Seven Reasons To Visit The Summer Palace In Beijing
The Summer Palace is located in the northwest suburb of Beijing. It was built in 1750 by an Emperor Qianlong to celebrate his mother’s birthday. It was originally named Garden of Clear Ripples. Historically it was burned down twice by foreign invaders and was rebuilt by the governors of Qing dynasty. In 1924 the Summer Palace was formally opened to public as a park. In 1992 the Summer Palace was appraised as the most perfectly preserved imperial garden with the richest man-made scenery and most concentrated architecture in the world. In 1998 it was inscribed on the World Heritage List by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
The Summer Palace covers an area of over 290 hectares, mainly dominated by Longevity Hill and Kunming Lake. There are a variety of palaces, gardens, and other classical-style architectural structures in the Summer Palace.
Highlights of the Summer Palace:
1. East Palace Gate
East Palace Gate is a palatial building that is the front entrance to the Summer Palace and has 3 gates and 2 sidedoors in total. The gate in the middle, called ‘the Imperial Gateway’, was for the emperor and empress; the gates on either side were for princes and high officials; The northern and southern sidedoors were for eunuchs and guards.
On other side of the East Palace Gate stand two bronze lions: a male and a female one. The male lions has a ball under its paw, which is named Shi Zi Gun Xiu Qiu in Chinese and means ‘the lion plays with a ball’; The female lion has a young lion under her left paw, which is named Tai Shi Shao Shi in Chinese and means ‘the old is always with the young’.
2. Hall of Benevolence and Longevity
The Hall of Benevolence and Longevity was originally called the Hall of Diligent Government, but changed to the present name during the reign of Emperor Guangxu. The name reflects the Chinese cultural belief that benevolent people can live longer than others.
It was the main place where Empress Dowager Cixi and Emperor Guangxu held court and administered state affairs when they were in the Summer Palace. There is a portrait of Empress Dowager Cixi as a young woman. That was painted by the Dutch portraitist Hubert Vos in 1905 when she was in her seventies.
3. Great Stage
Next to the Hall of Benevolence and Longevity it is Garden of Virtue and Harmony that was used as main entertainment area. The Great Stage stands in the centre of the garden. The construction of the stage started in 1891 and was completed in 1895. This stage is the largest stage made in Qing Dynasty. Now you can watch the traditional Chinese opera there, which are played daily for several times.
4. Long Corridor
The long Corridor runs along Kunming Lake at the foot of the Longevity Hill. It’s more than 700 meters long. You will not miss it if you walk towards to the Longevity Hill. It was built only for imperial family to avoid strong sunshine and rain fall. There are over 10000 painting pictures on its ceiling with painted Buddhism stories. It is known as the longest painted gallery in the world.
At the end of the Long Corridor there is a restaurant called Hall of Listening to Orioles that was used as a theatre. Now it is one of the most famous restaurants in Beijing to provide imperial dishes and desserts.
5. Longevity Hill
The Longevity Hill is about 60 meters high and houses many halls and pavilions positioned in sequence. From the foot of the front hill to climb you can see the major structures neatly ordered along a north-south ascending axis: Gate of Dispelling Clouds (Paiyunmen), Second Palace Gate (Ergongmen), Hall of Dispelling Clouds (Paiyundian), Tower of the Fragrance of the Buddha (Foxiangge) and the Hall of the Sea of Wisdom on top of the hill.
The Tower of the Fragrance of the Buddha is the peak point of the Longevity Hill. Its height is 41 meters. It is a three-storeyed octagonal structure. Architecturally, it is a major building.
6. Kunming Lake
Kunming Lake is the central lake and approximately covers three quarters of the grounds of the Summer Palace. Together with the Longevity Hill, it forms the key landscape features of the Summer Palace gardens. Two bridges should not be missed.
Jade Belt Bridge is made of white marble and granite. The imperial boat used to pass the bridge from Kunming Lake to Jade Spring Hill, another famous royal hill nearby.
Seventeen-arch Bridge is 150 meters long and 8 meters wide, linked the East Dyke and South Lake Island of Kunming Lake. It was built at Qianlong period (in 1736-1795).
7. Suzhou Street
Suzhou Street is in the middle section of Back lake. Historically it was made for emperor’s female family members who can not go out the Capital to experience the South China Fair.
The street is about 300 metres long and has over 60 shops. There you can shop as well as have a look of ancient business custom. The staffs all wear clothes in the style of Qing Dynasty.
The Summer Palace is a popular tourist destination, a recreational park, and world heritage site. It opens daily from 6:30 to 20:00(April 1 to October 31) and from 7:00 to 19:00(November 1 to March 31 next year). The entrance fee is 30 RMB per adult. You can rent an electronic sensor guide machine, which is priced 10 RMB and has a few languages to choose.
It’s easy to get to the Summer Palace by bus or by boat. Bear in mind there are three entrances to the Summer Palace: East Palace Gate, New Palace Gate and North Palace Gate. So be careful when you choose a bus.
The Summer Palace is near the business districts of Beijing Zhongguancun Science Park and Shangdi Technology Park, where a lot of hotels are available, such as Crown Plaza Zhongguancun, Beijing Friendship Hotel, Beijing Yanshan Hotel, just name a few.
Nearby the Summer Palace you can also visit Ruins of Yuanmingyuan Park, Fragrance Hill and Beijing Zoo.