Known as the Gardens of Perfect Brightness 圆明园, the ruins of the old Summer Palace are a memory of one of the most beautiful palaces in China. During the second Opium War, in 1860, European forces plundered and destroyed the place, taking relics that dated back 3500 years. Charles George Gordon, a French captain, wrote "You can scarcely imagine the beauty and magnificence of the places we burn. It made one's heart sore to burn them; in fact these places were so large, and we were so pressed for time, that we could not plunder them carefully." Many Chinese artifacts in western museums today are the result of plundering and looting of ancient China. Then in 1900 again the eight nations, during the boxers rebellion, came back and tore down whatever had survived.
The ruins are one of the very few remaining "unrestored" ancient sites of Beijing I know of. Most places have been either completely restored to look like they would have in ancient times or simply torn down to give space to modern buildings.
I used quotation marks because although these are ruins, I can't say I'm completely convinced this is all original. While I don't have proof of anything, several facts lead me to believe these aren't simply the ruins of what was once the largest palace in the history of China. Many of the stone pieces and their engravings seemed to me too well conserved for such an old piece, specially when thousands of people are stepping on them and handling them everyday.
Another notable fact is that - and architects or engineers reading, please correct me if I'm wrong - some of the stones were noticeably different. It seemed that several blocks were actually marble, while others were of a simpler material, not cement, but of the likes.
The pictures in this post are from two very different times of the year, winter 2015 and spring 2016.