SUMMER PALACE - This is the largest imperial garden in China and is about 7 miles from the centre of Beijing city, and for the Emperors and Empresses it was a contrast to the stifling Forbidden City. Most people enter through the East Palace Gate. Coaches’ park outside here and also buses stop outside. The palace is most associated with Empress Dowager Cixi who was the manipulator at
the end of the Qing Dynasty, and she spent most of her later years here.
The Archway The first structure of the Summer Palace, this huge archway with these three passages and seven roofs is constructed of wood and gorgeously painted.
Hall of Benevolence and Longevity This is the first building you will see when you come into the grounds and it is where Cixi conducted official business. Behind this hall is the awesome
Kunming Lake A stroll around the entire shoreline will take about two hours. There is a jetty where you can take rowing boats across the lake. Also there is a boat pier at the end of the Long Corridor and you can get a boat ride from here. The boats from here are shaped like a dragon with a dragon head at the front. They carry about 30 people. By this jetty you will find souvenir and coffee shops. This area is packed with people. It is where organised groups meet up with their guide after being given free time to look around. Our guide had pre-arranged the booking of a dragon-boat to take our party back across the lake towards the coach park.
Tower of the Fragrance Buddah When you look across the lake this is the tower you can see on the southern slope of the Longevity Hill. Behind it is:
The Sea of Wisdom Temple This temple at the top of Longevity Hill, built entirely of brick and stone, without a single beam or rafter, is popularly called the “beamless hall”.
The Long Corridor This is the longest corridor in the world and is 728 metres long. The beams along the walkway are decorated with 14,000paintings. The colouring, on the beams are awesome and it fells as if you are visiting an art gallery. The corridor can get very packed but you can slip out along the way and walk on the outside pavement. The corridor is flanked by various temples and pavilions. Marble Boat The boat is positioned at the West Bank at the foot of Longevity Hill and at the end of the Long Corridor. It was built in 1755 and is 36 metres long. The cabin is wood but painted white to look like marble. The lower deck is paved with floral bricks and the windows are of stained glass with mosaic design. Cixu paid for this extravagant folly with monies meant for the modernization of the Imperial Navy.
South Lake Island - Depart from the jetty near The Marble Boat for a boat trip to the island. Alternatively you can walk across the Seventeen-arch Bridge. A marble lion crowns each of the 544 balustrades along the bridges length. On the east of the shore you will see a large bronze ox dating back to 1755.
Jade Belt Bridge This is on the opposite shore and links the mainland to the West causeway.
I have mentioned just some of the places to visit in the park, but there is a lot more to see here.
The Summer Palace is a joy to see, and one of the loveliest places to visit in Beijing. The air even seemed fresh here as it was away from all the hustle and bustle of the city traffic.
Tip Don’t go on an organised trip here if you can help it. It warrants more than a 2-4hour visit. As it is only 7 miles from Beijing centre perhaps you could share a taxi to get here. If you are confident with the underground take a taxi from Xizhmen subway stop.