The Summer Palace situated in the northwestern outskirts of Beijing, almost 10 miles (15 kilometers) away from the downtown area of Beijing. As one of the Four Most Gardens of China, the Summer Palace is the grandest imperial garden, earning it the reputation of “the Museum of Royal Gardens”. This garden with an area of 5 square miles (12,900,000 square meters) contains about 3,000 hills, palaces and gardens. The construction of the Summer Palace once called Qinqyiyuan (Garden of Clear Ripples) began in 1750 and was completed in 1764.
In 1860, the Anglo-French troupes destroyed the Qingyiyuan. In 1888, the Empress Dowager Cixi misappropriated navy funds of about 1.5 millions kilograms of silver to rebuild the garden and renamed it the Summer Palace. In 1900, the Summer Palace was destroyed by a European force again and many buildings were completely burned. In 1903, the garden was renovated. However, it was once again destroyed in successive years of internecine fighting among warlords.
The Summer Palace, dominated mainly by Longevity Hill and Kunming Lake, drew on the Chinese traditional arts of garden construction and natural mountains and water landscape. In this way, the garden appears to have been created by nature rather than by human hands. The golden glory of pavilions and halls, the rich vegetation of the hills and rippling water of the lake combine to give visitors the sense that they are walking in some sort of earthly paradise.
The Summer Palace is definitely a gem of the traditional Chinese art of garden construction. Centering on the Pavilion of the Fragrance of the Buddha, the garden includes hundreds of buildings, about 20 courtyards, and 3,555 ancient constructions among which the Long Corridor, Stone Boat, Suzhou Street and Garden of Harmonious Interests are known by many. Many kinds of old and precious trees and flowers grow in the garden as well.
The Summer Palace can be separated into three parts: the political activities zone, the living zone, and the entertaining zone. The political zone, by the Hall of Benevolence and Longevity, is the venue for major political and diplomatic affairs. The living zone, represented by the Hall of Happiness and Longevity, is the place where the Empress Dowager Cixi, Emperor Guangxu, and his imperial concubines lived. The entertaining area is comprised of the place along the Long Corridor.
In 1961, the Summer Palace became one of the key cultural preservation centers. In 1998, it was selected to be on the UNESCO World Heritage List. In 2007, it was approved as the 5A tourist attraction, the highest rating possible.
Read more about the impressive Summer Palace on the UNESCO website.
Admission Fee: 30RMB (high season), 20RMB (low season)
Open Time: 6:30 – 18:00 (high season), 7:00-17:00 (low season)