Hill of Soaring (or Accumulating) Elegance (DuiXiu Shan) -
One of the most revered and appreciated features of the Imperial Garden in the Forbidden City is the Hill of Soaring Elegance (DuiXiu Shan ; 堆秀山 ; also Hill of Splendor or Hill of Accumulated Ellegance). It is however, not an element of the original garden first established in 1420 A.D., but an element that was added during the Wanli reign (1572 A.D. - 1620 A.D.) of the Ming Dynasty. The rocks used to create the hill were imported from the Tai Hu (太湖), the famously large lake in the lower reaches of the Yangtze River on the border of Jiangsu and Zhejiang Provinces, which is famous for rocks with grotesque and abstract forms. Two stone carved dragon heads stand guard in front of the Hill and a stone to the left of the entrance to the Hill is inscribed with the two Chinese characters with the meaning "Cloud Root", in the handwriting of Qing Dynasty Emperor Qianlong who was a proliferous caligrapher. Another inscription by him can be found nearby in the garden at the Hall of Literary Elegance.
As for the two stone carved dragon heads, although most tourguide stories do not include this information, at some time in the past, they used to function as the nozzles of a fountain system, which as it is said "would spout out water as much as 10 meters high in the air and tiny water beads formed in the mid-air glittering in the sunshine" (Tales of the Forbidden City, by Cheng Qinhua).
Although, not much information can be found on this fountain system inside the Palace Garden what is known is that it was a system designed and built by a member of the Jesuit order, who served in the Department of Mathematics at the Qing Court of the 17Th Century. According to the book "Mandarin and Astronomer", by R.A. Blondeau, it was in the year 1670 A.D. that the Father Ferdinand Verbiest, who was sub-director of the Beijing (Ancient) Obersvatory and a well proven advisor of the Kangxi Emperor, was asked by the latter to install a (water) pump in the Palace Garden "in order to easily have access to the waters of a deep well". Although this clearly does not mention the
water up as high as 40 meters, which clearly this means that we can be sure Verbiest had the knowledge and skills to make this work and that at a later time Verbiest also installed a fountain system on the Jing Shan.
The Hill stands on the extreme north side of the garden directly inside and to
the East of the Chastise Obiendence Gate (Chun Cheng Men), which is the North Gate of the Garden. Since, according to traditional Chinese beliefs bad spirits emenate from the north, the Hill is not merely an expensive and ingenious garden
Because of its considerable height of 14 meters, the Hill of Soaring Elegance and the little pagoda on its top can be seen fom outside the Inner Wall when standing underneath and outside of the Gate of Divine Might (Shen Wu Men). Its height soars above the Garden and the Hall of the Imperial View (Yujing Ting) reaching above the height of the surrounding Palace Walls gives a spectacular but unaccesible panoramic view of the sea of golden roofs and vermilion walls of the Imperial Palace. It is said that on a fair day one could see as far as the western hills.
Historically, the Hill of Soaring Elegance was used in ceremony each year on the 7th day of the 7th Lunar Month - the mid-autumn festival, and on the double 9 day (September 9Th), on which occasion the Emperor, the Empresses and all the Concubines would climb to the Pavilion atop the Hill to Celebrate and enjoy the views. Or so it is said. According to an old saying in China, one who climbs up a hill can escape misfortune that day. Therefore, even today, Chinese people, especially the aged, still celebrate the Double Ninth Festival by climbing a Hill on that day every year.
However, the small padlocked door found at the bottom of hill
You Tube Video: Brief sightseeing Tour of the Palace Museum Garden on an ordinary day of the summer season.
seems just large enough to let through a dwarf, so it is hard to imagine how the whole flock of women, betrothed with their best jewelries would be able to stylishly make it up the tiny staircase within the Hill and gain access to its top pavilion.
installation of fountains, through the fact that the Chinese at the time did not have knowledge of such a system, it can be deduced that the fountain at the base of the Hill of Soaring Elegance was built by Verbiest as well.
In the book the the story does continue with the mentioning of another Imperial "request" to design of a pumping system that would be installed upon the Jing Shan (Coal Hill) which as the book says "stood within the Imperial Garden". The system was supposed to carry the
View of the Hill of Accumulating Elegance from the south side of the Gate of Chastity and Obedience (Chun Cheng Men), the north gate of the Imperial Palace.
decoration but first and foremost an important element needed to balance out the Feng Shui of the garden and to protect the Garden from negative influences. With its height and bulk planted squarely in the way, the 20 structures within the Garden are shielded from influences deriving from the North. On a larger scale, this function of blocking evil from the north is mirrored by the much larger Coal Hill (Jingshan) which stands immediatly North of the Palace, across from the Northern Gate. It has a similar blocking function as opposed to the Gate of Divine Military Might, which it shields from the feared northern emanations.