Summer Palace

Location

19 Xinjiangongmen Rd., Haidian District, Beijing, China

Reasons to visit

World Cultural Heritage Site; the existing largest iconic lakeside retreat for royalty in China

Our Ratings

Opening Hours

  • Gate: 6:30-20:00; Parks Inside: 8:30-17:00 (April to October)
  • Gate: 7:00-19:00; Parks Inside: 9:00-16:00 (November to next March)

Summer Palace is China existing largest and best preserved imperial garden, also is one of the four famous gardens in China (the other three are Chengde Mountain Resort, Suzhou Humble Administrator's Garden, Suzhou Lingering Garden). It is a large natural landscape garden which used Kunming Lake and Longevity Hill as based address, modeled on the Hangzhou West Lake scenery, drew some design techniques and the mood of the gardens on the yangtze delta. It is also the best preserved royal palace, known as the Royal Garden Museum.

History of Summer Palace

Summer Palace, formerly known as Qing Yi Garden, first built in the Qing Dynasty Qianlong Emperor 15 year (AD 1750), which was completed lasting for 15 years. During the Qing Dynasty, the Summer Palace was the last built palace in the Beijing's famous "three mountains and five gardens" (Xiangshan Jing Yi Garden , Yuquanshan Jing Ming Garden, Wanshoushan Qing Yi Garden, Summer Palace, Changchun Garden). In AD 1860, the Summer Palace was severely damaged in the Second Opium War by Anglo-French Allied Force. The buildings were burned and the treasures and Buddha were looted.

In Qing Dynasty Guangxu Emperor 12 Year (AD 1886), the Summer Palace was first rebuilt. In AD 1888, Empress Dowager Cixi appropriated the navy fund to repair this palace and renamed it "Yi He Yuan". In AD 1895, the project of the reconstruction of the Summer Palace was finished.

Summer Palace became the most important political and diplomatic activity center outside the Forbidden City for the supreme ruler in late Qing Dynasty. It is an important witness of the modern history of China and it is also the locality of many major historical events.

In 1898, Emperor Guangxu met Reform thinker - Kang Youwei in the Renshou Hall in Summer Palace to inquire political reform; after the failure of Hundred Days' Reform, Emperor Guangxu was put under house arrest in Yu Lan Tang in the garden for a long time, since, the Summer Palace was said to be the most luxurious prison.

In AD 1900, the Summer Palace again suffered the loot by the Eight-Power Allied Forces, the following year, the Empress Dowager Cixi returned to Beijing from Xi'an, once again utilized the large sums of money to fix this palace. In 1924, the Summer Palace was turned into a park which is opening to the outside world.
Summer Palace Beijing

Layout of Summer Palace

Summer Palace is a large-scale park, covering an area of 2.97 square kilometers (293 hectares), of which the water surface accounted for three-quarters (about 220 hectares). The park mainly consists of Longevity Hill and Kunming Lake.

Summer Palace has the Tower of Buddhist Incense as its center. It has more than 100 sightseeing buildings, more than 20 large and small courtyards, 3555 ancient buildings, which totally covers an area of over 70,000 m². The park has a total of more than 3000 pavilions, table, floor, corridor, shed, etc. more than 1600 old tree and famous wood species. Among which, the Tower of Buddhist Incense, the Long Corridor, Marble Boat, Suzhou Street, Seventeen-Arch Bridge, Garden of Harmonious Interest, etc. have become well-known typical construction.

The Summer Palace is full of magnificent momentum of Chinese royal gardens, and also full of interest of nature. It collected the great achievement of the traditional gardening art, used the Longevity Hill and Kunming Lake as the basic framework, borrowed landscape environment around the scenery. The artificial landscape like the pavilions, long corridor, halls, temples, bridges along with the natural mountain and wide lake are harmonious with each other and fused together artistically. The entire garden reflects clever artistic conception, is the set of the the a masterpiece of the Chinese garden architectural art. It has a significant and impressive status in the Chinese and foreign history of garden art.

