The Summer Palace
Located 15km from Beijing, the Summer Palace is the largest and best-preserved royal garden in China. The Summer Palace has a history of over 800 years.
Early in the Jin dynasty, an imperial palace named Golden Hill Palace was built on the present site of the Summer Palace. In 1750, with 4.48 million taels of silver, Emperor Qian Long of the Qing dynasty built the Garden of Clear Ripples here and renamed the hill Longevity Hill to celebrate his mother’s birthday. In 1860, the Anglo-French Allied Forces invaded Beijing and set fire to the garden. In 1888, Empress Dowager Cixi, with funds embezzled from the Imperial Navy, restored the grand garden.
The construction had lasted for ten year and after completion, she renamed it Yiheyuan – Garden of Peace and Harmony. In 1900, the garden was plundered again by the eight powers.
This time, nearly all big temples and halls at the back of the Longevity Hill were destroyed and only one survived. Only when the fugitive Cixi returned to Beijing in 1903, did the full-scale restoration begin. Mainly consists of Longevity Hill (which can be divided into Front Hill and Rear Hill) and Kunming Lake, this present Summer Palace covers a vast area of 294 hectares, in which three quarters are water.
The garden can be divided into three parts, namely, administration, residence and scenery browsing area. The administration area, taking Halls of Benevolence and Longevity as its principal part, is the place where Cixi dealt with state affairs and received officials. Residence area mainly consists of Hall of Jade Billows, Garden of Virtue and Harmony, and Hall of Joyful Longevity.
The Kunming Lake and Longevity Hill then serve as the scenery browsing area. The Summer Palace has two entrances, one is the East Palace Gate and the other is North Palace Gate. Most visitors enter the garden from the East Palace Gate. All the man-made hills, halls, pavilions and temples, including Kunming Lake and Longevity Hill, blend together harmoniously in spite of their individual styles.
Ingeniously conceived and elaborately designed, this garden, concentrating the features of the gardens in southern and northern China, can be reputed as the soul of the Chinese gardens. The Summer Palace of today is more or less the same as the palace rebuilt in 1903. After the last Qing Emperor Puyi was thrown out of the Summer Palace in 1924, this garden was turned into a park.
But at first, due to the admission charge was very high, the normal people still had no chance to view the magnificent royal garden.
Today, most people can afford the ticket. This old imperial garden now becomes an ideal place for Beijing locals to retreat from the hot summer in Beijing.