Summer Palace

Summer PalaceSummer Palace lies about 20 kilometres northwest of Beijing. The Summer Palace consists of Longevity Hill (59 metres high) and Kunming Lake with a total area of 290 hectares. Longevity Hill is an extension of the Western Hills. Kunming Lake used to be fed by the springs from the Jade Spring Hill lying to its west. Now it has its source from Miyun Reservoir, 102 kilometres notheast of Beijing.

Summer Palace has a history of over 800 years. In 1153, when the Jin Dynasty made Beijing (then called Yanjing) its capital, it built an imperial palace (the Golden Hill Palace) on the present site of the Summer Palace. In 1750, Emperor Qianlong spent 4.8 million taels of silver building the Garden of Clear Ripples and changed the name of the hill to Longeyity Hill to celebrate his mother's birthday. He also named the lake Kunming because he wanted to follow the ex-ample of Emperor Wudi of the Han Dynasty who had trained his navy centuries before in Kunming Pool in Chang'an (somewhere near Xi'an today).

In 1860, the Anglo-French allied forces invaded Beijing and burned down the palace. In 1888, Empress Dowager Cixi had it restored with the funds (30 million taels of silver) intended for the development of the navy and renamed it the Summer Palace. In 1900, it was again plundered, this time by the invading troops of the eight powers. The big temples and halls at the back of the Longevity Hill were destroyed. Only one temple remained, the Hall of Sea of Wisdom; a stone structure. In 1903 the Empress Dowager spent a fabulous sum of money to have the palace reconstructed a second time. The Summer Palace of today is more or less the same as the palace rebuilt in 1903. After the last Qing Emperor Puyi was thrown out of the Summer Palace in 1924, this place was turned into a park. But the admission charge was very high, about the price of a bag of wheat flour, equivalent to 8 yuan now. Today, a ticket costs only one yuan.

Since liberation the Chinese Government has renovated the Summer Palace several times and numerous trees and flowers have been planted. This old imperial garden has taken on a completely new look and become one of the most popular parks in Beijing. This is the front courtyard. The annex halls on both sides were used for officials on duty. This is Taihu rock from Taihu Lake in Jiangsu Province. The rock was formerly 1ocated in Prince Morgan's Garden (now the site of Beijing University) and was moved here to provide grand view.

Behind the rock is a bronze Xuanni. In ancient Chinese mythology, Xuanni was one of the nine sons of the dragon. A point of peculiar interest is that it has the head of a dragon, the antlers of a deer, the tail of a lion and the hooves of an ox. It was put at the gate because the feudal rulers believed that it could detect any disloyal subject.

These are Tai Ping vats for storing water against fire in the old days. During the war, the Japanese aggressor troops attempted to take them to Japan after they invaded Beijing. After 1945, they were moved back from Tianjin.

The bronze dragons and Phoenixes are incense burners. Sandalwood or Tibetan incense was burned when the feudal rulers gave an audience.

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