visit360.net, the guide to wonders of the world in 360°
Summer Palace in 360°
Qianlong Emperor of the Qing Dynasty (1644–1911) commissioned work on the imperial gardens on the hill in 1749. The Summer Palace started out life as the Garden of Clear Ripples in 1750. Artisans reproduced the garden architecture styles of various palaces in China. In December 1998, UNESCO included the Summer Palace on its World Heritage List.
1. What to see
The palace complex suffered two major attacks—during the Anglo-French allied invasion of 1860 that destroyed the so called Old Summer Palace at that time. The Summer Palace complex was again attacked during the Boxer Rebellion in 1900. Compared to the Old Summer Palace, this complex survived and was rebuilt in 1886 and 1902. It served as a summer resort for Empress Dowager Cixi, who diverted 30 million taels of silver, said to be originally designated for the Chinese navy (Beiyang Fleet), into the reconstruction and enlargement of the Summer Palace.
1.1. Entrance gate
The Summer Palace in Beijing, China is mainly dominated by Longevity Hill (60 meters high) and the Kunming Lake. It covers an expanse of 2.9 square kilometers, three quarters of which is water. The walkway starts at the entrance gate and leads through the Hall of Benevolance and Longevity to the lake.
1.2. Kunming Lake
Kunming Lake was created by extending an existing body of water to imitate the West Lake in Hangzhou.
The central Kunming Lake covering 2.2 square kilometers was mostly man made and the excavated soil was used to build Longevity Hill.
1.3. Long corridor
The covered walkway was erected in the middle of the 18th century so that the mother of Qianlong Emperor could enjoy a walk through the gardens protected from the elements. It is famous for its length and its rich painted decoration with more than 14,000 paintings.
The total length of the corridor is 728 meters, with crossbeams under the roof dividing it into 273 sections. There are four octagonal pavilions along its course.
1.4. Longevity Hill and Tower of Buddhist Incense
Excavated soil of Kunming Lake was used to build Longevity Hill, an artificial hill. The Qianlong Emperor gave Longevity Hill its present-day name in 1752, in celebration of his mother's 60th birthday. The front side of the hill is adorned with an ensemble of grand buildings: The Cloud-Dispelling Hall, the Temple of Buddhist Virtue, and the Sea of Wisdom Temple. On the contrary, the backside is quiet with natural beauty. In the center of the Temple of Buddhist Virtue stands the Tower of Buddhist Incense at the foot of Longevity Hill.
1.5. Marble boat
The lakeside pavilion was first erected in 1755 during the reign of the Qianlong Emperor. Originally it was made from a base of large stone blocks which supported a wooden superstructure done in a traditional Chinese design. The pavilion was destroyed during the Second Opium War and got rebuilt in 1893 by Empress Dowager Cixi. The new building was made out of wood just like its predecessor but it was painted to imitate marble.
It incorporated elements of European architecture with imitated paddlewheels on each side. The Marble Boat is often seen as an ironic commentary on the fact that the money used to restore the Summer Palace largely came from funds originally earmarked for building up a new imperial navy.
2. When to see
It is open daily between 7:00-17:00 during winter(Nov.1 - Mar.31) and 6:30-18:00 during summer (between Apr.1 and Oct.31).
4. How to get there
Most tourists visit China on a package tour that includes monuments of Beijing. If travelling on your own, probably the easiest way is to hire a taxi in Beijing.
5. Where to stay
There are plenty of hotels in Beijing to select from.