Beijing Summer Palace, China

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The Summer Palace

Summer Palace lies in the northwestern outskirts of Beijing, about 10 kilometers to Beijing City. It is up to now the best preserved and the largest imperial garden in China.

It used to be an imperial palace for short stay away from the capital. In 1750, Emperor Qianlong had it renovated and named it Qingyiyuan (Garden of Clear Ripples).

In 1860, an Anglo-French joint force destroyed the garden. In 1888, Empress Dowager Cixi misappropriated navy budget of 30,000,000 taels (about 74.5 tons) of silver to rebuild it and renamed it Summer Palace.

Occupying an area of 290 hectares, the Summer Palace has not only a lake but a hill as well. Kunming Lake, which covers about three-fourths of the total area of the garden, is the major scenic spot in Summer Palace.

Many views were constructed near the lake. Nanhu Islet, an island in the lake, is connected to the bank by a bridge - Seventeen-Arch Bridge. Compared to the noisy surroundings, it is rather quiet and peaceful.

To the west of Kunming Lake is West Causeway, on which six bridges were exquisitely constructed. They were in imitation of Su Causeway in the West Lake in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province. Xiequyuan (Garden of Harmonious Interests) was also in imitation of Jichangyuan (Pleasure Garden) in Wuxi, Jiangsu Province.

The main reason to build Summer Palace was to put spring-everlasting Kunming City and beautiful scenes in south China into the garden and so the Empress Dowager can enjoy the picturesque scenery in Beijing.

In the middle of Summer Palace, you will come across a mass group of buildings along an axis leading downhill. They are Zhihuihai (Sea of Wisdom), Dehuidian (Hall of Moral Brilliance), and Paiyunmen (Cloud Dispelling Gate).

The splendid 41-meter-high Foxiangge (Tower of Buddhist Incense) was built on a 20-meter-high terrace, which was made of stone. This huge building was burnt by Anglo-French joint force. In 1891, Empress Dowager spent 780,000 taels of silver (about 2 tons) to have it restored. It was the largest project in Summer Palace. Foxiangge commands a full view of the scenery in scores for miles.

While talking about the Summer Palace, almost everybody who has been there would say that the Long Gallery is the most impressive scene. The gallery is 728 meters long and has 273 rooms. In 1992, it proved that it is the longest of its kind in the world, and so it was added to the Genis World Record.

It is in the south of Wanshoushan (Longevity Hill) and in the north of Kunming Lake. Walking in the gallery, you can enjoy viewing the beautiful lake as well as the hill. Each beam in the gallery is colorfully painted. They are very enchanting.

Leshoutang (Hall of Joyful Longevity) was the residence of the Empress Dowager. The furnishings in the hall are the same as before. In the courtyard, planted several magnolias, they were the favorites of the Empress Dowager Cixi. Now they are very tall and the fragrant of their white blossom are still coming out every year. Every summer the perfume of the blossom floats in the courtyard and keeps companying with the huge stone named Qingzhiyou.

A marble boat in Kunming Lake, known as Boat for Pure Banquets, was build in the 20th year of the reign of Emperor Qianglong (1755AD). There used to be a traditional style cabin tower on the boat. It was destroyed by Anglo-French joint force. In the 19th year of the reign of Emperor Guangxu (1893 AD) it was renovated into western style. Two wheels were added to decorate the boat, and it was renamed Boat for Pure Banquets.

East Palace Gate is the main gate of the Summer Palace. Entering this gate, you will see the Hall of Benevolent Longevity (Renshoudian) where the Empress Dowager conducted state affairs. To the north of Renshoudian is the Garden of Moral Harmony (Deheyuan), where the imperial family watched operas. The grand building looks like a theater.

The view in the front hill of the Summer Palace is magnificent, while the view in the back hill is peaceful. The rear of the hill presents an exquisitely constructed bridge and flowing water. Only when you spend more than half of a day can you fully appreciate the scenery in the world-famous imperial garden, and experience two feelings while visiting the front of the hill and the rear of the hill.

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