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British troops occupying Peking, China, loot and then burn the Yuanmingyuan, the fabulous summer residence built by the Manchu emperors in the 18th century. China’s Qing leadership surrendered to the Franco-British expeditionary force soon after, ending the Second Opium War and Chinese hopes of reversing the tide of foreign domination in its national affairs.
In the 1870s, Chinese Empress Dowager Cixi began rebuilding the palace and its stunning gardens, renaming it Yiheyuan, or “Garden of Good Health and Harmony.” In 1900, during the Boxer Rebellion, the palace was burned again by Western troops, and it remained dilapidated until the Chinese Communists rebuilt it in the 1950s.
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The information contained here are subject to change. Chinese History Digest is not responsible or liable if any changes should occur. You could also check the official website of the Yuanmingyuan Park for the latest information.
7 a.m. - 7 p.m.
(May - August)
7 a.m. - 6 p.m.
(April, September, October)
7 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.
(January - March, November, December)
Sites of European Palaces:
+ 15 Yuan
Exhibition Hall: + 10 Yuan
The Old Summer Palace was a complex of palaces and three independent but interconnected gardens that were originally known as the Imperial Gardens. During the time of the Qing dynasty in the early 18th century, the grounds of the Old Summer Palace served as a private pleasure garden for the emperor and his family. Later Qing emperors made the Old Summer Palace the main imperial residence where all state affairs were handled. The Forbidden City in the center of Beijing was then only used for formal ceremonies. Both the Old Summer Palace and the Forbidden City could not be entered by commoners during imperial times.
Whereas most buildings that once stood throughout the Old Summer Palace were destroyed during tumultuous times in history (more on that later in this article), the gardens still exist today though their appearance has certainly changed over the centuries. The three gardens are the Garden of Eternal Spring (Changchunyuan), the Garden of Blossoming Spring (Qichunyuan) and the Garden of Perfect Splendor (Yuanmingyuan). Together, they cover an area of about 350 hectares. Yuanmingyuan is also the name under which the entire complex is known to Chinese people today, even though that is technically only one of the three gardens.
The history of the Old Summer Palace began with the initial construction of the gardens in 1707. Their gradual expansion continued for 150 years. The Qianlong Emperor initiated the construction of European-style palaces in 1747 in a small area in the back of the Garden of Eternal Spring. In front of the largest palace, the Haiyantang, stood the famous Grand Waterworks. Twelve bronze zodiac animal heads once spouted water in turn as a part of an elaborate clock fountain. There was also a labyrinth maze garden just like it was fashionable in European palace gardens like Versailles at that period in time. It is however a misconception that all the palaces that once stood on the grounds of the Old Summer Palace were Western in style. In fact, more than 95% of the buildings were Chinese in style and there were even a few Tibetan and Mongol-style buildings.
In their heyday, the Chinese imperial gardens of the Old Summer Palace were praised as the "Garden of Gardens" and Europeans also called it the "Versailles of the East". Representing the pinnacle in architectural design and horticultural landscaping, the Old Summer Palace was an imperial summer resort that once far-exceeded the splendor of the nearby Summer Palace (Yiheyuan) on every level. Hundreds of structures such as palatial halls, pavilions, temples, galleries and bridges once stood on the grounds and distinct scenic spots in the gardens recreated famous landscapes of southern China with exotic plants from all over the country. For that purpose, artificial lakes, streams and ponds were created on a massive scale so that 40% of the garden was then covered by rivers and lakes.
The halls served as a kind of imperial museum, storing and displaying cultural artifacts, antiquities and the finest Chinese artwork ever assembled. One of the halls that unfortunately no longer stands, the Wenyuan Hall (Hall of Literary Profundity), was one of the four most famous imperial libraries and stored an immense collection of precious ancient books, including works of literature and compilations such as the Complete Collection of Four Treasures.
In October 1860, nearly all the splendor of the Old Summer Palace was reduced to rubble and ashes as a punitive act by the Anglo-French Allied Forces. The soldiers looted as much as they could carry, including the twelve bronze animal heads of the Grand Waterworks fountain (some of which have been returned to China in recent years). Countless valuable artwork that was then stolen is now found in 47 museums around the world. After the palace was looted, thousands of soldiers took 3 days to completely destroy it and burn it to the ground. According to historical records, only 16 of the once more than 100 garden scenes as well as a few Chinese-style buildings survived the destruction. To make things even worse, the few buildings that survived the destruction of 1860 and those that had been restored or rebuilt in the years that followed were all completely destroyed in 1900 when the Eight-Nation Alliance invaded Beijing.
The ruins of the Old Summer Palace are now a part of the Yuanmingyuan Park which is located in the northern part of Haidian district in Beijing. In order to ensure the optimal preservation of the historic ruins, the area became a key cultural site under special protection of the district and municipal governments. It was first opened to the public on a trial basis in June 1988 as a historic park. A visit of Yuanmingyuan Park is made worthwhile by the natural beauty of its garden landscape and the historical significance of its ruins. More than a dozen replicas of historic buildings have been constructed in recent years and several temples have been refurbished and rebuilt. Together with the historic ruins and the reforested Chinese garden landscape, visitors can now gain a good impression of what once was one of the most formidable palaces ever built. There is also an exhibition hall in the park whose exhibits help you to visualize the former glory of the Old Summer Palace.
If you can't make it to Beijing at this time but want to learn more, Chinese History Digest advises you to check out this website and watch this excellent documentary about Yuanmingyuan.
view of the ruins of the Grand Waterworks (Dashuifa) on the grounds of the Old Summer Palace
How to get to Yuanmingyuan Park in Beijing?
|Address:||Yuanmingyuan Park, 28 West Tsinghua Road |
Haidian district, Beijing, China
|Tel.Nr.:||+86 10 6262 8501|
|By Air:||Beijing Nanyuan Airport (NAY)|
Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK)
Beijing Daxing International Airport (PKX)
|By Train:||Beijing Railway Station, Beijing South Railway Station|
Beijing West Railway Station
|Subway Station:||Yuanmingyuan Station - Subway Line 4|
Take Exit B and walk to south gate of the park
|Bus Stop:||Yuanmingyuan Nanmen Station - South Gate of the Park - (bus lines: 331, 432, 438, 498, 508, 579, 594, 601, 664, Yuntong 124, Special Line 18 or 19, Sightseeing Bus Line 3) |
Yuanmingyuan Dongmen Station - East Gate of the Park - (bus lines: 365, 429, 432, 562, 614, 664, 681, 699, 717, 982, Yuntong 105 or 124 or 126, Special Line 4)
Saoziying Station - West Gate of the Park - (bus lines: 333 Inner, 333 Outer, 393, 437, 438, 476, 498, 509, 534, 636, Special Line 6, Yuntong 106 or 108 or 114 or 118)
Nearest Hotels to Yuanmingyuan Park in Beijing:
The hotels underneath are listed by their increasing distance from Yuanmingyuan Park in Beijing. Click on the name of the hotel to find out more information or to make a reservation!
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The information contained here are subject to change. Chinese History Digest is not responsible or liable if any changes should occur. You could also check the official website of the Summer Palace for the latest information.
April - October:
6:30 a.m. - 6 p.m.*
* Opening hours of the Summer Palace park, the scenic spots within are open from 8:30 a.m. - 5 p.m.
November - March:
7 a.m. - 5 p.m.**
** Opening hours of the Summer Palace park, the scenic spots within are open from 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.
