The Summer Palace 頤和園, BeiJing

The Summer Palace is the largest and best-preserved imperial garden in China.

As its name suggests, the Summer Palace was used as a summer residence by China's imperial rulers - as a retreat from the main imperial palace now known as the Palace Museum (or 'Forbidden City') - a pleasure-ground in the countryside, yet near to the city.


In 1860, as part of the 'Opium Wars', the Anglo-French Allied Forces invaded Beijing and set fire to many of the buildings within the original Summer Palace (YuanMingYuan).


In 1888, Dowager Empress CiXi, with funds embezzled from the Imperial Navy, restored the grand gardens. The reconstruction and enlargement of the Summer Palace continued for ten years. After completion, she renamed the gardens 'YiHeYuan' ('Garden of Peace and Harmony').


The Empress Dowager CiXi moved her administration to the renovated YiHeYuan in 1889 and the gardens here that had long been an imperial pleasure-ground became the primary Summer Palace.


Then, shortly after, the eight allied powers invaded in 1900 during the Boxer Rebellion to plunder and destroy the newly reconstructed New Summer Palace.


Only when the fugitive CiXi returned to Beijing in 1903, did full-scale restoration begin. In this way, the Summer Palaces - both old and new - are associated in popular culture with the destructive interference of foreign powers.


Today's Summer Palace is more or less the same as the palace rebuilt from 1903. It was designated a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1990.


After the success of the 1911 Revolution, the Summer Palace was opened to the public. Then, after the last Qing Emperor PuYi was thrown out of the Palaces in 1924, the Summer Palace was turned into a park. The Summer Palace has become a popular and relaxing destination for both domestic and international tourists.


The Summer Palace is virtually a museum of traditional Chinese gardening that uses rocks, plants, pavilions, ponds, cobble paths and other garden styles to create a poetic effect between different scenes. The halls, pavilions, bridges and temples, Kunming Lake and Longevity Hill, all blend together harmoniously despite their individual styles.


Ingeniously conceived and elaborately designed, the Summer Palace, featuring the garden styles of both northern and southern China, is justifiably known as the 'Garden of Gardens'. Indeed, the Summer Palace represents a quintessentially Chinese ideal of harmony between man and nature.


Don't miss :



  • the beautiful Garden of Harmonious Interests (a 'garden within a garden'),

  • SuZhou Street and the Four Great Regions Tibetan-style temple,

  • and the Tower of Buddhist Incense and Cloud Dispelling Hall on the hill.

The nearest subway station is BeiGongMen ('North Palace Gate') on line 4.


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