The remains of a razed royal rice field and its related buildings have been discovered at Yuanmingyuan Park, or the Old Summer Palace, in Beijing during a recent archaeological excavation, providing new materials for the study of agricultural technology and imperial garden architecture during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).
Completed in the fifth year of the Yongzheng Emperor (1727), the site is one of the 40 scenic spots in the royal garden.
The main building found in the ruins used to be a great hall with a plan resembling the Chinese character "Tian", or "field." Therefore, it has been popularly referred to as the "Tian-shaped house" or Tianzifang.
"There were 33 rooms in Tianzifang. We discovered six of them this time," said Zhang Zhonghua, a research fellow at the Beijing Institute of Archaeology, "Next to Tianzifang, we confirmed the existence of rice fields and what they were like back then. There were stalks with a width of about 12 to 13 meters on both sides of the rice fields."
"The burnt area we see now is the place where rice was planted at that time. The emperor occasionally worked in the fields around the Yuanmingyuan or the Tianzifang. We had already found some trails in 2020, but we did not proceed with the excavation then. Since the area was not large, we decided to further our archaeological excavation earlier this year. Now the archaeological site covers about 140 square meters," Zhang added.
Since 2020, researchers have been conducting archaeological excavations at the Danbo Ningjing (literally Simple and Calm) site. Archaeologists believe the site was razed during the sacking of Yuanmingyuan in 1860 by Anglo-French allied forces during the Second Opium War (1856-60), but further study is still underway.