The Summer Palace — Imperial Garden of Perfect Combination of Natural Landscape and Artificial Buildings 

The Summer Palace, Yihe Yuan In Beijing

What is the Summer Palace?

 

The Summer Palace, also named Yihe Yuan in Beijing, was an imperial garden in the middle to late Qing Dynasty (1636 — 1912).

 

Today, it is a well-preserved masterpiece of the Chinese imperial garden, which combined beautiful natural landscapes, extraordinary architectures, and relics with great cultural values.

 
Main Building Groups of The Summer Palace

Main Building Groups of The Summer Palace

What's the difference between the Old Summer Palace and Summer Palace?

 

The Old Summer Palace, also named Yuanming Yuan, 3.5 square kilometers large, was built in 1707,  as a gift from Kangxi Emperor to his fourth son, who later expanded the garden after he enthroned as the Yongzheng Emperor.

 

Part of Court Painting "Forty Scenes of the Old Summer Palace" (Yuan Ming Yuan Si Shi Jing Tu Yong), by Artist Tang Dai and Shen Yuan in the Year 1744 — Bibliothèque Nationale de France 

The Summer Palace, also named Yihe Yuan, 2.9 square kilometers large, was built in 1750 under the command of Qianlong Emperor, as a gift for his mother's 60's birthday.  

 

In the year 1860, those two fabulous gardens were all robbed and burnt down by the Anglo-French Allied Forces during the Second Opium War. 

 

A few decades later, only the Summer Palace was rebuilt, under the command of Guangxu Emperor

Ruins of the Old Summer Palace

Ruins of the Old Summer Palace

 

History and development of the Summer Palace.

 

Since Yuan and Ming Dynasties, the area that the Summer Palace is located had been developed; some emperors of Ming, such as Zhengde and Wanli, had built temporary palaces and spent vacations there.

 

In the year 1750, Qianlong Emperor commanded to build a grand imperial garden as a birthday gift to his mother, which was completed in 1764. 

 

In the year 1860, the Summer Palace, together with other fabulous royal gardens, was burned down and robbed by the Anglo-French Allied Forces.

 

From 1884 to 1895, the Summer Palace was rebuilt under the command of Guangxu Emperor, as the retirement residence for Empress Dowager Cixi.

Painting of Empress Dowager Cixi, By Hubert Vos in 1905

Painting of Empress Dowager Cixi, By Hubert Vos in 1905 — Summer Palace

In 1900, the garden was destroyed again by Eight-Nation Alliance, and two years later was renovated by the Qing government.

 

However, many buildings and decorations were reduced and downsized because of financial issues. 

Later, the Qing Dynasty was ended in 1912, and the Summer Palace started to sell tickets to the public in 1914. 

Tourists in the Summer Palace

Tourists in the Summer Palace

 

Structural designs based on legends.


The Summer Palace mainly includes a big lake, three islands, a tall hill, and thousands of exquisite buildings. 

Kunming Lake

Great Emperor Wu of Han (156 BC — 87 BC) used to dig a lake named Kunming to train his navy; therefore, Qianlong Emperor named this lake as Kunming as well, wishing to obtain exceptional military achievements.

 

Three Islands

In ancient Chinese mythology, there are three mythical mountains on the sea, named Penglai, Fangzhang, and Yingzhou, on which many deities are living in. 

Therefore, since Qin Shi Huang (259 BC — 210 BC), emperors would build three islands in a big lake in their royal palaces, to imitate the wonderland. 

Seventeen Arches Bridge to Nanhu Island, One of the Three Islands on the Kunming Lake.

Seventeen Arches Bridge to Nanhu Island, One of the Three Islands on the Kunming Lake.

Longevity Hill

Since this garden was built for the Qianlong Emperor's mother, he named the main mountain as longevity as a beautiful wish.

Longevity Hill of the Summer Palace of Beijing

Longevity Hill of the Summer Palace of Beijing

 

Special scenic views of the Summer Palace

 

Long Corridor 

Along the Kunming Lake, there is the world's longest corridor. It is a 728-meter long covered promenade with 273 sections and decorated with over 14,000 exquisite paintings, include historic stories, legends, landscape, and plants, etc.

Part of the Long Corridor, Chang Lang, of the Summer Palace.

Part of the Long Corridor, Chang Lang, of the Summer Palace.

Palaces for royals to work, live, and temples to pray.

Major Building Groups on Longevity Hill of the Summer Palace.

Major Building Groups on Longevity Hill of the Summer Palace.

Baoyun Pavilion, the biggest (7.5 meters tall) existing copper made pavilion in China. 

Copper Made Baoyun Ge of the Summer Palace

Copper Made Baoyun Ge, the Black Pavilion in the Middle. 

Suzhou Market Street

A royal commercial street imitated the southern style of Suzhou City. In the Qing Dynasty, shop assistants were mainly imperial maids and eunuchs.

Suzhou Market Street of the Summer Palace of Beijing

West Embankment of the Summer Palace.

West Embankment of the Summer Palace.

Jade Belt Bridge

Jade Belt Bridge of the Summer Palace.

Marble Boat

Marble Boat of the Summer Palace.