April - October:
(Combo Ticket: 60 Yuan)
November - March:
(Combo Ticket: 50 Yuan)
Dehe Garden: + 5 Yuan
Tower of Buddhist Incense and Hall of Dispelling Clouds: + 10 Yuan
Wenchang Gallery: + 20 Yuan
Suzhou Market Street and Danning Hall: + 10 Yuan
The Summer Palace (Yiheyuan) is a complex of palaces, lakes and gardens that is located in the Haidian district of Beijing. About 15 km to the northwest of the city center, it is not far from the ruins of the Old Summer Palace. Both palaces were created as private pleasure gardens for the emperors of the Qing dynasty and their family. Construction of the Summer Palace lasted from 1750 to 1764 during the reign of the Qianlong Emperor. However, it was then known as the Qingyi Garden (Garden of Clear Ripples).
Whereas the Old Summer Palace was completely destroyed by Anglo-French troops in 1860 and the Eight-Nation Alliance in 1900, most of the parts that were damaged or destroyed in the Summer Palace during these tumultuous times were later restored. After completion of its first reconstruction in 1888, the Summer Palace was renamed "Yiheyuan" and most Chinese people refer to it by that name today. Visitors can see the three Chinese Hanzi characters 頤和園 that spell out that name on the sign above the Eastern Palace Gate. They were written by the Guangxu Emperor himself.
A veritable masterpiece of Chinese garden design, the Summer Palace is a must-see attraction for anyone that is interested in Chinese history. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1998, about 2 million visitors per year make it one of the most popular tourist attractions in Beijing. About 3,000 historic structures stand on the grounds of the Summer Palace that occupies a total area of 300.59 hectares. The landscape of this imperial resort is dominated by Longevity Hill (Wanshou Shan) and the Kunming Lake. There are four main areas to visit: the Court Area, Kunming Lake Area and the front and rear area of Longevity Hill.
The Court Area is located between the East Palace Gate and the northeast coast of Kunming Lake. This part of the Summer Palace served various functions at once. State affairs were handled in some of the halls whereas others served as living quarters or entertainment areas. When entering through the East Palace Gate, visitors will first see the Hall of Benevolence and Longevity (Renshoudian). When in attendance, the Qing emperors managed the affairs of state from there. To the north is the Garden of Virtue and Harmony (Dehe Garden). It served as an entertainment area where the Empress Dowager Cixi watched Peking opera performances on the stage of the Grand Theater. The Hall of Jade Ripples (Yulantang), Hall of Joyful Longevity (Leshoutang) and Yiyun House once were the respective residences of the Guangxu Emperor, the Empress Dowager Cixi and the Empress Longyu (the wife of the Guangxu Emperor).
The Kunming Lake Area is the largest of the different areas of the Summer Palace and the attractions all around it are far too numerous to count. One of the most famous of them is the Marble Boat where Empress Dowager Cixi used to enjoy the beautiful lake scenery while having tea. It stands in the northwest corner of the lake and is the only western-style structure in the Summer Palace. For Chinese people, it has also become symbolic of the corruption during the late Qing dynasty. That is because Cixi financed its rebuilding in 1893 (its earlier version with a wooden pavilion was burnt down by Anglo-French troops in 1860) with funds that were intended to be used to upgrade the Qing navy fleet.
The three small islands that dot the man-made Kunming Lake are Nanhu Island (South Lake Island), Zaojiantang Island and Zhijingge Island. Nanhu Island is the largest of them where you will find several halls, pavilions and temples. It can be reached by crossing the famous Seventeen-Arch Bridge (Shiqikong Qiao) from where you will have the best view of Longevity Hill to the north. After visiting the island, you could walk towards Longevity Hill along the eastern side of Kunming Lake. Definitely worth a stop along that way is Wenchang Gallery which is located right next to Wenchang Tower. Its halls showcase thousands of cultural artifacts from some 3,600 years of Chinese history since the Shang dynasty. Included among the antiques that are on display are bronze objects, fine jewelry, Chinese porcelain, pieces of furniture, delicate lacquerware, carved ivory and many other priceless treasures.
Many buildings in the front area of Longevity Hill served a Buddhist function. Among them, the Tower of Buddhist Incense (Foxiangge) is also the largest building on the grounds of the Summer Palace. There is also a peculiar pavilion in this area that is made entirely out of bronze, the Baoyun Pavilion (Baoyunge). Unfortunately, this truly unique pavilion that is also called the "Golden Pavilion" is overlooked by most visitors, perhaps due to its placement in a relatively secluded area of palace. One of the halls in this area, the festively furnished Hall of Dispelling Clouds (Paiyundian) with its "Nine-Dragon Throne", was used for the birthday celebrations of Empress Dowager Cixi every year in autumn. Cixi also enjoyed walking along the Long Gallery (Changlang) every day after breakfast. This 728-meter-long gallery that displays 14,000 colored paintings on its wooden beams is the longest corridor in Chinese classic gardens. It is now a favorite rest area for tired visitors as it provides ample space to sit down.
The rear area of Longevity Hill is the least crowded part of the Summer Palace but perhaps the most diverse regarding the variety of sights. The main structures here are a Tibetan-style Buddhist temple, a shopping street, a secluded study area for the emperor and a wonderful garden. From the temple complex that bears the unusual name "Four Great Regions" it is not far to the Suzhou Market Street (Suzhoujie). This area was built to resemble the market area along the river banks in the southern city of Suzhou in style. It was once used as an entertainment area where the emperor could "play" to go shopping with his concubines just like ordinary people. The roles of the shopkeepers, street peddlers and other customers were enacted by palace eunuchs and maids then. More than 60 stores that sell all kinds of things now occupy the old buildings in this area of the Summer Palace. The Garden of Harmonious Interests (Xiequyuan) is located on the eastern side of Longevity Hill. It was created in the style of the classical gardens of Southern China and is attractive to visitors in all of the four seasons. A bit to the west from there along the Houxi River (the back stream of Kunming Lake) lies the Hall of Serenity (Danning Hall). This is perhaps the most secluded and quiet spot in the Summer Palace which served its purpose as a study area for the emperor just fine.
view of a small area of the Summer Palace with the Wusheng (Five Sage) Shrine, Marble boat and Longevity Hill
How to get to the Summer Palace in Beijing?
|Address:||Summer Palace (Yiheyuan), 19 Xinjiangongmen Road |
Haidian district, Beijing, China
|Tel.Nr.:||+86 10 6288 1144|
|By Air:||Beijing Nanyuan Airport (NAY)|
Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK)
Beijing Daxing International Airport (PKX)
|By Train:||Beijing Railway Station, Beijing South Railway Station|
Beijing West Railway Station
|Subway Station:||Beigongmen Station - Subway Line 4|
Take Exit D and walk west to the North Palace Gate
Yiheyuanximen Station - Western Suburban Line
walk north to the West Palace Gate
Xiyuan Station - Subway Line 4 or Subway Line 16
Take Exit C2 and walk west to the East Palace Gate
|Bus Stop:||Yiheyuan Station - East Palace Gate - (bus lines: 303, 331, 332, 346, 508, 579, 584) |
Yiheyuan Ximen Station - West Palace Gate - (bus lines: 469, 539)
Yiheyuan Beigongmen Station - North Palace Gate - (bus lines: 303, 331, 346, 394, 563, 584, 594, Sightseeing Bus Line 3)
Xin Jian Gong Men - New Palace Gate - (bus lines: 74, 374, 437)
Nearest Hotels to the Summer Palace in Beijing:
The hotels underneath are listed by their increasing distance from the Summer Palace (Yiheyuan) in Beijing. Click on the name of the hotel to find out more information or to make a reservation!
