The Summer Palace, Beijing

OK, friends, time to get your suntan lotion, hats, and water bottles. Today we will visit the Summer Palace.

At the Summer Palace

At the Summer Palace

The history of the Summer Palace dates back some 800 years when the first emperor of the Jin Dynasty, Wan Yanliang, moved his capital to the vicinity of Beijing and built his “God Mountain Palace” at the present site of Longevity Hill. From then on, in accordance with Feng Shui, the area was developed by subsequent emperors with the basic elements of the hill and water. Over the years, the structures changed and the names of the hill and the body of water shifted.

By the time of the Yuan Dynasty (1271–1368), there was already an official Forbidden City in the heart of Beijing, and the Summer Palace became the place where the emperor and empress and their entourage would come for relaxation, particularly during the hot days of the summer. There was a lake and trees and as time went on more and more buildings.

Over the years, the Summer Palace has been destroyed twice. The first time, in 1860, Anglo-French forces invaded Beijing and ravaged two of the loveliest areas in the complex, Yuanmingyuan Garden and the Park of Pure Ripples. Because they most of the buildings were made of wood, nearly every building in the park was destroyed by fire. Only the few nonflammable structures such as bronze pavilions and stone pagodas were spared.

In 1888, Empress Dowager Cixi who had a reputation for enjoying luxury, diverted 30 million taels of silver that had been designated for the Chinese navy into reconstructing and enlarging the Summer Palace. She had the southern side of Longevity Hill laid out in imitation of West Lake in Hangzhou and the northern side built in the architectural style of Suzhou, one of the more beautiful cities in China, sometimes termed “Venice of the East.” Cixi gave the park its present name: Yiheyuan (Garden of Good Health and Harmony), known in English as the Summer Palace.

In 1900 when the Eight-Power Allied Forces invaded Beijing, the great temples rebuilt in the 1880s were completely demolished and almost every valuable object in sight stolen by the invading troops. In 1902, when Empress Dowager Cixi returned to Beijing from Xi’ an, she ordered the reconstruction of the park. According to historical records, she “rebuilt the Summer Palace with unbounded extravagance and opulence, spending some 40,000 taels of silver per day. Singing and dancing went on without end.”

After the revolution of 1911 when the emperor was overthrown, the Summer Palace became the private property of the young deposed Emperor Puyi.

Today the Summer Palace is a delight for the senses. Even on the hottest summer days, the breeze from Kunming Lake cools visitors. The willow trees and the parasols carried by visitors give it a look of Oriental elegance. Paddle boats for visitors, both domestic and foreign, make a visit there a pleasant outing. Visitors can imagine the elaborate meals served here, the receptions and the Western musical entertainment that served to amuse both the imperial family and their guests.

Here is Kunming Lake

Kunming Lake, the Summer Palace

Kunming Lake, the Summer Palace

There are a number of noteworthy sights at the Summer Palace. One is the Long Corridor, an outdoor covered corridor that extends 720 meters in length and contains over 8000 hand painted pictures of flowers, birds, and landscapes.

The Long Corridor

The Long Corridor

Another is the Marble Boat, a structure built by Cixi to symbolize the stability of the dynasty. Of course, not long after, the dynasty was ousted.

The Marble Boat

The Marble Boat

And last, for now, here is a picture of an indoor corridor. Notice that there are no two windows that have the same shape. On each of the windows, there is a picture painted and none of the pictures are the same either. The Chinese love variety.

Corridor behind lotus plants

Corridor behind lotus plants

Take it from me, the Summer Palace is captivating and one trip is not nearly enough.


  1. Mmmmmmmmmmmmm, this is all so delightful!!!

    For my Ruby Tuesday, I went and stuck my foot in it!!! Stop by to visit if you can…have a great day.

  2. Across the red bridge,
    carrying their umbrellas,
    seekers are walking.

    My Ruby Tuesday


  1. […] and which we really enjoy visiting.  We were lucky enough to arrive as the lotuses outside the Summer Palace were blooming and they were a beautiful greeting for what turned out to be a miraculous […]

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