Beijing is pretty intense. It’s a massive city with dizzying traffic and swarms of people. And while it may be exciting for a while, sometimes, visitors need a break. The Summer Palace is that place where travelers go when they need to step outside of the city bustle.
It’s an oasis on the outskirts of the city center, and it’s made up of lakes, weeping willows, lily pads, and delicate flowers. The natural features are enhanced with ornate bridges, halls, temples, palaces, and pavilions. It’s a treasured destination that represents the best in Chinese landscape design. Between its history and inspiring design, The Summer Palace is always welcoming new and returning visitors looking for beauty.
Interesting Facts About The Summer Palace
-One of the main attractions, Longevity Hill, stands at 200 feet.
-It dates back to 1153 when it was commissioned by Wanyan Liang of the Jin Dynasty. Jade Spring Hill and Fragrant Hill is where the palace was to be built.
-There are six main attractions which include: Kunming Lake, Central Axis area, Longevity Hill, the Halls, the Long Corridor, the Farming and Weaving Picture Scenic Area.
-Many people prefer to visit during winter because of the scenic, snowy landscape.
History Of The Summer Palace
The Summer Palace dates back to 1153 when the Jin capital was relocated from Huining Prefecture to Yanjing (now Beijing.) The move was made by Wanyan Liang, the fourth ruler of the Jin Dynasty. Located in the northwest of Beijing, Liang commissioned the construction of The Summer Palace.
It was during the Yuan dynasty, in 1271 that the capital was well established and engineer, Guo Shoujing, started a waterway project. With hopes to established a stable supply of water for the new capital, he suggested directing water from a local spring to what is now Kunming lake.
During the Ming Dynasty in 1494, the Hongzhi Emperor wanted to build a temple for his wet nurse on Longevity Hill. Eventually, the temple fell abandoned and became overgrown with vegetation. In 1505, the emperor decided to build an imperial garden by the lake.
In the early days of the Qing Dynasty, the area became home to horse stables, gardens, and a palace which was built in dedication to the emperor’s mother.
Eventually, Kunming lake was made even bigger, as was Longevity Hill. Afterwards, The Summer Palace was constructed, based off of Chinese Mythology and included recreations of famous attractions around China.
Around 1850, The Summer Palace was neglected, and started to fall apart. It suffered looting and fire by the British during the second Opium War. However, from 1884 to 1895, The Summer Palace started to be revitalized by the Guangxu Emperor.
The palace was damaged yet again in 1900 but by 1912, the palace became privately owned, renovated, and then opened up to the public. There was a brief time period when Mao Zedong and his friends lived in the palace, but since 1953, it has been restored and reopened as a public space.
Culture Of The Summer Palace
The culture here revolves around history and art. The natural scenes draw both local and foreign artists, who come to paint the landscape. While visiting, make sure to experience:
Longevity Hill: Walk up the hilltop and make sure to visit the Hall of Moral Glory, Hall of Dispelling Clouds, Hall of the Sea of Wisdom, Revolving archives, and Baoyun Bronze Pavilion.
Kunming Lake: This beautiful area is home to many attractions. Make sure to see the Marble Boat, Suzhou Market Street, Seventeen-arch Bridge, Nanhu Island, Bronze Ox, Spacious Pavilion, Pavilion of Bright Scenery, and the Hall of Embracing The Universe.
The Stone Boat: It’s 96 meters long and built back in the 1800s. It was originally made of wood and burned down. However, the boat was rebuilt out of marble.
Sea of Wisdom: At the top of Longevity Hill, this structure is made of colored glass and holds over 1,000 statues of Buddhist figures.
Long Corridor: It stretches for 728 meters and is adorned with traditional decorations, Chinese paintings, and scenes from ancient mythology.
Tower of Buddhist Incense: Built on a stone base of 20 meters, this tower was meant to look like the famous, Yellow Crane Tower.
Dehe Garden: This is where the Great Opera Hall was once frequented by Beijing locals.
Hall of Jade Billows: This used to be the living area of the great emperors who once lived here.
Tips For Visiting The Summer Palace
-Plan to spend at least three hours visiting this destination. There is a lot to do and a ton of ground to cover.
-There are two different admission tickets. One is for the garden complex while the other gets you into the attractions within Summer Palace. Make sure to get both tickets.
-Bring a student I.D because students get half-priced admission.
-Hire an English speaking tour guide to get the best understanding of The Summer Palace history.
-Take a boat ride on the lake if you’re visiting during the summer. The prices for tickets are low.
-Bring a map of the garden so that you are sure to see everything.
-Pack water and food because there are plenty of shady spots to have a picnic for lunch.
How To See The Summer Palace
If you plan on visiting Beijing and The Summer Palace, here are some great tours to help you see it all.
-4 Day Private Tour of Beijing: Private tour guide and car, a visit to The Great Wall, Beijing Roast Duck tasting, Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, Hutongs.
-1 Day Cuandixia Village Tour From Beijing: See the courtyards of the Ming and Qing Dynasties, sculptures, historic relics, and old stone-mill.
-1 Day Best of Beijing Group Tour: See Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, and the Summer Palace.
-Beijing Group Tour Badaling Great Wall and Ming Tombs: See The Great Wall and a World UNESCO Heritage Site.