The modern city
After the revolution of 1911, Beijing remained the political centre of the Republic of China until 1928, when the Nationalists moved the capital to Nanjing Beijing was again called Beiping. The city came under increasing pressure from the Japanese, who established the puppet state of Manchukuo in Manchuria in 1931. In July 1937 fighting broke out between Chinese and Japanese troops near the Marco Polo Bridge, southwest of the city Beiping was subsequently occupied by the Japanese until 1945. After World War II the city reverted to the Nationalists, who were defeated by the communists in the ensuing civil war. In 1949, with the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, Beijing (with its old name restored) was chosen as the capital of the new regime. The city soon regained its position as the leading political, financial, and cultural centre of China.
In the 1950s and ’60s urban-development projects widened the streets and established the functional districts that characterize the modern city, but political campaigns culminating in the Cultural Revolution (1966–76) delayed many of these projects. Beginning with the economic reforms of the early 1980s, the pace of change accelerated, and Beijing changed dramatically. New shopping centres and residential buildings appeared throughout the city, and high-tech industrial parks were established, especially in the suburbs. One such area, dubbed “Silicon Valley,” was developed with government backing between Peking and Tsinghua universities. Another striking change, noticeable particularly in the newer shopping centres, has been the emergence of a consumption-oriented middle class similar to that found in Hong Kong, Singapore, Seoul (South Korea), and other Asian cities undergoing rapid economic growth. At the same time, Beijing, like other modern cities, has faced growing problems with air pollution, traffic congestion, and overcrowding.
Soon after it was announced in 2001 that Beijing would host the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, the city embarked on an ambitious program to construct sports venues and housing for athletes and to improve the city’s transportation infrastructure—notably by greatly expanding the subway system. These tasks were accomplished in time for the Games. In addition to construction related to the Olympics, a host of other office and residential high-rise buildings mushroomed throughout Beijing, vastly transforming the look of the city.
Summer Palace, an Imperial Garden in Beijing
The Summer Palace in Beijing &ndash first built in 1750, largely destroyed in the war of 1860 and restored on its original foundations in 1886 &ndash is a masterpiece of Chinese landscape garden design. The natural landscape of hills and open water is combined with artificial features such as pavilions, halls, palaces, temples and bridges to form a harmonious ensemble of outstanding aesthetic value.
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0
Palais d'Été, Jardin impérial de Beijing
Le palais d'Été de Beijing, créé en 1750, détruit en grande partie au cours de la guerre de 1860, puis restauré sur ses fondations d'origine en 1886, est un chef-d'&oeliguvre de l'art des jardins paysagers chinois. Il intègre le paysage naturel des collines et des plans d'eau à des éléments de fabrication humaine tels que pavillons, salles, palais, temples et ponts, pour en faire un ensemble harmonieux et exceptionnel du point de vue esthétique.
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0
قصر الصيف، حديقة بيجينغ الإمبراطوريّة
يُشكّل قصر الصيف في بيجينغ الذي تأسس عام 1750 ودُمّر الجزء الأكبر منه في خلال حرب العام 1860 وأُعيد ترميم ركائزه الأصليّة عام 1889 تحفةً فنيّةً لفنّ حدائق الصين الطبيعيّة. وهو يزاوج بين مناظر الهضاب ومواقع الماء وبين المباني التي صنعها البشر مثل السرادق والقاعات والقصور والمعابد والجسور فخرج بمجموعة متناسقة واستثنائيّة من الناحية الجماليّة.
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0
Летний дворец и императорский парк в Пекине
Летний дворец в Пекине, впервые построенный в 1750 г., сильно разрушенный во время войны 1860 г. и восстановленный в 1886 г., &ndash это шедевр садово-паркового искусства Китая. Естественный ландшафт холмов и открытых водоемов сочетается с искусственными объектами, такими как павильоны, залы, дворцы, храмы и мосты, что создает гармоничный ансамбль высочайшей эстетической ценности.
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0
Palacio de verano y jardín imperial de Beijing
Construido en 1750, destruido en su mayor parte durante la guerra de 1860 y reconstruido sobre sus cimientos en 1886, el palacio de verano de Beijing es una obra maestra del arte paisají­stico chino. Los elementos creados por el hombre &ndashpabellones, palacios, aposentos, templos y puentes&ndash se han adaptado perfectamente al paisaje natural de colinas y estanques. Esa adaptación ha dado por resultado la creación de un conjunto monumental armonioso y extraordinario en el plano estético.
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0
Zomerpaleis, een keizerlijke tuin in Beijing
Het zomerpaleis in Beijing – voor het eerst aangelegd in 1750, tijdens de oorlog in 1860 grotendeels vernietigd en weer herbouwd in 1886 – is een meesterwerk op het gebied van Chinese landschapsarchitectuur en tuinontwerp. Het zomerpaleis omvat een gebied van bijna 3 vierkante kilometer, waarvan het merendeel bestaat uit water. Het natuurlijke landschap van heuvels en open water is gevuld met allerlei uitbundig versierde en goed bewaarde paviljoenen, hallen, paleizen, tempels en bruggen. De keizerlijke tuin bestond uit drie gedeelten, elk met een aparte functie: politieke en administratieve activiteiten, woonverblijven en recreatie en toerisme. In 1924 werd het zomerpaleis een openbaar park.
Outstanding Universal Value
The Summer Palace in Beijing integrates numerous traditional halls and pavilions into the Imperial Garden conceived by the Qing emperor Qianlong between 1750 and 1764 as the Garden of Clear Ripples. Using Kunming Lake, the former reservoir of the Yuan dynasty&rsquos capital and Longevity Hill as the basic framework, the Summer Palace combined political and administrative, residential, spiritual, and recreational functions within a landscape of lakes and mountains, in accordance with the Chinese philosophy of balancing the works of man with nature. Destroyed during the Second Opium War of the 1850s, it was reconstructed by Emperor Guangxu for use by Empress Dowager Cixi and renamed the Summer Palace. Although damaged again during the Boxer Rebellion in 1900 it was restored and has been a public park since 1924. The central feature of the Administrative area, the Hall of Benevolence and Longevity is approached through the monumental East Palace Gate. The connecting Residential area comprises three building complexes: the Halls of Happiness in Longevity, Jade Ripples and Yiyun, all built up against the Hill of Longevity, with fine views over the lake. These are linked by roofed corridors which connect to the Great Stage to the east and the Long Corridor to the West. In front of the Hall of Happiness in Longevity a wooden quay gave access by water for the Imperial family to their quarters.
The remaining 90% of the garden provides areas for enjoying views and spiritual contemplation and is embellished with garden buildings including the Tower of the Fragrance of Buddha, the Tower of the Revolving Archive, Wu Fang Pavilion, the Baoyun Bronze Pavilion, and the Hall that Dispels the Clouds. Kunming Lake contains three large islands, corresponding to the traditional Chinese symbolic mountain garden element, the southern of which is linked to the East Dike by the Seventeen Arch Bridge. An essential feature is the West Dike with six bridges in different styles along its length. Other important features include temples and monasteries in Han and Tibetan style located on the north side of the Hill of Longevity and the Garden of Harmonious Pleasure to the north-east.
As the culmination of several hundred years of Imperial garden design, the Summer Palace has had a major influence on subsequent oriental garden art and culture.
Criterion (i): The Summer Palace in Beijing is an outstanding expression of the creative art of Chinese landscape garden design, incorporating the works of humankind and nature in a harmonious whole.
Criterion (ii): The Summer Palace epitomizes the philosophy and practice of Chinese garden design, which played a key role in the development of this cultural form throughout the east.
Criterion (iii): The Imperial Chinese Garden, illustrated by the Summer Palace, is a potent symbol of one of the major world civilizations.
