Marble Boat

The Marble Boat, also known as the Qingyanfang Boat, holds significant historical and cultural importance within the northwest area of Kunming Lake. Initially constructed in 1750 with a traditional Chinese-style wooden superstructure, it faced destruction during conflicts in 1860 at the hands of the Anglo-French forces. However, it was rebuilt in 1893 with a French-style superstructure and additional embellishments.

Symbolically, the Marble Boat represents the enduring authority of the Qing dynasty, embodying the proverbial idea that “the water can hold the boat as well as topple the boat.” Despite being made primarily of wood, its appearance resembles that of a marble structure, hence its name. The boat’s body spans 36 meters in length and features two tiers.

Crafted from massive stones, the boat’s construction is impressive. Its superstructure, though wooden, is painted white to mimic the appearance of marble. Colored bricks pave the ground, and multi-colored glass adorns the windows. Mirrors positioned on each tier reflect the lake’s waves, creating an illusion of floating on water for those seated in front of them.

Historically, the Marble Boat served as a retreat for Empress Dowager Cixi, offering her a tranquil space to appreciate the beauty of Kunming Lake. As such, it holds a place of significance not only for its architectural and engineering achievements but also for its association with Chinese imperial history.

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