Noted for its magnificent architecture and extraordinary history, the Yuanming Yuan is China's most famous imperial garden. The complex was begun in the early eighteenth century, and construction continued over the next 150 years. While Chinese historians, and many Chinese in general, view the garden as the paramount achievement of Chinese architecture and landscape design, almost nothing is known about the Yuanming Yuan in the West. A Paradise Lost is the first comprehensive study of the palatial garden complex in a Western language. Written in a broad and engaging style, Young-tsu Wong brings "the garden of perfect brightness" to life as he leads readers on a grand tour of its architecture and history.
Wong begins by inspecting the garden's physical appearance and its architectural elements. He discusses the origin and evolution of these structures and the aesthetics of their design and arrangement. Throughout he refers to maps and original models of individual buildings and other existing gardens of the Ming-Qing period, including the well-preserved Yihe Yuan and the Chengde Summer Mountain Retreat in Rehe. A special feature of the book is its exploration of the activities and daily life of the royal household.