Due to the highest level of protection that the Summer Palace has always received from the government, its original design, planning and landscape have been perfectly preserved. Furthermore, the Summer Palace has maintained a harmonious relationship with its setting. At present the government has undertaken active and strong measures to reinforce the protection of the setting of the Summer Palace to cope with the pressure resulting from urban development.
The conservation intervention and landscape maintenance within the property area have been carried out in line with historic archives, using traditional techniques and appropriate materials for maintaining and passing on the historic information. The preservation and maintenance of the property has fully ensured its authenticity.
Protection and management requirements
The Summer Palace is protected at the highest level by the 1982 Law of PRC on the Protection of Cultural Relics (amended 2007), which is elaborated in the Regulations on the Implementation of the Law of People&rsquos Republic of China on the Protection of Cultural Relics. Certain provisions of the Law on Environmental Protection and City Planning are also applicable to the conservation of the Summer Palace. These laws bear legal efficacy at national level. The Summer Palace was included by the State Council of the People&rsquos Republic of China in the first group of National Priority Protected Sites on March 4th, 1961.
At the municipal level, the Summer Palace was declared a Municipal Priority Protected Site by the Beijing Municipal Government on October 20th, 1957. The Regulations of Beijing Municipality for the Protection of Cultural Relics (1987) reinforces the municipal protection of key heritage sites. In 1987 the protection boundaries of the Summer Palace were specifically mentioned and instructed to be undertaken in the Notice of Beijing Municipal Government to the Municipal Bureau of Construction Planning and the Bureau of Cultural Relics on endorsing the Report concerning the Delimitation of Protection Zones and Construction Control Areas of the Second Group of 120 Cultural Relics under Protection. The Master Plan of Summer Palace on Protection and Management is under formulation and will be presented to the World Heritage Committee as soon as it is complete. Meanwhile, construction in the surrounding areas has also been put under restrictive control.
The Beijing Summer Palace Management Office has been responsible for heritage management of the Summer Palace since it was established in 1949. Now among it&rsquos over 1500 staff, 70% are professionals. Under it there are 30 sections responsible for cultural heritage conservation, gardening, security, construction, and protection. Regulations and emergency plans have been stipulated. At present, the protection of the Summer Palace is operating well. Under the overall protective framework made by the central and local governments, the protection and management of the Summer Palace will be carried out in accordance with strict and periodic conservation plans and programs. The scientific management and protection is carried out based on the information gained from increasingly sophisticated monitoring.
Location: Haidian District, at the northwest suburb of Beijing (15 km away from city center), Beijing Municipality
Opening time: 07:00-17:00 (Nov.1 - Mar.31, low season of tourism)
06:30-18:00 (Apr.1 - Oct.31, peak season of tourism)
- Docks: Bafang Pavilion (八方亭), Wenchang Pavilion (文昌阁), Jade Ripples Hall (玉澜堂), Hall of Dispelling Clouds (排云殿), Shizhang Pavilion (石丈亭), the Statue of Bronze Ox (铜牛), the Marble Boat (石舫), South Lake Island (南湖岛)
- Boats available: rowing boat, battery boat, water cycle, dragon-shaped boat, large-scale pleasure boats as well as chartered boats.
- Time for boat chartering: 08:00-17:00 (day time) 18:00-22:00 (night time)
How to get to Summer Palace:
- Subway: take Line 4and get off at Bei Gong Men (北宫门 North Palace Gate) or get off at Xiyuan Station (西苑站, Exit C2) and walk for 500 meters westward until see the Gong Gong Men (东宫门 East Palace Gate, the main entrance of Summer Palace).
- Bus: 74, 209, 303, 319, 320, 330, 331,332, 333 (both inner and outer ring routes), 346, 374, 375, 384, 394, 432, 437, 438, 469, 498, 539, 628, 664, 683, 690, 696, 704, 716, 718, 726, 732, 737, 801, 808, 817, 826, 904, 905, 907 and 952.
Best time for visit: September. Snow landscapes in winter are also some of the most gorgeous.
Recommended time for a visit: from 1.5 hours to half a day, not less!
The Emperors' Summer Imperial retreat place and largest garden in China
The Summer Palace, also called "Yi He Yuan" (颐和园) literally meaning "the Garden of Restful Peace" in Chinese, is one of the most visited scenic spots together with the Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven or Great Wall in Beijing city. Immense garden at a few kilometers away from the city, the Summer Palace holds its name to perfection as this was where emperors and the imperial family used to retreat at summer time, away from the heat that was burning the Forbidden City. This ancient royal garden is beautifully composed of palaces, temples, gardens, pavilions, lakes and corridors fully radiating the natural beauty and the grandeur of imperial gardens. As the largest garden in China, the Summer Palace is today the center of interests of all tourists coming to visit Beijing and its many cultural and historical relics. Looking like a part of Heaven after visiting the turmoil of Beijing city center, the Summer Palace is the place where to have a rest to discover the amazing architecture of the park invented hundred of years ago during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).
History around the Summer Palace
The Summer Palace started to be constructed in 1750 under the orders of Emperor Qianlong (1735-1796). Originally called "The Garden of Clear Ripples" (清漪园Qing Yi Yuan) the garden was considerably enlarged and embellished after the gigantesque work of the 100 000 laborers who worked on this imperial retreat for years. Like during many other historical events, the garden burned down with the invasion of Anglo-French troops in 1860 during the Second Opium War (1856-1860). That was just after the reconstruction of the garden under Empress Dowager Cixi's reign in 1888 that the garden was renamed the "Summer Palace". Being a place inspiring peace and harmony, the Summer Palace progressively started to be the permanent residence of the Imperial family that constructed pavilions and other small parts of the actual park that we can visit today. Burnt down a second time in 1900 after the Boxer Rebellion (1898-1901) and reconstructed another time, the Summer Palace was opened to public in 1924. This was only in 1998 that the great beauty of the garden was revealed after the recognition of the site as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage as well as a National 5A Tourist Spot of China.
Features of the Summer Palace
The Summer Palace is China's largest and most grandiose garden ever constructed. Covering an area of 2,9 km 2 , three quarters of which are covered of water, the palace is composed of over 3000 ancient structures including pavilions, towers, bridges and corridors. The Summer Palace is composed of 3 main areas:
- The Palace Area (for administration): is where ancient emperors used to take care of state affairs. There stands the Hall of Benevolence and Longevity (仁寿殿), where Empress Dowager Cixi held court behind a screen in most of the time of her late years.
- The Residence Area (for living): Jade Ripples Hall (玉澜堂), Hall of Joyful Longevity Hall (乐寿堂) and Yiyun Hall (宜芸馆)constitute the main bodies of this area where emperors and the royal family used to live during summer.
- The Tour Area (for relaxation): landscapes, buildings, flowers and plants appreciated by the royal family for its peaceful atmosphere.
All the Summer Palace spreads across the low hills and lakes among which the Longevity Hill (万寿山), and Kunming Lake (昆明湖) are the most important parts. Travelers visiting the site today have the opportunity to wander in the wonderful buildings and courtyards beside the lake and along the waterways. Arched bridges, promenades, decorated corridors and breezeways, an ever-changing scenery is waiting for visitors!
What to see in The Summer Palace today?
When visiting the Summer Palace, visitors should plan between one hour and a half to half a day for the site is really huge. Indeed, there are so many things to see in the palace that you will feel time spending quickly, realizing how life spent smoothly for emperors during their summer retreat. Involving plenty of walking, the Summer Palace is the place where experiencing different activities on top of little promenades.
