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Summer Palace
 

The Summer Palace is a favorite among toursts sightseeing in Beijing. Indeed, it is one of the best parks in the city. Originally it was a retreat for emperors to escape the scorching summer heat of Beijing. The Summer Palace was used by emperors for 800 years, but fell into disuse in the 18th century. Then in the 19th century, the Empress Dowager Cixi made massive renovations and restored many buildings using money funneled out from the state treasury.
The Summer Palace is huge, most of it being taken up by
Kunming Lake. The dirt that was dug up to make the lake was piled up and made into Longevity Hill. On top of Longevity Hill are several Buddhist temples, which, on clear days, offer good views of the lake. Small boats are available for rent and you can motor or paddle about the lake. Which is especially comfortable on really hot days. Along the shore is the famous Long Corridor, next to which a sign boasts that it is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest painted corridor in the world. the Long Corridor features painted scenes from various Chinese mythical and traditional tales. Also on the shore of the lake is the Marble Boat, a large, sort of boatshaped marble pavilion which lies in the shallow water just off the shore. Empress Dowager Cixi liked to have dinner there, and then watch an opera at the outdoor theater. You can dine on Qing courtstyle dishes at the restaurant inside the Ting Li Guan (the pavilion for Listening to the Orioles).

Another part of the park, called suzhou street, requires a separate ticket, unless you buy the comprehensive 30 yuan ticket at the main gate. Suzhou street is supposed to be a model of what the city of Suzhou looked like in the Qing Dynasty. The listless workers in the overpriced souvenir shops are all decked out in Qing costumes, and there are also tea houses and snack shops that you can visit. The treet ncircles a short canal, which you can go up and down in a gondola-like boat.

One of Beijing's most visited sights, the Summer Palace is an immense park containing some newish Qing architecture. The site had long been a royal garden and was considerably enlarged and embellished by Emperor Qianlong in the 18th century. He deepened and expanded Kunming Lake with the help of 100,000 labourers, and reputedly surveyed imperial navy drills from a hilltop perch.

Anglo-French troops badly damaged the buildings during the Second Opium War (1860). Empress Dowager Cixi began rebuilding in 1888 using money that was supposedly reserved for the construction of a modern navy - but she did restore a marble boat that sits immobile at the edge of the lake. In 1900 foreign troops, annoyed by the Boxer Rebellion, had another go at roasting the Summer Palace. Restorations took place a few years later and a major renovation occurred after 1949, by which time the palace had once more fallen in disrepair.

As its name implies, the original palace was used as a summer residence. The residents of the Forbidden City packed up and decamped here for their holidays, so the emphasis was on cool features - water, gardens and hills. It was divided into four sections: court reception, residences, temples and strolling or sightseeing areas.

Three- quarters of the park is occupied by Kunming Lake, and most items of structural interest are towards the east or north gates. The main building is the Hall of Benevolence and Longevity, just off the lake toward the east gate. It houses a hard-wood throne and has a courtyard with bronze animals. In it the emperor-in-residence handled state affairs and received envoys.

Along the north shore is the 700m Long Corridor, which is decorated with mythical scenes. If the paint looks new it's because a lot of pictures were whitewashed during the Cultural Revolution.

On artificial Longevity Hill are a number of temples. The Precious Clouds Pavilion (Baoyun Pavilion) on the western slopes is one of the few structures to escape destruction by the Anglo-French forces. It contains some elaborate bronzes. At the top of the hill sits the Buddhist Temple of the Sea of Wisdom, made of glazed tiles; good views of the lake can be had from this spot.

Another noteworthy feature isthe 17-arch bridge spanning 150m to South Lake Island; on the mainland side is a beautiful bronze ox. Also note the Jade Belt Bridge, on the mid western side of the lake, and the Harmonious Interest Garden, a copy of a garden in Wuxi, at the north-eastern end.

You can get around the lake by rowing boat, or on a pair of ice skates in winter. As with the Forbidden City moat, it used to be a common practice to cut slabs of ice from the lake in winter and store them for summer use.

