong Godson, which is consistent with the status of Jiaqing, Cixi and Guangxu, and is the embodiment of the Confucian thought of “cultivating one’s moral integrity, ruling the country and leveling the world”. However, the author still prefers to “fish turn into dragon”, not only because the real object is carved more like a “fish head” rather than a small “dragon head”, but also because there are more clear patterns of the same theme of the door pier drum surface to prove it. In short, both statements seem reasonable. You might as well go and have a look in person!
Yishoutang Gate Pier
The bamboo basket chrysanthemum picture is very suitable for the functions of the royal pharmacy
Yishoutang is located on the hillside on the east side of Wanshou, namely on the hillside on the east side of Jingfu Pavilion. It is a quiet courtyard. The courtyard door of Yishoutang is a scroll-type hanging flower door with a plaque with three characters of “Yishoutang” hanging on it, which is the treasure of Empress Dowager Cixi.
Under the hanging door of Yishoutang, there is a pair of square door piers protected by a plexiglass cover. Although the pier is weathered, it is not seriously damaged and can clearly see the unique decorative patterns.
The upper part of the post is a small lion squatting in a high relief and lying in front of it. The abdomen and the upper part of Futou are openwork. The hair on the head is thick and curled into 16 circles. The round eyes look like the sky, a pair of big ears face back, and the nose is wide as the mouth; The big mouth opens, revealing two rows of neat teeth, eight at the top and eight at the bottom. The middle groove at the bottom of the thick tongue is obvious, and the tip of the tongue is licked. Two strands of beard hang at the left and right corners of the mouth. It looks like a smile on the front.
The six sides of Futou in the middle of the gate pier are similar to the Endless Yixuan Gate Pier, that is, the Futou bears a lion on the top, the Futou is connected with the Xumizuo under the Futou, the Futou is close to the door frame behind the Futou, and is plain white without carving. The remaining three sides of the Futou are respectively carved with auspicious patterns and patterns. The difference is that there are no carved patterns around the border of each pattern.
In front of Futou, the south and front of the pier are carved with bamboo basket and chrysanthemum pattern, that is, a bamboo basket full of chrysanthemum branches. In the middle of the pattern is a blooming chrysanthemum facing people, with several chrysanthemums inserted on both sides. The flowers, leaves and stems are complete and full, as if they have just been picked.
The shape and posture of the flowers on the top of the flower branches on the left and right sides of the bamboo basket are slightly different. On the left side, the inner side of the door pier, the flowers are in full bloom, and the receptacle, calyx, petals and stamens are visible; On the right side, the outer side of the pier is in bud, and the calyx and petal are tightly clasped. This change of flower shape reflects the aesthetic pursuit of ancient craftsmen, which can be said to be unique.
There are several leaves on the branches of chrysanthemum, which not only have distinct muscles and veins, but also have different stretching angles, which is very three-dimensional. The bamboo basket with flowers has a belly, neck and mouth. It has a lifting beam on the top and a hoop foot on the bottom. The basket body is carved with Ruyi cloud pattern, and the hoop foot is carved with bamboo woven pattern, which looks very beautiful.
The flower basket, one of the “Dark Eight Immortals”, is one of the treasures held by Lan Caihe, which can communicate with the gods; Chrysanthemum has the effect of clearing heat and detoxifying, benefiting liver and improving eyesight. The wine brewed from chrysanthemum was called “longevity wine” by the emperor’s concubines, and was given to each other as tonic medicine. This is very suitable for the function of Yishoutang, which was once the royal garden pharmacy.
On the outside of the Futou post is the Ruyi ribbon pattern. The end of Ruyi handle is in a cloud shape, the end is connected with a square long handle, which is thin and thick, and the tail section is rhombic, which appears smooth, balanced and three-dimensional. The ribbon is long and covered on both sides of Ruyi. The wide part is stretched and elegant, and the narrow part is folded into two layers, which appears to be wide, narrow and comfortable; The flower knot is symmetrical from top to bottom. It is formed by folding the ribbon and tying it to the waist of the Ruyi handle. If it is pulled down along one end of the ribbon, the direction is very clear. It seems that the knot can be untied with a strong pull. It feels very strange and exquisite.