Riding a little boat for seeing the lake areas, watching a traditional Chinese dance performance at the Palace's Theatre or doing some shopping in the many traditional shops by the river&hellipthe Summer Palace is without any contests the lovelier scenic spot in Beijing city. Though not fully opened to the public, some interesting buildings can be visited flourishing with many ancient designs and decorations. Clearly, the park is divided into 4 several sections that are the Court Area, the Front-Hill Area, the Longevity Hill Area and the Kunming Lake Area. In the park, an integrated transport hub is at the disposal of visitors who may first stop at the Kunming Lake and Longevity Hill.
The Court Area is located in the northeast of the park, spreading from the East Palace Gate to the northeast coast of Kunming Lake. It is remembered as the place where the famous (though terrific) Empress Dowager Cixi (ruling from 1861-1908) and Emperor Guangxu (1875-1908) used to reside, conducting state affairs though away from central Beijing and the Forbidden City. This area of the park is where seeing numbers of Halls and courtyards displaying the exact same architecture than other imperial places: a palace in the front and the garden behind it.
The East Palace Gate
Called "Dong Gong Men" (东宫门) in Chinese, the East Palace Gate is the major entrance to the Summer Palace with two side doors: the main door in the middle exclusively reserved to emperors, empresses and queen mothers and the side one for officials. The road leading to the entrance for emperors is chiseled with two relief dragons playing with a ball: a symbol of Chinese imperial dignity.
Upon entering the Gate, visitors will be impressed by the three big and vigorous characters meaning the Summer Palace in Chinese: 颐和园 (Yi He Yuan). It is said to be the handwriting of Emperor Guangxu who ruled the country from 1875 to 1908 under the supervision of Empress Dowager Cixi. The origin of these 3 characters is the center of a story passed for years from generation to generation. Indeed, during the restoration of the Summer Palace, craftsmen asked for Emperor Guangxu's own writing on the plaque to be disposed at the entrance of the Summer Palace. Pleased to accept their request, Emperor Guangxu wrote the three words of "颐和园". Angry at its nephew's calligraphy, Empress Dowager Cixi ordered to take off the characters, forcing then Guangxu to realize his bad writing and start to take lessons of calligraphy. After earnest efforts, the emperor finally succeeded in writing the characters in a proper way, using just one stroke. Satisfactory work, his writing is now to be admired at the East Palace Gate.
True or not, the characters at the entrance give to the Summer Palace a spiritual and forceful meaning showing the great sceneries and historical relics that are to be discovered in the park. By entering the East Palace Gate, visitors are walking into the state affairs and administrative area of emperors.
The Hall of Benevolence and Longevity
The Hall of Benevolence and Longevity (仁寿殿, Ren Shou Dian) is the first architectural complex to be seen by visitors when entering the site. Built in 1750 but burned down in 1860 by the Anglo-French forces, it was reconstructed in 1888 under the rule of Empress Dowager Cixi and Emperor Guangxu. This hall was originally called "Qinzheng Hall" to inspire rulers to manage state affairs diligently. However, during Emperor Guangxu's time (1875-1908), the hall's name was changed to the Hall of Benevolence and Longevity due to the famous Confucian saying: "The ruler who reigns benevolently will have a long life".
In front of the hall stand bronze phoenixes and dragons of a great beauty. In the courtyard, 4 unusual stones dark in color and with holes, represent the four seasons of the year such as in many other Imperial buildings where symbolism was used a lot to express Emperor's rule coming from the Heaven's decision. In the hall, several items can be admired such as a throne, a wall screen, some decorative fans made of peacock feather, incense burners, crane-shaped lights, etc&hellip Exceptional among this list, the wall screen is a curiosity for it has 9 dragons and 226 times the Chinese character "Longevity" (寿), written in different styles. Located at the north of the Hall is the Well of Prolonging Life (延年井Yan Nian Jing) that is said to have saved Empress Dowager Cixi's life after she caught a sunstroke.
The Garden/Hall of Virtue and Harmony
The Garden of Virtue and Harmony (德和园 De He yuan) is where the Emperors and the Empress Dowager Cixi were used to be entertained. Performances of the Peking opera and many other theatrical shows were used to be held there for the pleasure and entertainment of the Imperial family. This garden consists of the Grand Theater Building, the Hall of Nurtured Joy, and the Dressing House.
The theatre building, 21 meters high (69 feet) and 17 meters wide (56 feet), consists of three stories stages with colorful and multiple eaves elegantly raised on every corners. From top to bottom, there are: The Fu Stage (Happiness Stage), The Lu Stage (Affluence Stage), and The Shou Stage (Longevity Stage).
Some inventive raise catwalks in the ceilings and a winch on the top of the floor are present, an ingenuous design that could create an impression of movement to the performers. Each stage was made of trapdoors. A well and pond is located beneath the Shou Stage (Longevity Stage) for it could suddenly come out creating a water scene as well as amplify a sound effect thanks to acoustic resonance. The lighting and sound systems heighten the whole effect.
Today, the garden is converted into an exhibition hall to display the daily utensils used by the Imperial family, including bronze wares, porcelains, jade articles and other precious objects.
The Hall of Joyful Longevity
This Hall was one of the first constructed under the reign of Emperor Qianlong (1711-1799) in order to make it a residence for his mother. Located at the northeast of the Summer Palace near to the Kunming Lake, the building unfortunately burnt down after the Anglo-French occupation in the 1860s, and was restored under Empress Dowager Cixi. The Empress took a real pleasure in spending her time in this Hall with her 48 attendants and a retinue of over a thousand people accompanying her inside the Summer Palace. Called Le Shou Tang (乐寿堂) in Chinese, the name has not been given without hazard as this is a tribute to the Analects of Confucius. Indeed, saying that "persons with wisdom are joyous, with benevolence longevous", the Emperor followed the rule looking for the longest reign on Earth for he was said to be the Son of the Heaven.
The Hall is where seeing a well-decorated throne, fans, copper incense burners, desk and rosewood inlaid shell carving glass screen. Porcelain tracing back from the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) is also to be seen, a cultural relic that ranks as one of the most precious in China. On the ceiling of the Hall is a colorful pendant lamp that has been imported from Germany in 1903. At the east of the hall stands the inner chamber in and bedroom of Empress Cixi at the west, the dressing room and at the behind it all the place where maid servants waited for order. When passing through the front gate, visitors will find themselves directing to the Kunming Lake, where boats were and still are docked. Finally, the Hall of Joyful Longevity is also composed of a small courtyard garden in which Emperors used to relax as well as impress visitors. Filled with flowers of any kinds representing peace, prosperity and having also the power to cure diseases, the garden was a great pride of the Court Area.
The Hall of Jade Ripples
The Hall of Jade Ripples, also called "Sanhe yuan" for it was a hint at the Jin Dynasty verse (265-316): "Jade spring with rippling water" is one of the most impressive place that had an important role in History. Built in 1726, under the reign of Emperor Qianlong (1711-1799), the building burnt down like many others during periods of evil, but was restored later on. Known as a place notable for its seclusion and harmonious arrangement, the Hall of Jade Ripples started to have another function after 1898, when The Hundred Days Reform led by Emperor Guangxu failed. Indeed, the reform aiming at reforming the outdated feudal system by creating a new edict had received a sharp disagreement from Empress Dowager Cixi that arrested Emperor Guangxu and placed him in the Hall of Jade Ripples, secluded from the outside world. Symbolic act of this disagreement was the separation of the two rocks located in front of the Hall that used to represent Cixi and Guangxu.
During his long life confinement, Guangxu used to live between his day room and his bedchamber. The chamber, located at the east of the Hall is a cozy one. Facing it, the day room is still today where seeing the Emperor's desk made of rosewood and decorated with exquisite carvings.
