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Beijing Tour Guide

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·       Summer Palace
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       798 Art Zone

 Beijing Tour Guide: Summer Palace


As its name implies, the Summer Palace was an imperial summer resort - an escape from the baking heat of the capital. It is a delightful collection of halls, shaded corridors, pavilions and gardens, set on a wooded hillside on the shore of an artificial lake. Its basic layout dates from the 18th century, when the emperor Qianlong extensively remodeled it, but in 1860 foreign troops on a punitive raid on Beijing burned it to the ground. It was rebuilt in 1888 under the guidance of the Dowager Empress Cixi, who loved the complex, and diverted funds from the Chinese navy for the project. Then the Summer Palace was destroyed again in 1900 by foreign forces as a reprisal for the Boxer Rebellion, and again it was rebuilt to Cixi's design. Today, it is one of China's grandest museum gardens.

Prior to its destruction in 1860, it was named Qingyi Yuan, meaning Garden of Clear Ripples. After reconstruction, it was named Yihe Yuan - Garden of Health and Harmony. Major attractions of the palace include the Four Great Regions, Suzhou Street, the Pavilion of Bright Scenery, the Hall of Serenity, the Wenchang Galleries and the Plowing and Weaving Scenic Area. The Front Hill area is probably the most magnificent area in the Summer Palace, comprised of many grand buildings. Most impressive are the Gate of Dispelling Clouds, Hall of Dispelling Clouds, Hall of Moral Glory, Tower of Buddhist Incense, and The Hall of the Sea Wisdom, all which are aligned in a north-south axis with Longevity Hill and Kunming Lake to its west. The Rear-hill and back-lake area are tranquil garden settings with few structures. The area does have a few scenic spots including Harmonious Interest, where the emperor and the empress would go fishing and Suzhou Market Street, a faux business street where eunuchs would act as shopkeepers, hawkers and customers to entertain the emperor and empress.

The Front-lake area, which covers the majority of the Summer Palace, offers a great panoramic view of the lake. The area is known as the home of the superb Seventeen-arch bridge, which acts as a causeway to Nanhu Island where visitors can enjoy a vista of the causeway and the northern part of Palace. Finally yet importantly, Western bank, a replica of the Su Causeway of West Lake in Hangzhou possesses no manufactured buildings except Jade Belt Bridge, which was made out of marble and white stone.

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. The natural landscape of hills and open water is combined with artificial features such as pavilions, halls, palaces, temples and bridges to form a harmonious ensemble of outstanding aesthetic value." It is a popular tourist destination but also serves as a recreational park.


Check our Beijing Bus Tour Programs. You can tour Summer Palace and other Beijing attractions with our group bus tour programs for various routes. Learn more about Beijing private and non-private tours.



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