Categories: Beijing

Summer Palace : Beijing


The Beijing Summer Palace is quite the attraction. Perhaps aside from the surprising 798 art district this is probably the place I enjoyed the most during my visit to Beijing. It just has so much to offer – a UNESCO heritage mountain-top palace offering scenic views of the nearby lake, accompanied by lots of history and the charm of Chinese style architecture.

The views from from the top of Longevity Hill down to Kunming Lake are absolutely spectacular (with the obvious limitations of the ever lurking Beijing smog)…

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It’s a relatively recent palace constructed by the Qings towards to the end of the 18th century and has therefore not seen much peace and quiet.

The official palace website has the glorying details :

The Summer Palace landscape, dominated mainly by Longevity Hill and Kunming Lake, covers an area of 2.9 square kilometers, three quarters of which is under water. Its 70,000 square meters of building space features a variety of palaces, gardens and other ancient-style architectural structures. Well known for its large and priceless collection of cultural relics, it was among the first group of historical and cultural heritage sites in China to be placed under special state protection.

The Summer Palace was first constructed in 1750. It was razed to the ground by the Anglo-French Allied Forces in 1860. The Government of the Qing Dynasty started to rebuild it in 1886 with funds that it had misappropriated from the Imperial Navy and other sources. Renamed two years later as Yihe Yuan or the Garden of Health and Harmony, it was supposed to serve as a summer resort for the Empress Dowager Cixi. Known also as the Summer Palace, it was ravaged by the Allied Forces of the Eight Powers that invaded China in 1900. The damage was repaired in 1902. Since the founding of the People’s Republic of China, the Summer Palace has undergone several major renovations.

The Summer Palace is a monument to classical Chinese architecture, in terms of both garden design and construction. Borrowing scenes from surrounding landscapes, it radiates not only the grandeur of the imperial garden but also the beauty of nature in a seamless combination that best illustrates the guiding principle of traditional Chinese garden design: “The works of men should match the works of Heaven”.

Damn those foreigners.

On to the tour, then.

Climbing the hill all the way to the top you will come across the Temple of Serenity with its pagodas, pavilions, grand halls and various other Chinese architecture buildings that make up this beautiful complex.

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Making your way down you’ll find hordes of local tourists making their way through the "long corridor" which offers a nice tour through a shaded corridor with occasional pavilions showing lots of Chinese artistic paintings…

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And then, ofcourse, there’s Kunming Lake…

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Where aside from the scenic beauty of the lake you can expect to find many locals doing their thing…

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Depending on where you come in or exit you might come across a lovely section that is aimed at replicating the feel of Suzhou – Suzhou street.

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Expect many more classic Chinese symbols and buildings throughout the place…

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I spent the better part of that day touring around quietly, taking it in slowly. All in all – a wonderful place to linger, far away from the hustle bustle of the city, signifying all the grandeur that is – or used to be – Beijing.

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