Xiaoyou Tianyuan, 'A small heavenly garden', is the name given by the Qianlong Emperor to a scenic site in Hangzhou located beside the West Lake. During the Northern Song period (960-1127) this site was occupied by a Buddhist monastery but the building was demolished by the end of the Yuan dynasty, mid 14th Century. In its place a nunnery was built in the Ming dynasty, Hongwu period (1368-1398), where it remained until it became one of the residences of Wang Zhi'e in the early Qing dynasty. The Emperor Qianlong visited this scenic spot on his first inspection tour of the South in 1751, and again on his second tour in 1757. On the Emperor's return to Beijing after the second visit, he gave instructions for a similar Xiaoyou Tianyuan to be constructed in the Yuanmingyuan, the Summer Palace.
The Imperial poem inscribed above the distant mountains may be translated as:
After the flowers blossom abundantly;
(one) named this garden 'A Small Heaven'.
At the front, a bright reflection appears on the peaceful lake;
the back with mountains soaring into a cloudless sky.
Without obstructions on a pavilion high,
observing the entire surroundings.
In high spirit with one's Longjing tea;
poetic verses will effortlessly resonate.