Another part of the park, called Suzhou Street, requires a separate ticket. Suzhou Street is supposed to be a model of what the city of Suzhou looked like in the Qing Dynasty. The listless workers in the overpriced souvenir shops are all decked out in Qing costumes, and there are also tea houses and snack shops that you can visit. The "street¡± encircles a short canal, which you can go up and down in a gondola-like boat.

------Hall of Benevolence and Longevity------

Originally named the Hall of Industrious Government, the hall was first built in 1750 and is the main hall in the Summer Palace. It was the place where Empress Dowager Cixi and Emperor Guangxu took charge of state affairs.

In front of the hall, bronze animals, cauldrons, dragons and phoenixes were placed, in which one called Kilin (Qilin) is the most attractive. With a body covered with fish scales, the legendary animal has a dragon's head, lion's tail, deer's antlers and ox's hooves. No wonder Chinese people often called it "Sibuxiang" (Four Unlikenesses). Dignified and statedly, they add more solemnity to the hall.

Once entering the hall, the first thing that comes to your eyes is a red sandalwood throne carved with nine dragons, which is the symbol of supreme power. By the side of the throne, two big fans made of peacock feathers were put up to give a solemn atmosphere. In the Song dynasty, two eunuchs would hold fans over the Emperor's head, but in the Qing dynasty, the two fans were fixed by the side of the throne.

Behind the throne is a red sandalwood screen, on which 226 Chinese characters meaning "longevity" were written, with 100 bats symbolizing good fortune in the background. A tablet is hung above the throne, on which is an inscription meaning those who show benevolence in the government of the people will live a long life.

Burners in various shapes were placed in the hall, and on formal occasions incense would be lit inside them.

------Long Corridor------

Located on the north bank of Kunming Lake and the south foot of Longevity Hill, Long Gallery stretches 728 meters from the moon gate in the east to the Shizhang Pavilion in the west. It is the longest and most famous such gallery in China.

First built in 1750 with 273 bays, the gallery was fully painted and decorated with colorful designs and pictures, winding its way along the lake like a colorful ribbon. Four octagonal pavilions with double roofs were built at regular intervals to represent the four seasons.

The gallery has about 8000 colorful paintings, which, as the most charming part of the gallery, depict landscapes, human figures, battle scenes, flowers, birds, etc.

The landscape, flower-and-bird paintings mainly center on the scenery in the West Lake at Hangzhou while the figure paintings mostly derived their themes from the legend and classic novels like "Strange Tales of Liaozhai", "Pilgrimage to the West", "The Romance of the Three Kingdoms", "Water Margin" and so on.

Beautiful as these paintings are, they have to be retouched every 12 years. Till today these painting have been renewed several times, and due to the imperfect skills of some artisans, unfortunately, much of the detail and intricacies has more or less been lost.

------17-Arch Bridge------

Built during the Qianlong Reign (1736-1795) of the Qing dynasty, Seventeen-Arch Bridge, 150m long and 8m wide, is ranked as the biggest bridge in Summer Palace. Connecting Dragon King Temple in the east and the Island west, the bridge spans Kunming Lake with 17 bridge openings under it, hence the name Seventeen-Arch Bridge.

With 544 lions caved out of white marble set on the balustrades, this bridge was reputed as the bridge with the most stone lions in all of China.

 

  1. Main Gate---Eastern Palace Gate 
  2. Renshou Hall (Hall of Benevolence and Longevity)
  3. Dehe Garden
  4. Yulan Palace
  5. Leshou Hall
  6. Long Corridor
  7. Wanshou Hill
  8. Paiyun Gate
  9. Four Great Lands
  10. Foxiang Pavilion
  11. Baoyun Pavilion
  12. Marble Boat
  13. Nanhu Island
  14. 17-Arch Bridge
  15. Bronze Bull
  16. Western Shore of Kunming Lake
  17. Jade Belt Bridge
  18. The Garden of Harmonious Interest
  19. Suzhou Street
  20. Kunming Lake

 

Admission Fee: CNY 25 (Nov. 1 to Mar. 31)
CNY 35 (Apr. 1 to Oct. 31)
Opening Hours: 07:00-17:00 (Nov. 1 to Mar. 31)
06:30-18:00 (Apr. 1 to Oct. 31)
Recommended
Time for a Visit:
One and a half hour
Bus Route: 907, 375, 801, 808, 732, 394, 718
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