Ruins of the Old Summer Palace

Visit Three Imperial Gardens in One Day

Old Summer Palace is in the neighbourhood of Summer Palace and Xiangshan Park. So we were able to visit all three parks in one day.

The Old Summer Palace was destroyed in 1860 by the French-British force. The ruins are now re-built into a park. We thought that there won’t be much to see, but we were wrong. We ended up spent almost three hours here, as it is three times as big as the current Summer Palace. It is composed of three major gardens – Yuanmingyuan, Changchunyuan and Qichunyuan.

If you are interested in modern Chinese history, this is a must-visit site. It is a live proof of how war destroyed China and a completely magnificent imperial garden. Nevertheless, the re-built ruined garden is still very beautiful and with some left over original heritages. Here is one, the arc bridge, one among the rarely not-badly destroyed heritages at Qichunyuan - A very scenic spot where a lot of the locals come here to do their live drawings.

Old Summer Palace
Entrance Fee: ¥10
Site of European Palaces: ¥15
Shuttle: ¥5/per way, to and from Qichunyuan

This is the most valued and grand site in the garden. If you want to have a quick access to it without much walking, you have to enter at the East Gate of Changchunyang. Like us, if you enter at the Gate of Qichunyuan, you would probably be quite tired when you see the shuttle bus. You just can’t refuse to pay that ¥5 to take you there.

This is an Italian designed group of palaces where the imperial emperors used to enjoy their resort life. The world famous 12 zodiac animals fountain is here. They used to be behind us, and lined up in a shape like the Chinese character ‘8’ ‘八’.

Take a look at the replica of the animal fountain at the Old Summer Palace

This particular site is very big. You would notice its entrance fee is even higher than the major entrance fee. So you would need to spend at least an hour here.

We are standing at where the emperor used to be – to admire the master waterwork

12 Zodiac Animals’ Tragedy

At Qichunyuan, we visited the 12 Chinese Zodiac Animals Exhibition.

As Chinese, we do feel sad reviewing this particular time in history when we were insulted and invaded by the western world. The European designed animal-headed human figures arranged in two groups of six poured out water in turn every two hours. A grand artistic masterpiece was destroyed overnight in 1860, having the 12 animals being robbed and lost overseas for 140 years.

Currently the bronze heads of Ox, Tiger, Monkey and Pig were found and rescued by compatriots and were returned to China while the horse is in Taiwan. The heads of Rat and Rabbit are now in France. The heads of Dragon, Snake, Sheep, Rooster and Dog are still lost. Though it is unlikely to happen, but we do wish one day there is a reunion of them.

Italian designed animal heads

Some less spoiled heritages shown in the exhibition

Anna’s Old Summer Palace Tour Notes
We had a private car and driver, hence we were extremely aggressive as to visit three imperial parks in a day. We even visited the famous 9-Gate Snack Street before heading back to our courtyard hotel in the city. A total of 7-hour walk in a day was even more exhausting than work. So if you want to explore Beijing, be prepared to walk.

Actually The Peking University is also in this area. If you are not coming in autumn, you can replace the Xiangshan Park by the Peking University, so you still visit three major sites in the west of Beijing in one day. But mind you, Peking University won’t allow unauthorized private cars in, they will only let taxis in. Make sure to have your driver drop you off at the West Gate of the Peking University and walk inside. Actually the gate itself is a very hot photogenic spot.

More about the Old Summer Palace

October 31, 2008