[FOUNTAIN]Angling and negotiatingThe six-nation nuclear talks were held from Aug. 27 to 29 at the Diaoyutai State Guest House in Beijing. Only chiefs of state used to be invited to the Diaoyutai, but the prestigious house is now open to ministerial-level officials and business big shots from abroad.
The Diaoyutai, or Angling Terrace, became a government guesthouse in 1958, when the 10th anniversary commemoration of the establishment of the People’s Republic of China was held there. The government established after the 1949 revolution had successfully settled down after a decade, and foreign leaders almost competed to visit Beijing. Since the communist government did not have proper accommodations to house foreign VIPs, Beijing renovated the Diaoyutai into a guesthouse for heads of state and their entourages.
The 420,000-square-meter (104 acre) complex has a 70,000-square-meter lake and 19 two-story villas with over 370 bedrooms. Visitors are fascinated by the beautiful scenery first, and then overwhelmed by the sheer size of it.
Beijing’s gem has lost much of its prestige as an official guesthouse since the government decided to operate the Diaoyutai as a public corporation under the Foreign Ministry. Only Villa No. 18, where foreign VIPs stay, and the Fang Fei Garden, where banquets are held, remain strictly for foreign dignitaries. Still, the Diaoyutai’s historical presence continues to impress state guests, and most banquets are held there. In the 800 years of the Diaoyutai’s history, three rulers, Emperor Zhangzong of the Jin Dynasty, Emperor Yongle of the Ming Dynasty, and Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty played biggest roles in the compound.
Emperor Zhangzong enjoyed fishing there so much that the complex was named the Angling Terrace. Emperor Qianlong, who loved the scenery of the Diaoyutai, added many buildings in the imperial resort and personally wrote plaques to decorate them. The Ming Emperor Yongle frequented the site and his royal family use the resort as a retreat.
Korean presidents stayed at the guesthouse during state visits, and the Korea-China friendship agreement was signed at the Fang Fei Garden in 1992. The first round of nuclear talks ended at the Fang Fei Garden.
The Beijing meeting is sure to be a major entry in the history of the Diaoyutai. How future historians will remember the meeting remains to be seen.
by Kim Seok-hwan
The writer is a JoongAng Ilbo editorial writer.