Explore the Summer Palace in Beijing and Here’s How!
When counting the most popular attractions in Beijing, Summer Palace also finds a significant place among others such as Temple of Heaven, the Forbidden City, and the Great Wall. It offers a completely different experience to the visitors with every passing season in the city. When you visit the palace in winters, you can see the frozen lake across the royal park and in summer or spring, you can soak up the bright sunlight. If you are planning for an autumn visit to the Summer Palace in Beijing, the fall colors will make your day wonderful indeed.
Before you fly to Beijing and explore the royal Summer Palace, here’s everything you must know about the iconic structure.
Summer Palace – History
The construction of the vast royal garden was started in the year 1750 as a preparation for the birthday program of Emperor Qianlong’s mother. The garden was thus originally named Qingyi Garden. Later in 1869, like many other gardens in the capital city, the garden was destroyed by fires getting caught in the rampage of the Anglo-French Allied Force. In the year 1888, the garden was rebuilt and renamed as the Summer Palace. It is in the recorded history, the Empress Dowager Cixi looted navy funds to rebuild the garden into a resort to spend her remaining years. Again in the year 1900, Summer Palace or Yiheyuan suffered another attack, this time it was by Eight-Power Allied Force and was renovated in the following two years, by 1902.
Finally, in 1914, the royal garden, Summer Palace was open for public visits and was soon recognized as an important tourist attraction. However, the popularity doesn’t go any higher until the year 1998, when it was finally declared as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. In addition to this, it was China’s first national AAAAA tourist spot.
Areas in the Summer Palace you must explore
The Court Area
The court area of the Summer Palace near the East Palace Gate consists of a Palace building where Emperor Guangxu and Empress Cixi resided and also organized government business. The area includes a number of courtyards, halls, and displays such as the Cradle of Beijing Opera, the Garden of Virtue and Harmony.
Kunming Lake is situated in the middle of the park, covering almost 75% of the park’s area. It is a significant featuring landscape of the Summer Palace along with the Longevity Hill. There’s a 17-hole bridge connecting Nanhu Island and the east bank. The bridge measures 150 meters in length and looks like a rainbow above the blue waters.
The Long Corridor
The path by the side of the lake reaches the area of shady trees or the roofed colonnade called Long Corridor. Its marvelously painted ceilings, the willows, boats, bridges, lotus flowers and other breathtaking landscape around make it a great place to soak in the beauty of nature.
The Longevity Hill rises beside the lake, lined with beautiful temples and halls having fantastically decorated gates. If you are an energetic soul interested in climbing the hill, you can visit the Buddhist Temple atop and allure the surrounding views.
Located at the northern corner of the lake, a Marble boat is a building built in the shape of a boat. It actually looks like a real boat at first sight! Constructed in the year 1755, it is the only western-style figure in the park. It is built using colorful glass wheels and windows and paved using colored bricks.
Suzhou Market Street
The Suzhou Market Street within the boundaries of the Summer Palace is a series of traditional riverside shops, most of which are easily accessible by a boat. As per the stories heard, the former Emperors of China or their concubines enjoyed ‘pretend-shopping’ at these markets as otherwise everything was already bought for them.
How to reach the Summer Palace
The Summer Palace is just a 15 kilometers drive from Central Beijing. You can also take line buses to the East Palace Gate (bus 331, 303, 346, 332, 346, 579, 584, 508), to the West Gate (539 or 469), to the North Palace Gate, (Bus Line 3, 303, 346, 331, 394, 563, 594 or 584) or to the new Palace Gate (74, 437 or 374).
You can also take subways to reach the Summer Palace.