1860-1899

British troops burn down Beijing’s summer palace

18 October 1860 On 18 October 1860, British troops, who had fought their way into the outskirts of Beijing ten days earlier, set fire to one of the world’s greatest collections of art work and treasure, the legendary Summer Palace, also known as the Garden of Perfect Brightness (Yuanmingyuan). Lord Elgin, who’s father had stripped…

1860-1899 | Looting and plunder

British troops commence the looting and destruction of Beijing’s Summer Palace

7 October 1860 On 7 October 1860, British officers joined French troops in looting Beijing’s legendary Summer Palace.  The complex might have been more accurately described as palaces, as there were over two hundred summer houses and pavilions within eighty square miles of landscaped gardens. As one correspondent noted, ‘its construction and the accumulation of…

1900-1919 | Looting and plunder

General Gaselee sanctions an orgy of looting in Beijing

17 August 1900 On 17 August 1900, Major General Alfred Gaselee issued an order licensing the ransacking of Beijing. Gaselee was the commanding officer of a British and Allied expeditionary force. It had arrived in the city just in time to relieve the diplomatic legations, which had been besieged for fifty five days by anti-imperialist…