The Yiyun House/Hall
Last Empress of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), Empress Longyu, wife of Emperor Guangxu used to live in the Yiyuan Hall. Not beloved by her husband who preferred to spend more times with his concubines, the Empress passed her lonely days in that house located to the north of the Hall of Jade Ripples. Built during the reign of Emperor Qianlong and repaired in the reign of Emperor Guangxu, this literally "convenient to collect and read books" hall is embodying to perfection the elegance and knowledge of Empress Longyun.
Constructed in traditional Chinese "Siheyuan (四合院)" style, the Yiyun Hall is composed of 5 front rooms, 3 back rooms, 5 eastern affiliated rooms (Dao Cun Zhai) and 5 western affiliated rooms (Jin Xi Xuan), the affiliated being home to the Emperors' concubines in summer time. All the rooms are filled with splendid curiosities such as furnitures, precious stones and flower patterns cupboard.
Though located near to the lodging of Emperor Guangxu, the Yiyun Hall was not that accessible by the Emperor after the Reform Movement. Another confinement preventing him to enjoy his time seeing his different lovers.
2. Longevity Hill Area
The Longevity Hall is definitely the most magnificent area in the Summer Palace. Area where stand most of the buildings tracing back from the Qing Dynasty, its architecture is a curiosity for it follows an east-west symmetry where many buildings and gardens are to appreciate:
The Longevity Hill
Originally called the Wengshan Hill, the marvelous Longevity Hill was renamed by Emperor Qianlong in 1752, during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), at the time he ordered the construction of the garden. Of a 60 meters high (196.9 feet), the Hill is surrounded by many houses and buildings where relaxing among a gorgeous natural beauty.
At the foot of the front Hill, stands an ancient-style archway making the main entrance for climbing the hill. On the way up to the top, visitors may see the major buildings neatly ordered along a north-south ascending axis:
- The Gate of Dispelling Clouds (Paiyunmen)
- The Second Palace Gate (Ergongmen)
- The Hall of Dispelling Clouds (Paiyundian)
- The Hall of Moral Glory (Dehuidian)
- The Tower of Buddhist Incense (Foxiangge)
- The Hall of the Sea of Wisdom: on top of the hill
Mainly concentrated on the front hill, buildings are also present in the back such as the noteworthy miniature Potala Palace building in Tibetan lamasery style.
The Baoyun Pavilion
Located at the west of the Tower of Buddhist Incense (Foxiangge) on Longevity Hill, stands the Baoyun Pavilion (Baoyunge). Made of bronze, the building is often referred to as the "Golden Pavilion", one of China's three best preserved bronze buildings still existing today in the country. The architecture of the Baoyun Pavilion is something to pay attention to as it is a double-eaved roof of a 7.55 meters high imposing itself near to the Longevity Hill. Every single part of the pavilion is a curiosity for it is delicately carved and ornate with bright colors, bright marble in Buddhist style, pillars, tiles and bells.
During the reign of Emperor Qianlong (1736-1795), Lamas coming from Tibet stopped in the Summer Palace and this exact pavilion to pray for the Imperial family on the 1 st and 15 th day of each lunar month, especially during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912). Buddha figures used to be hung on the brackets during ceremonies. In order to pay tribute to the people who casted the pavilion, their names have been engraved on the inner wall (Hanzhong, Yangguozhu, Gaoyonggu and Zhangcheng). Great method tracing back from China oldest ancient times, the casting savoir faire is one of the most precious building methods consisting in casting every single component separately. Surviving many fires, wars and calamities, the Baoyun Pavilion is a jewel around which a mystery developed after the thefts of 10 bronze windows weighing around 100 kilos each, unfound for around 70 years and suddenly reappearing, blackmailing the government to pay for money to see the windows again. Back to there original place after 90 years, the mystery over their original theft is still on today.
The Long Corridor/Gallery
The Long Corridor is a 728 meters long (796.2 yards) gallery linking the Longevity Hill to the Kunming Lake. Longest corridor gallery in China, the building was even ranked as the longest one in the whole world in 1990. Used as a perfect promenade along the lakes, the Long corridor is a unique art gallery, featuring more than 14,000 pictures of landscapes, flowers, birds, human figures and stories on its beams and ceilings. Real carrier of China's ancient history, the corridor is giving an additional touch to the place surrounded by an amazing natural scenery. Smart connecter and primary route for visiting the whole garden, the Long corridor is a must see building in the Summer Palace.
The Hall of Dispelling Clouds
The Hall of Dispelling Clouds (排云殿Pai Yun Dian) is one of the most typical buildings of the Summer Palace. Red columns, golden yellow tiles roof and white marble balusters adorned with bronze dragons, phoenixes and vessels. Inside the hall, a throne is to be seen surrounded by a screen, incense burners and some fans. Ancient and elegant, the screen is an enamelwork embedded in a red backing. Together with the adjoining wing halls, the Hall of Dispelling Clouds has 21 rooms all of which are connected by cloisters.
Although the treasures on display inside are fewer than those in the Hall of Benevolence and Longevity, some of them are more valuable. Indeed, the beautiful middle rosewood throne with a dragon-in-clouds design, gorgeous sculpture, and fluid lines, is regarded as an awe-inspiring work of art. Each sides of the throne is surrounded by articles shaped in the Chinese character "寿" (shou), meaning longevity.
To the south of the Hall of Dispelling Clouds, visitors can direct themselves to the Gate of Dispelling Clouds located in the middle of the Long Corridor, dividing the corridor from east to west. The usual bronze lions standing on each sides of the door are symbolizing protection, and 12 stone statues of the Chinese zodiac animals: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig, the Imperial devotion to the universal system and the Heaven.
The Tower of Buddhist Incense
Symbol of the Summer Palace, the Tower of Buddhist Incense (佛香阁Fo Xiang Ge) is an elaborate work of Chinese classical architecture. Located on a hill in the center of the Summer Palace with buildings distributed symmetrically around its base, the tower is of a 40 meters height (131 feet), three-storied with 8 facades and quadruple-layered eaves, the whole supported by 8 pillars of lignum vitae wood: one of the most complicated structure ever realized.
Noteworthy building in the vicinity of the Tower of Buddhist Incense is the Precious Cloud Pavilion (宝云阁Bao Yun Ge) located to the west of the tower. In order to enjoy a panoramic view of the area, travelers are invited to climb up to the tower.
As an Imperial worshipping tower, it enshrines a Buddha made in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and called "the Buddha with One Thousand Hands and Eyes". Elegant and dignified, the statue is 5 meters high (16 feet) with 12 heads and 24 arms. Empress Dowager Cixi used to burn incense and pray in the tower on the 1 st and 15 th days of every lunar month.
The Hall of the Sea of Wisdom
The Hall of the Sea Wisdom (智慧海 Zhi Hui Hai) is the Summer Palace's building that symbolizes the mighty force and the infinite wisdom of Tathagada Buddha. Built on the pinnacle of the Longevity Hill, the Hall has been designed to stand at the upper end of an axis stretching from the Kunming Lake to the summit. When initially built during the reign of Emperor Qianlong (1711-1799), it was a 2-storied building entirely made of colored glaze bricks, without any timber beams: a realization known as the "No Beam Hall". Thanks to its timber-free frame, the hall survived the fire set by the Anglo-French allied force in 1860 although the holy statue of Amitayus Buddha, as well as 1008 smaller engraved Buddhas surrounding it, were destroyed.
