The Summer Palace is located on the western edge of Beijing, close to the western Fragrant Hills, 12km from central Beijing. Being the largest and most well-preserved royal park in China, it greatly influences Chinese horticulture and landscape with its famous natural views and cultural interests, which also has long since been recognized as ‘The Museum of Royal Gardens’.After the Great Wall and the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace is the next ‘must see’ place to visit for any tourist.
The construction started in 1750 as a luxurious royal garden for royal families to rest and entertain.The Summer Palace is virtually a museum of traditional Chinese garden arts that blends rocks, trees, pavilions, lakes, ponds, paths and other features to create a poetic effect between different scenes. As you meander around the Summer Palace, you will frequently find the vista changing. It later became the main residence of royal members in the end of the Qing Dynasty. However, like most of the gardens of Beijing, it could not elude the rampages of the Anglo-French Allied Force and was destroyed by fire. According to historical documents, with original name as ‘Qingyi Garden’ (Garden of Clear Ripples), the Summer Palace (Yiheyuan) was renamed after its first reconstruction in 1888. It was also recorded that Empress Dowager Cixi embezzled navy funds to reconstruct it as a resort in which to spend the rest of her life. In 1900, the Summer Palace suffered another hit by the Eight-Power Allied Force and was repaired in the next two years. In 1924, it was open to the public. It ranked amongst the World Heritage Sites by UNESCO in 1998, as well as one of the first national AAAAA tourist spots in China.The Summer Palace was designated a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1990.
The Summer Palace radiates fully the natural beauty and the grandeur of royal gardens. Composed mainly of Longevity Hill (Wanshou Shan) and Kunming Lake, it occupies an area of 300.59 hectares (742.8 acres). There are over 3,000 man-made ancient structures which count building space of more than 70,000 square meters, including pavilions, towers, bridges, corridors, etc. It can be divided into four parts: the Court Area, Front Hill Area, Rear Hill Area and Lake Area.
It is located in the northeast of the Summer Palace, and it spreads from East Palace Gate to the northeast coast of Kunming Lake. This was a substitute where Empress Dowager Cixi and Emperor Guangxu met officials and conducted state affairs. With the same pattern of the imperial palace of China-‘Palace in front and garden behind’, the Court Area consists of sections for both court affairs and living. East Palace Gate and Hall of Benevolence and Longevity served as office of the Emperor. The Hall of Jade Ripples was for Guangxu to live in and the Hall of Joyful Longevity for Cixi. There are also the Garden of Virtue and Harmony where Cixi was entertained and Yiyun Hall where once lived the Empress Longyu. Moreover, this area is an integrated transport hub and the first best stop for visitors to enjoy attractive view of Kunming Lake and Longevity Hill.
Today’s Summer Palace is more or less the same as the palace rebuilt from 1903.After the success of the 1911 Republican Revolution, the Summer Palace was opened to the public. Then, after the last Qing Emperor PuYi was thrown out of the Forbidden City in 1924, the Summer Palace was turned into a park, which has become a popular and relaxing destination for both domestic and international tourists.