The Old Summer Palace, known in Chinese as Yuanming Yuan and originally called the Imperial Gardens , was a complex of palaces and gardens in present-day Haidian District, Beijing, China. It is located 8km northwest of the walls of the former Imperial City section of Beijing. Constructed throughout the 18th and early 19th centuries, the Old Summer Palace was the main imperial residence of Qianlong Emperor of the Qing dynasty and his successors, and where they handled state affairs; the Forbidden City was used for formal ceremonies. Widely conceived as the pinnacle work of Chinese imperial garden and palace design, the Old Summer Palace was an architectural wonder, known for its extensive collection of garden, its building architecture and numerous art and historical treasures. It was reputed as the "Garden of Gardens" in its heyday.
In 1860, during the Second Opium War, as the Anglo-French expedition force relentlessly approached Beijing, two British envoys, a journalist for The Times and a small escort of British and Indian troopers were sent to meet Prince Yi under a flag of truce to negotiate a Qing surrender. Meanwhile, the French and British troops reached the palace and conducted extensive looting and destruction. Later on, as news emerged that the negotiation delegation had been imprisoned and tortured, resulting in 20 deaths, the British High Commissioner to China, Lord Elgin, retaliated by ordering the complete destruction of the palace, which was then carried out by British troops.