The Summer Palace started out life as the Garden of Clear Ripples in 1750 (Reign Year 15 of Emperor Qianlong). Artisans reproduced the garden architecture styles of various palaces in China. Kunming Lake was created by extending an existing body of water to imitate the West Lake in Hangzhou. The palace complex suffered two major attacks—during the Anglo-French allied invasion of 1860 (with the Old Summer Palace also ransacked at the same time), and during the Boxer Rebellion, in an attack by the eight allied powers in 1900. The garden survived and was rebuilt in 1886 and 1902. In 1888, it was given the current name, Yihe Yuan. It served as a summer resort for Empress Dowager Cixi, who diverted 30 million taels of silver, said to be originally designated for the Chinese navy (Beiyang Fleet), into the reconstruction and enlargement of the Summer Palace.
In December 1998, UNESCO included the Summer Palace on its World Heritage List. It declared the Summer Palace “a masterpiece of Chinese landscape garden design. The natural landscape of hills and open water is combined with artificial features such as pavilions, halls, palaces, temples and bridges to form a harmonious ensemble of outstanding aesthetic value.” It is a popular tourist destination but also serves as a recreational park.
The Pavilion pf precious Clouds it is also know as the Bronze Pavilion or Baoyun Pavilion.
It is a structure with a double-eaved roof. With a height of 7.55m, it weighs 207 tonnes. The pillars, rafters, brackets, tiles, beasts on the ridges, windows and doors and even the lintel of the bronze pavilion are all made from wood. Greenish-grey in color, it is delicately and intricately made. It is documented that the copper cuttings accumulated in the process of polishing the surface amounted to 2,500kg. The pavilion sits on a white Buddhist-style marble base with carvings. Bells with the same material and color hang by brackets from the four corners. The bells ring in the wind. The sunlit painted pavilion looks dainty and delicate, giving a sense of perpetuity.
When the construction of the bronze pavilion was finished, Emperor Qianlong (1736-1795) wrote poetry on the stele standing before it. In the reign of Emperor Qianlong, Lamas from Tibet came here to pray for the emperors and empresses of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912) on the first and fifteenth day of each lunar month. The 10-meter-high brackets on the stone cliff behind the pavilion were all used to hang Buddha figures during the ceremony.
Constructed in the twentieth year of the reign of Qing Qianlong, Baoyun Bronze Pavilion survived many calamities and historical shifts. In 1860, the Allied Forces of Britain and France burned the Garden of Clear Ripples (former name of the Summer Palace) but the Baoyun Bronze Pavilion remained intact due to its bronze material. Nevertheless, the furnishings inside the pavilion were all destroyed, leaving a bronze table alone. In 1900, the Eight Allied Armies ransacked the Summer Palace, yet could do nothing to the bronze pavilion.