Summer Palace, Beijing
The Summer Palace is located in Haidian District, west of the Peking University. It is a classical Chinese garden architecture bringing together a harmony of mountains, lakes, bridges, pavilions and palaces.
The idea was to recreate the landscapes of beautiful places all over China, such as West Lake in Hangzhou, Tibetan style Lamseries and Suzhou Street.
A Brief History of the Summer Palace
It was a summer resort as well as a garden for relaxation. In 1888, Empress Dowager Cixi ordered the reconstruction and enlargement of the Summer Palace and gave it the current name Yiheyuan 頤和園.
The name Summer Palace is used by foreigners. Its official Chinese name Yiheyuan 頤和園 means Pleasant and Peaceful Garden.
The building of the Summer Palace was at the expenses of Chinese people’s national securities. Empress Dowager Cixi embezzled the funds reserved to build an Imperial Navy to build it.
Let’s take a look at Cixi’s bio and learn more about the history of the Summer Palace.
Exploring the Summer Place
Most travellers enter the Summer Palace from East Palace Gate where the Court Area is. Empress Dowager Cixi dealt with state affairs here. Right behind the Court Area is the Residential Area with Happiness Longevity Hall (Leshoutang) where Empress Dowager Cixi made her home from May to November.
The Opera House is also here where Empress Dowager Cixi and Emperor Guangxu watched the performances of Beijing Opera.
The Scenic Area is mainly connected by the Long Corridor and the bridges over the Kunming Lake.
The Long Corridor is over 700 meters long winding on the Kunming Lake. It is a shady walkway to protect the Empress from sun and rain. Along the corridor, there are four pavilions resembling the scenes of spring, summer, autumn and winter.
Take a relax walk here and check out the glorious paintings on the underside of the roof. Supported posts are brightly painted with traditional Chinese colours of red and green. On the horizontal supporting beams inside the corridor, you would find paintings of scenes from West Lake in Hangzhou, flowers and historical figures.
Marble Boat - The Long Corridor ends at the
lake, where you can explore the amazing Marble Boat. It is a solid marble palace built in the shape of a two-storey paddle steamer. Cixi re-built it in western style with large colour glass windows. She enjoyed having tea next to the windows while admiring the beauty of her royal garden.
Longevity Hill – You can climb up to the top of Longevity Hill to take a look at Beijing from distance. On the way, you'll pass by the majestic Precious Clouds Pavilion, and behind that, the Buddhist Temple of Sea of Wisdom.
In the middle section of the Longevity Hill where the Dowager Empress watched opera, is now the Tingliguan Restaurant serving dishes cooked with recipes from the royal kitchen.
Kunming Lake – Cixi enjoyed boating on the lake at the Summer Palace. Imagine yourself enjoying a relaxing day like the Empress. You can rent an electric boat or make fun with a pedal boat. You can also get on a Dragon ferry to explore the lake which is quite large. There are different types of boats available near the dock at the Marble Boat.
The west bank of Kunming Lake is an imitation of West Lake in Hangzhou. You’ll find the Jade Belt Bridge, Mirror Bridge and four other beautiful bridges. The elegant streamline Jade Belt Bridge is made of marble with carvings on it. It is one of the most beautiful spots in the Summer Palace.
Seventeen Arch Bridge links the east bank of Kunming Lake to South Lake Island. It is the largest bridge in the Summer Palace. There are somewhat 500 lion statues of various sizes and postures. It is undoubtedly a very picturesque spot.
Suzhou Market Street -
By the North Palace Gate is the Suzhou Market Street, a re-creation of the watery streets of Suzhou in South China – a place extremely tempting to the Qing Emperors. Beautiful landscapes, mild weather and graceful women.
The streets here lined up with handicrafts and souvenirs shops and people dressed in traditional way. The original idea was for the emperors to pretend shopping like ordinary people.
Low season: November 1 – March 31
Entrance ticket: ¥20 / Through ticket: ¥40
Peak season: April 1 – October 31
Entrance ticket: ¥30 / Through ticket: ¥60
If you hold a basic entrance ticket, you would have to pay extra ¥10 or 5 for some of the scenic spots.
The ticketing system is a bit complicate. Actually the Summer Palace is not the only place where you have to pay extra though you have an entrance ticket. You’ll find some other tourist spots having the same practice.
Summer Palace is tightly associated with Empress Dowager Cixi and a shameful period in Chinese history. However the place itself is handsome.
Summer Palace is a place for relaxation. Don’t come here to kill the last hour of your day. Spend a half day here. Don’t run and don’t rush. Take your time and enjoy.
Imagine yourself a member of the Chinese royal family. Feel yourself like Cixi picking her favourite opera and enjoy it at the Opera House. Feel like an emperor walking through the gardens and grounds of the palaces with a peaceful mind. Actually the imperial family rode on sedan chairs while the eunuchs did most of the actual walking.
Summer Palace is a place for you to admire. You would find Summer Palace an extremely pleasant trip.
Read Cixi’s bio - the women who embezzled a navy fund to build the Summer Palace