Moreover, the Hall of the Sea of Wisdom is also where the worship of the Goddess of Mercy (Kuanyin) is occurring. Sitting straightly in the lotus throne with a jade pure bottle in one hand and willow leaves in the other, the statue is surrounded by other noteworthy relics such as the statues of Manjusri and Samantabhadra which are said to have been cast in the reign of the Emperor Qianlong. Visitors having some time visiting the hall will be impressed by the three characters written on the architraves of the hall for they form the Buddhist's chant: a real journey to spiritualism.
The Back Lake
Passing the Marble Boat toward the north and behind the Longevity Hill, the Kunming Lake is the part of the park narrowing significantly and forming the Back Lake (后湖Hou Hu). Covered with many structures and surrounded by water, the lake is a calm and cool place where taking some rest after the turmoil of Beijing city.
The Back Lake, called that way for it is secluded and quiet, wandering its way varying in width and rendering a great deal of fun and amusement. Little area representing the most famous areas of China, the Back Lake is a jewel of history. In the western section, peculiar huge rocks perched on the banks are a vivid representation of the marvelous scenery of the Three Gorges of the Yangtze River. The section in the middle of the lake is characterized by the Suzhou Market Street with shops lining on both banks, a unique scene of the Water Town south of the Yangtze River. This tranquil lake ends at the Garden of Harmonious Interests which serves as a grandiose epilogue.
The Suzhou Market Street
The Suzhou Market Street (Suzhou jie) is located behind the Longevity Hill, in the middle section of the Back Lake. The Market is a great interest, as the lake serves as the street with the stalls and shops on its banks. It has all the features of other market streets in Suzhou, a famous Water Town of China. The ancient-style street, about 300 meters long (328 yards), transports the tourist back to the mid-18th century of China.
Originally built during the reign of Emperor Qianglong (1711-1799), the function of the market was to give to the Emperor and his Empress and concubines the experience of shopping in the Water Town. At that time, the eunuchs would act as clerks and shopkeepers, lending an air of realism to the experience. Over 60 old-styled stores, including restaurants, teahouses, pawn shops, banks, drugstores, clothing shops, dyers and publishing houses line the banks. The storekeepers, shop assistants, boaters and policemen on patrol are all dressed in traditional costumes of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).
The Garden of Harmonious Interests
Located beside the Kunming Lake, at the bottom eastern side of the Longevity Hill, the Garden of Harmonious Interests is of an exquisite design and distinctive layout a reason for its name as the "garden amongst the gardens of China". Indeed, its style is the most representative of the classical gardens of Southern China.
The idea of creating such a place came after Emperor Qianlong (1711-1799) conducted an inspection in South China in 1751. Coming back to Beijing, the Emperor developed a great affection for the Jichuang yuan Gardens in the city of Wuxi (Jiangsu Province). He then ordered that a similar garden be built in the Summer Palace, naming it the Huishan Garden, the precursor to the actual Garden of Harmonious Interests (1811). The garden was rebuilt in 1893 after some destruction.
Upon entering the Garden of Harmonious Interests, visitors are greeted by a magic panorama. Surrounded by slopes and with a lotus pond at its centre, the garden is comprised of 7 pavilions, 5 halls, numerous corridors and small bridges, all arranged with elegance. Noteworthy highlight to pay attention to is the reflection of all these typically Chinese sceneries into the pristine water of the pond. In ancient times, the pond was the fishing site of Empress Dowager Cixi. Funny history about the Empresse's taste for fishing as that every time Her Majesty went to fish, her eunuchs secretly dived into the water to hung live fish on her hook, in order to keep her in a relatively good spirit.
But what is exceptional about the Garden of Harmonious Interests is the 8 interests that can be enjoyed all around, developed as below:
- Interest of Seasons
- Interest of Pavilion
- Interest of Water
- Interest of Painting
- Interest of Bridge
- Interest of Corridor
- Interest of Calligraphy
- Interest of Imitation
Like many other natural sites, the beauty of the garden is changing along with seasons. Whether in summer, spring, autumn or winter time, the garden is still gorgeous for the pleasure of visitors worldwide. Water is maybe the element that is the most present in Chinese traditional gardens. The Garden of Harmonious interests is following the rule as many falls, and ponds give birth to winding streams where life is developing and wonderful sounds give a feeling of relaxation. Spanning the water with different styles, the bridges that can be admired in this part of the Summer Palace are parts of the historical and cultural relics tracing back from the ancient dynasties. The Xushi Path stele and stone inscription in the Moyun Room are also elements of interest for they ad to the park a painting dimension never seen anywhere else. Pavilions and corridors of different colors and architectural styles give to the scenery the typical Chinese sights that many of us are looking for when travelling to China.
Every single angle of the park is to discover. Harmonious and relaxing, the Garden of Harmonious interests is the perfect name for the most perfect garden China has ever been listing. A reason for understanding now why the Summer Palace has been listed to UNESCO!
3. Kunming Lake Area
The Kunming Lake area is the most famous part of the Summer Palace. Covering the larger part of the Palace, this is where Emperors and Empresses used to relax and enjoy the cool climate of the park away from the hit putting Beijing on fire at summer time. Unique vistas among all that can be see in the park, the Kunming lake is paying tribute to natural beauty and inspiring relaxation and quietness to those having the chance to spend some times on its banks discovering its many highlights.
The Bronze Ox
The Bronze Ox is one of the most famous attractions of the Lake set on bluestone wave-lined pedestal, overlooking the east shore of the Kunming Lake. The reason for an ox presence in the park can appeal to reflection but for history, the ox is said in Chinese believes to have to power to control floods: a major cause of death in ancient China. Around the bronze ox developed the legend that the master of floods prevention: Da Yu, after completion of any of his projects would put an iron ox into the water for preventing the area or region from flood disasters. Customary since the Tang Dynasty (618-907), oxen are since then lined at the edge of waterways.
Originally, the bronze ox was set there by Emperor Qianlong (1711-1799). Adopting a realistic approach, the ox has become an integral part of the surrounding environment. It is the largest of its kind in China, reflecting the high casting level of ancient China.
Connecting the eastern shore of the Kunming Lake to the Nanhu Island in the west, the Seventeen-Arch Bridge is a major attraction of the Kunming Lake. With a length of 150 meters (164 yards) and a width of 8 meters (8.75 yards), it is the longest bridge in the Summer Palace, built during the reign of Emperor Qianlong (1711-1799). Highly inspired from other famous Chinese bridges such as the Lugou Bridge in Beijing and Baodai Bridge in Suzhou (Zhejiang Province), the Seventeen-Arch Bridge looks like a rainbow arching over the water. 544 distinctive white marble lions are carved on the column of the parapets with a bizarre beast on each end of the bridge.
An interesting legend connecting to the construction of this bridge can be noticed. Coming to the court to sell his "Longmen stone", a poor old man didn't receive any attention from the people who started to despise him because of his poor looking. Waiting for a buyer, the old man sat beside a tree but the rain forced him to shelter in some places. Kindly advised and sheltered by a man, the old man offered his Longmen Stone as a gift to his host to thank him, and returned home. Years after the beginning of the construction of the Seventeen-Arch Bridge, just one stone was missing but no one could find nor design the appropriate shape. Remembering about the old man, people started to look for him in the vicinity but just found the exact stone given years ago to the host. Fitting perfectly, the stone completed the construction of the bridge that could start to be used by the Emperor. Since then, the old man is believed to be the incarnation of Luban, ancestor of carpenters, who came to help people build the imperial bridge.
