Situated in the northwestern suburbs of Beijing, the Summer Palace is a famous classic imperial garden in China. With Longevity Hill and Kunming Lake as the main tourist attractions, the Summer Palace comprises over 30 classical structures scattered in the hill and by the lake. Natural scenery is skillfully combined with man-made scenes and sights to form a garden of breathtaking beauty. Long and short dykes have been built to divide the Kunming Lake in three parts, and three isles were constructed to symbolize the celestial hills in ancient mythology and give expression to the emperors’ desire for immortality. The entire slope of Longevity Hill is covered by seven groups of giant buildings, with the Tower of Fragrant Buddha as the mainstay. The Summer Palace, a gem in the Chinese art of garden construction, enjoys a high reputation in the world art of garden construction.
There are four major scenic zones in the Summer Palace. In the east is the Eastern Palace Gate Zone, where the emperors of the Qing Dynasty used to engage in political activities and spend their daily lives. In the middle is the Front Hill Scenic Zone. The front of Longevity Hill is clustered with a large number of structures and looks the most glorious. It is marked by two symmetrical lines that meet at right angles. The east-west line is the famous Long Corridor. The south-north line, which begins at the middle of the Long Corridor, is strewn with a group of architectural structures, such as the Cloud Dispelling Gateway, Cloud Dispelling Hall, Hall of Virtuous Light, and Tower of Fragrant Buddha. The Rear Mountain and Rear Lake Scenic Zone is found in the northernmost part. Despite the lack of buildings, the place is heavily wooded. A mountain path winds its way up the hill, and the tranquility of the place is set in striking contrast with the splendor of the frontal hill. There is also a group of Tibetan structures, a pagoda with glazed tiles, laid out according to a well-conceived plan and each is fascinating in a unique way.
Water surface comprises three fourths of the entire garden. The frontal lake zone in the south, in particular, turns out to be an extensive expanse of water, with the blue smudge of mountains undulating in the west and pavilions and chambers cluster in the north. Six bridges of different designs are found among willow trees that line both sides of the Western Dyke in the lake. The three isles on the lake are each graced with a group of classical structures. A 17-span bridge, gracefully designed, lies on the lake, which not only provides vital access to the lake, but also is an unforgettable scenic spot in itself. Suzhou Market Street, which is linked with the front lake, is lined on both shores with archaized structures, such as various shops, teahouses and restaurants, which are often crowded with customers. Strolling in this street, visitors would feel as if they were in an imperial “sell-and-buy” street more than 200 years ago, and would linger on with no thought of leaving.
In 1914, the Summer Palace was open to the public for the first time, and in 1924, it was officially converted into a public park. After the founding of New China, the park underwent repeated large-scale refurbishment to become a museum-type classical garden. Now it is the best-preserved imperial garden in China.
In December 1998, the Summer Palace was included in the World Cultural Heritage List.
Tower of Fragrant Buddha
The Tower of Fragrant Buddha is an octagonal religious structure. The architectural structures around the tower are symmetrical, like a myriad of stars surrounding the moon. Enshrined in the tower is a statue of Buddha. The tower itself is about 40 m tall, and elevated on a stone platform 21 m in height, so that the entire tower is in the middle of the hill slope. The Tower of Fragrant Buddha stands out strikingly in the Summer Palace.
Garden of Harmonious Delights
Situated on the northeastern corner of the Summer Palace, the Garden of Harmonious Delights was fashioned according to the design and layout of the Garden for the Ease of Mind in Wuxi, Jiangsu Province.
A pond lies in the center of the garden, and on the shore are more than a dozen pavilions, chambers, halls studios and kiosks as well as corridors and stone bridges, laid out in a picturesque manner to form a quiet environment. It is indeed a garden within a garden.
Transport: Bus Nos. 332,333,375 and 808
Opening Hours: 06:00-20:00