The Garden of Virtue & Harmony (德和園 Deheyuan) in the Summer Palace was where Empress Dowager Cixi watched Beijing opera shows. Empress Dowager had high demands for the shows and like everything else in the Summer Palace, an elaborate, majestic three-level stage known as The Great Stage (大戲樓 Daxilou) was built to perfection and it is the largest imperial stage in China.
The three levels of the stage have their names – from the 3rd level down -fortune, salary and longevity. The three levels are interconnected and well equipped with devices like pulleys, allowing actors to rise or descend from different levels. Even water scenes are possible because there are wells underneath the stage.
With such an lavish stage, the costumes are equally exorbitant. A separate 2 level Make-Up Building (扮戲樓 Banxilou ) that connects to the Great Stage was where all the actors do their make up and costume. The Make-Up Building today houses ancient costumes and artifacts that were once part of the imperial shows. The costumes are kept in dim lighting and no photography is allowed in this building.
A separate admission ticket is required for the Garden of Virtue and Harmony (RMB10). Various shows include musical shows, dances and operas are performed at different times. The shows are hourly, starting at 9am – 4pm and each show lasts 30 minutes.
Here’s a closer look at the stage.
Luxury box seats are available too!
Besides the main function for stage performance, the Garden of Virtue and Harmony also has a separate rest area for Empress Dowager Cixi where she rested at Hall of Celebrating Virtues during intermissions.
The Summer Palace is a huge compound to walk around. Do make an effort to watch one of the shows at the Great Stage as I thought it was an extraordinary experience, watching shows performed on a stage more than 100 years old that is also the same stage where Emperor Dowager Cixi watched hers!
Summer Palace Official Website
- Suzhou Street @ Summer Palace, Beijing China (alwaystravelicious.com)