The Nanhu Island (南湖岛South Lake Island) is the largest one among the three islands of the Kunming Lake. This over one hectare (2.5 acres) island is located in the southeast of the lake, connected to the east bank by the Seventeen-Arch Bridge. Originally, the island and the whole Kunming Lake were artificial for thousands of workers designed it, excavating the lake thus making the island emerging from the earth and water. The whole island is edged by huge stones and enclosed with carved stone fences. Seen from the distance, the island together with the Seventeen-Arch Bridge look like a tortoise stretching its neck. Symbol of longevity in Chinese culture, the tortoise was a beloved animal for Emperors and especially Emperor Qianlong, who originally built this garden in the name of his mother's 60 th birthday.
On the island, two main buildings make the highlights of the site: the Hanxu Hall and the Dragon King Temple. The Hanxu Hall is the shelter where Empress Dowager Cixi inspected the navy drill. Every time she came to the Summer Palace, she made a stop-over for worshiping at the temple, using a boat to reach the holy island.
Maybe one of the most remarkable buildings that visitors notice when visiting the Summer Palace, the Marble Boat (Shifang) is a structure tracing back from Emperor Qianlong's reign (1711-1799). Located at the west end of the Long Corridor gallery, the boat was built in 1755 but the fires set during the Anglo-French occupation destroyed its superstructure. Empress Dowager Cixi's general reconstruction of the Kingdom's ancient buildings saved the memory of the original boat although rebuilt in an imitation of western-style yachts. Some wood subassemblies hidden through a marble texture are present in the boat, although called "Marble Boat".
Behind the creation of that boat lies an interesting story telling a lot about emperors' way of thinking the world and the management of the country. Indeed, the boat was constructed after the Tang Dynasty (618-907) minister Wei Zheng told the Emperor these words: "The waters that bear the boat are the same that swallow it up". Reading between the lines, the Emperor understood the comparison of the boat to the Emperor and the waters to the people. The saying turned into a real advice that the Emperor should care about his people for they can overthrow him. In order to make the reign of the Qing Dynasty the longest as possible, he ordered the creation of a firm boat made of stone that cannot be overturned by the waters.
Looted Treasure Returned to Beijing's Old Summer Palace
After its looting 160 years ago, an iconic horse-head bronze statue was returned on Tuesday, December 1 to the Old Summer Palace (Yuanmingyuan) in Beijing’s Haidian district.
The horse-head is one of 12 statues that depict Chinese zodiac animals. It was designed by Italian artist Giuseppe Castiglione and made by royal craftsmen.
The statue was donated by the late Hong Kong-Macao tycoon Stanley Ho who passed away earlier this year. It was in the possession of the National Cultural Heritage Administration (NCHA) before being recently handed over to the Old Summer Palace.
The Old Summer Palace served as an imperial garden between 1709 and 1860. It gained a reputation as the ‘garden of gardens’ thanks to its plethora of palaces, gardens and treasures.
In 1860, British and French colonial forces destroyed many of the garden’s structures and looted its treasures. This included the horse-head bronze statue. Many other treasures remain on display in museums around the world. According to China Daily, “It is the first time that a lost important cultural relic from Yuanmingyuan has been returned to and housed at its original location after being repatriated from overseas.”
The Old Summer Palace is etched into the collective memory of many in China. For many Chinese citizens, Yuanmingyuan is symbolic of colonialism and China’s so-called ‘national humiliation.’
In October of this year, the Old Summer Palace marked the 160th anniversary of the looting. On October 18, visitors could enter the palace free of charge.
Many who took advantage of the free entry were eager to point out the importance of the anniversary and not to forget China’s ‘national shame.’ Ms. Liu, an art teacher, took her students to the Old Summer Palace for a painting activity. She told Global Times that she hoped her students could appreciate the historical significance of the ruins. Many of China’s netizens were equally keen to point out the anniversary’s importance.
Over RMB10 million (USD1.52 million) has been spent on improving facilities to safely store the treasure. The statue will be displayed permanently in the Zhengjue Temple of the Old Summer Palace.
Lord Elgin and the Burning of the Summer Palace
In October 1860, writes E.W.R. Lumby, a humane and liberal-minded British emissary felt obliged to order an act of vandalism in Peking.
The letters and journals of James, Eighth Earl of Elgin, show a man constantly preoccupied with the harm that, in his eyes, the western nations, and the British in particular, were doing to the ancient civilizations of the East a man highly sensitive to the injustices of his country’s policy and to the arrogance and inhumanity that he thought he saw in his compatriots.
Yet Elgin’s two missions to China are chiefly remembered for the event in which they culminated—the burning of the Summer Palace at Peking in October 1860. How did it come about that a man of his temperament and opinions should have been responsible for an act so often quoted as an example of vandalism, of Victorian arrogance and insensitivity at their worst?
To Elgin the East was “abominable, not so much in itself, as because it is strewed all over with the records of our violence and fraud, and disregard of right.”
On his way to China in 1857, he wrote of Egypt: “I suppose that France and England, by their mutual jealousies, will be the means of perpetuating the abominations of the system under which that magnificent country is ruled.”
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Peking’s Summer Palace destroyed - HISTORY
Category of Site: Cultural Site
The Summer Palace, originally named Qingyi Yuan, or the Garden of Clear Ripples, was an imperial garden constructed in 1750 by Emperor Qianlong in a bid to celebrate his mother's birthday. During the past few centuries, emperors and empresses spent their leisure time there, which is of great aesthetic value today.
The site in Beijing is an outstanding expression of the creative art of Chinese landscape garden design, incorporating the works of man and nature in a harmonious manner.
The Summer Palace was added to the list in November 1998.
The Summer Palace was first built in 1750 and largely destroyed in the war of 1860, then restored on its original foundation in 1886. It served four generations of the imperial family, and is now a popular resort for people from all walks of life.
The palace is an outstanding example of imperial parks and private gardens with features of both northern and southern China, and is the best preserved of all Chinese imperial parks. It integrates the natural landscape of hills and open water with manmade features, such as pavilions, halls, palaces, temples and bridges, into a harmonious and aesthetically exceptional whole.
The Summer Palace covers an area of 290 hectares, three-fourths of it being water. Its garden is divided into three sectors: the official sector, the private sector and the landscape sector. The imperial palaces are in the eastern part of the Summer Palace. The main structures in this area include the Hall of Benevolence and Longevity (Renshoudian), also known as the Hall of Industrious Government (Qinzhengdian), its side halls and offices for ministers. The private sector is composed of three large courtyards, focusing respectively on the Hall of Jade Ripples (Yulantang), the Hall of Happiness and Longevity (Leshoutang) and the Yiba Hall.
Diversified architectural elements in the Summer Palace annotate the evolution of China as an integral country of many ethnic groups. For example, Kunming Lake is largely an imitation of West Lake in Hangzhou, East China's Zhejiang province. The long causeway to the west of the lake is called the West Dike, modeled after the Su Dongpo Causeway on West Lake. A series of six bridges on the dike are very similar to the six bridges on West Lake.
The large group of temples on Longevity Hill, including the Pavilion of the Fragrance of Buddha (Foxiangge), is typical of the architecture of Tibetan Buddhism. They were built in imitation of the Temple of Common Peace (Puningsi) and similar temples in the Chengde Mountain Resort, which were built at the same time.
The Long Corridor
The Long Corridor is the longest garden corridor in China, and one of the oldest structures in the Summer Palace. It is a covered promenade running for 728 meters along the northern shore of Kunming Lake and connecting with a row of buildings at the foot of Longevity Hill.
Besides the spectacular view of more than 8,000 paintings in traditional Chinese style that illustrates a large span of Chinese history and literature, the Long Corridor is also remarkable in its quake-proof function. According to historical records, over the past 251 years, although the slim and winding Long Corridor has suffered numerous storms, strong winds and even earthquakes, it has never tilted or been undermined.