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Summer Palace

Introducing Summer Palace
The Summer Palace is the largest and best-preserved royal garden in China and also in the World. It was first built in 1750 by Emperor Qianlong, largely destroyed in the war of 1860 and restored on its original foundations in 1886. Constructed around the Longevity Hill and Kunming Lake, Summer Palace is a vast complex of gardens, palaces, lakes, and hills. The landscaped gardens, temples, and pavilions were designed to achieve harmony with nature and to please the eye. In December 1998, UNESCO included the Summer Palace on its World Heritage List. It declared the Summer Palace a masterpiece of Chinese landscape garden design.

Summer Palace Fast Facts
• Chinese Name: Yi He Yuan 颐和园
• Best Time to Visit: April, May, September and October
• Recommended Visiting Hours: About 2 to 3 hours
• Opening Hours
  Apr 1 to Oct 31: 8:30-17:00
  Nov 1 to Mar 31: 9:00-16:00
• Entrance Fee
  Apr 1 to Oct 31: CNY30
  Nov 1 to Mar 31: CNY20
• Address: No. 19 Xinjian Gongmen Road, Haidian District, Beijing

What to expect at Summer Palace

Layout of the Summer Palace

The Summer Palace covers about 300 hectares. There are about four major scenic areas: the Western Gate zone, The Longevity Hill Front and Rear Zone, and Kunming Lake Zone. 

In the easternmost is the Western Gate zone. This used to be the place where the Qing emperors did their political activities and lived. The zone covers the Ren Shou Dian (Hall of Benevolence and Longevity), where emperors received ministers; the south and north imperial houses; the bedrooms; the grand theatrical stage; and the courtyards. The Yu Lan Tang was the bedroom of Emperor Guang Xu and later became the place where he was imprisoned. Even today, then high walls with closed passages are still seen.

The Longevity Hill Front zone is the most extravagant. The whole scenic zone is linked by two symmetrical axes. The east-west axis is the famous Long Corridor; the south-north axis starts from the middle of the Long Corridor, featuring the Pai Yun Men (Gate of Clouds), Pai Yun Dian (Hall of Clouds), De Hui Dian (Hall of Benevolence and Glory) and the Fo Xiang Ge (Tower of Burning Buddhist Incense). The Fo Xiang Ge is the center of the park, with surrounding structures distributed symmetrically.

The northernmost is the behind-hill lake zone. Although there are not many structures, woods and trees grow luxuriously, with winding hill paths, presenting a sharp contrast to the extravagance of the hill front scenes. A group of Tibetan style structures and a scene typical of southern China form the compactly arranged Suzhou Street. The water surface of Kunming Lake accounts for three-fourth of the park. With its rippling water dotted with boats, the lake is the best place to view Longevity Hill, which is like a scroll of Paintings unfolding toward the east. In the lake, there is a dike, called Xi Di (Western Dike), which is lined with peach and willow trees and has six arched bridges of different types. There are also different types of ancient structures in the three islands on water. The 17-arch bridge lies across the lake, a scene that visitors never forget.

Structures in Summer Palace

The Summer Palace is the best-kept imperial garden in Beijing. It boasts the best ancient structures as well as garden styles. It is virtually a museum of traditional Chinese gardens.

The main structure in the Summer Palace is the Fo Xiang Ge atop Longevity Hill. The tower is built on a square foundation 21 meters high. It stands 40 meters high and has eight facades, three stories and four tiers of roofs. It represents the best of ancient Chinese architecture.

Verandahs and angled pavilions are featured in the gardens. The Long Corridor of the Summer Palace is about 728 meters long, the longest in the world. The painted beams bear more than 4,000 pictures about legendary stories or flowers, birds, fish and insects. On the eastern bank of KunmingLake is a double-eaved octagonal pavilion, the largest in China. In addition, there is the beamless hall on the top of the Longevity Hill, which is built entirely of all bricks and stones, without any prop.

The casting and carving are of the highest quality in the world. The big cast iron bull on the eastern bank of Kunming Lake is very vivid, with inscriptions on the back. On the northern bank is a marble boat, with the beams and props exquisitely carved.

The Summer Palace has amassed the best of ancient Chinese architectural styles. In the east, halls and houses form enclosed courtyards linked to one another by corridors, a style derived from the courtyard houses of North China. In the south, an embankment lined with willow cuts through the lake, an imitation of the scenic West Lake in Hangzhou. On the north slope of the Longevity Hill do structures resemble Tibetan lamaseries and a shop-lined street named after Suzhou.

How to get to Summer Palace

By Metro
• Take Metro Line 4 to Beigongmen Station (Exit C). Then, walk west for 3 minutes to the North Palace Gate.
• Take Metro Line  to Bagou Station. Then take Western Suburban Line to Yiheyuanximen Station.
• Take Metro Line or Line 16 to Xiyuan Station (Exit C2). Walk west for about 15 minutes to the East Palace Gate.

By Bus
• To the East Palace Gate: Take bus No. 303, 331, 332, 346, 508, 579, or 584, and get off at Yiheyuan Station; or take bus No. 384, 394, 563, 594 or 601 to Poshangcun Station.
• To the West Gate: Take bus No. 469 or 539 and get off at Yiheyuan Ximen Station.
• To the North Palace Gate: Take bus No. 303, 331, 346, 394, 563, 584, 594 or Singtseeing Bus Line 3, and get off at Yiheyuan Beigongmen Station.
• To the New Palace Gate: Take bus No. 74, 374, or 437, and get off at Xinjian Gongmen Station.

Additional travel advice on Summer Palace
• The though ticket includes entrance fee for the Palace and fees for Dehe Garden (¥5), Wenchang Temple (¥20), Foxiang Pavilion (¥15) and Suzhou Street (¥10).
• It is not advised to play on the surface of Kungming Lake in winter.