The main attractions in the park is divided into three regions: the solemn and majestic Hall of Benevolence and Longevity is regarded as the representative of political activity area which was the main place for the internal affairs, diplomatic and political activities by Empress Dowager Cixi and Emperor Guangxu in late Qing Dynasty; the courtyards like the Le Shou Tang, Yu Lan Tang, Yi Yun Museum are the representative of the living area which is the place of residence for Empress Dowager Cixi, Emperor Guangxu and his imperial concubines. The Longevity Hill and Kunming Lake are regarded as the representative of the scenic area. 
Summer Palace Beijing

What to See in Summer Palace

【Kunming Lake】
It covers about three quarters of the Summer Palace, with an area of 3000 mu(about 2 square kilometers). The Summer Palace is the existing scale and most magnificent of Chinese classical gardens. Together with the Longevity Hill, Kunming Lake forms the key landscape features of the Summer Palace gardens. It is located by the southern side of Longevity Hill, which is a part of Xishan Mountain and has a relative height of 60 meters. This lake is a man-made lake, so it is a little bit shallow, with an average depth of only 1.7 meters.

There are a total of 6 bridges around the lake. They all have different shapes. And the largest bridge here is the 17-arch Bridge, which connects the eastern shore with South Lake Island and is 150 meters long. Near to the bridge, there is a bronze ox sculpture on the eastern shore of this lake. Kunming Lake was designed to represent the traditional Chinese gardening practice of "one pond, three hills", which contains rich Chinese geomantic theory.

【Long Corridor】
It is located in the south of Longevity Hill, facing Kunming Lake. It is east to on the Yaoyue Door and west to Shizhang Pavilion with 273 intervals. It has a total length of 728 meters, honors to be the longest corridor of the Chinese garden. In 1992, it was recognized as the longest corridor in the world and listed in the "Guinness Book of World Records". It is famous for the beautiful architectures, winding-changing shape and extremely rich and prestigious paintings. Every beam is painting pictures. According to related data, there are a total of more than 14,000 pieces of paintings, including landscapes, flowers, birds, fish and insects, figures allusions etc. portraits on the paintings are drawn from the Chinese classics. 

【The Tower of Buddhist Incense】
It is one of the main buildings of the Summer Palace. It is built on Longevity Hill, on a 21-meters high platform. It faces Kunming Lake in the south and is backed by the Wisdom of Sea. There are various buildings around the tower symmetrically. The Tower of Buddhist Incense is 40 meters high and there are eight huge iron pillars in the tower. The structure of it is quite complex, being a classical architectural masterpiece. Beijing Tower of Buddhist Incense is a magnificent religious buildings, it is the center of the whole Summer Palace building layout. The building style of it imitates the Pagoda built in Hangzhou.

During the reign of Qing Emperor Qianlong (1736-1795), Tower of Buddhist Incense was built. In 1860, the tower was destroyed and then it was reconstructed by Guangxu Emperor. In 1900, it was destroyed seriously again in a war. In 1902, it was reconstructed again by Empress Dowager Cixi. 
Summer Palace Beijing
Long Corridor in Summer Palace

【Seventeen Arches Bridge】
It is the biggest bridge in the Summer Palace in Beijing City, also the longest bridge in any Chinese imperial garden. It was named for its seventeen arches. It is 150 meters (164 yards) long and 8 meters (8.75 yards) wide, connecting the Octagonal Tower in the east bank of Kunming Lake and the South Lake Isle in the south. This bridge looks like a rainbow linking the human world with the Penglai Fairyland. It was built in 1750 during the reign of Emperor Qianlong in Qing Dynasty, after the design of Marco Polo Bridge, which is 15 km to the southwest of Beijing.

With the biggest arch in the midst of the bridge flanked by sixteen others, from either side to the central arch, one can get nine arches in different sizes from the middle to each end of the bridge. According to ancient thought, the number, nine, is the supreme number for the emperors, because it symbolizes good fortune and safety; and the meticulous design of the bridge embodies it perfectly. With white marble balustrades, it is carved with 544 stone lions in different postures. In addition, there are also four strange animals carved at both ends of the bridge. Strong and powerful, they are outstanding examples of Qing Dynasty stone carving skills. It is unique scenery but one of the stunning landscapes in the Summer Palace. It is just looks like a rainbow arching over the water. 

How to Get to Summer Palace 

Visitors may take Subway Line 4 and get off at Beigongmen Station (North Palace Gate), then walk to the entrance to get into it. It is recommended to spend about 2 hours to tour inside.