Brief Introduction to The Summer Palace

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The Summer Palace
The Summer Palace

The Summer Palace

Where is the the Summer Palace

The Summer Palace is located on the western edge of Beijing, between the fourth and fifth ring roads,close to the western hills,10km from central Beijing一It is the largest and best-preserved imperial garden in China. Its Chinese name,Yi He Yuan,translates as ‘Garden for Maintaining Health and Harmony’.

As its name implies,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.

The gardens that became the Summer Palace date from the Jin Dynasty (1115一1234 ).Later, the Mongol Emperor Kublai Khan(Yuan Dynasty,1279-1368),who wanted to improve Beijing’s water supply,ordered the construction of canals to transport water from the Western Hills to the Summer Palace. He also enlarged the lake(today’s Kun Ming Lake)to act as a reservoir.

In 1750,Emperor Qian Long(1736一1796 )of the Qing Dynasty(1644一1911)added substantially to the gardens of the Summer Palace. His appointed designers reproduced the styles of various palaces and gardens from around China. Kun Ming Lake was extended to imitate the West Lake in Hangzhou.

In 1860,the Anglo-French Allied Forces invaded Beijing and set fire to many of the buildings within the Summer Palace.

In 1886,Dowager Empress Ci Xi,with embezzled funds 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‘Yi He Yuan’(Garden of Peace and Harmony)

In 1889,the Empress Dowager Ci Xi moved her administration to the renovated Yi He Yuan and the gardens that had long been an imperial pleasure ground became the primary Summer Palace.

A full-scale restoration began in 1903,and today’s Summer Palace is more or less the same as the palace rebuilt from then.

World Heritage site by UNESCO

The Summer Palace was designated a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1998.

The palace is the largest and the best-preserved royal garden in the world with the richest cultural connotation, hence it is honored as a the museum of royal gardens. Its general layout makes full use of the hill and the lake,together with the borrowed views from the peaks of the west mountain,which brings about infinite scenery variations with exceeding beauty. The buildings in the palace are the architectural cream from all parts of China. The administrative and residential areas in the east of the palace are typical of the quadrangle in northern China,where the enclosed courtyards are connected by various roofed causeways. The lake area in its south,however,is an imitation of West Lake of Hangzhou, where a dyke divides the lake in two,thus giving it an obvious touch of southern China landscape. On the north side of Longevity Hill,the scene is that of Tibetan mastery,where stand white pagodas and buildings like blockhouses And in north,the Suzhou Market Street,with all kinds of shops and its crisscrossing water courses,is again in the style of the waterscape in southern China.

A Brief introduction to the summer palace

The Summer Palace, under various delightful names such as “Golden Hill Travelling Palace,” “ Fine Garden for Enjoying Mountains, “and the Park of Clear Ripples, has existed for more than800 years.

The Summer Palace (Garden of Good Health and Harmony or Park of Nurtured Harmony) lies about 20 kilometers northwest of Beijing. It consists of the 59-metre (193 4-feet) Longevity Hill and Kunming Lake with a total area of 290 hectares. Longevity Hill is an extension of the Western Hills Kunming Lake used to be fed by the springs from the Jade Spring Hill lying to its west. Now it has its source from Miyun Reservoir (within the boundaries of Miyun County, built in 1958 with a total capacity of 4.38 billion cubic meters), 102 kilometers northeast of Beijing.

The Summer Palace has a history of over 800 years.

In 1153, when the Jin Dynasty (1115-1234) made Yanjing(former name for Beijing) its capital, it built an Imperial palace(the Golden Hill Travelling Palace) on the present site of the Summer Palace. In 1750, Qing emperor Qianlong spent 4.48 million taels of silver (1 tael is 31. 25 grams or 1.102 ounces of standard silver) building the Garden of Clear Ripples in 15 years and changed the name of the Jar Hill to longevity Hill to celebrate his mother’s birthday on the basis of Wengshanpo(Jar Hill Pond) and Jar Hill. He also named the lake Kunming because he wanted to follow the example of Emperor Wudi(156-87 BC, reigned 140-87 BC)of the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD220)who had trained his navy centuries before in Kunming Pool in Chang’an (somewhere near Xi’an today). The entire area was enclosed by a wall and called the Qingyiyuan (Park of Clear Ripples). Anglo-French Allied Forces invaded Beijing in 1860, and burned down the palace.

In 1888, the dowager empress Cixi(Compa-ssionate Fortune)had it restored with the funds 30 million taels of silver or 937, 500 kilogrammes of silver intended for the development of the navy and renamed it the Summer Palace.

In 1900, it was again plundered, this time by the invading troops of the Eight-power Allied Force (Britain, United States, Germany, France, Tsarist Russia, Japan, Italy and Austria). The big temples and halls at the back of the Longevity Hill were destroyed.

The only buildings, which survived at the Summer Palace, were non-wooden structures such as the Bronze Pavilion in the Baoyunge(Precious Cloud Pavilion), the Marble Boat and the Sea of Wisdom temple.

In 1903 the dowager empress Cixi spent a fabulous sum of money to have the palace reconstructed a second time. The Summer Palace of today is more or less the same as the palace rebuilt in 1903. The 1911 Revolution overthrew the Qing Dynasty, the last dynasty in Chinese history; the Summer Palace became the private property of the dethroned Emperor Puyi.

In 1914 he opened the garden to the general public. But the entrance fee was so high that the palace had very few visitors. In 1924, Puyi was forced to leave the Forbidden City and the Summer Palace as well by General Feng Yuxiang, and the then Beijing government turned the Summer Palace into a public park with the exorbitant entrance fee of one silver dollar. Over the course of the next 25 years under the transient rule of the Japanese imperialists and the Kuomintang,the Summer Palace once again fell prey to full scale devastation; pavilions and covered corridors were wrecked, lakes became silted up, vegetation withered and died, and antiques and other objects of value were lost.

Since 1949 the Chinese government has renovated the Summer Palace several times and numerous trees and flowers (as flowers bring color to city life) have been planted. This old imperial garden has taken on a completely new look and become one of the most popular parks in Beijing.

Today, The Summer Palace is a very popular tourists’ destination in its own right. Every year it draws 6 to 7 million visitors both from home and abroad. Over 10 million yuan (US$1. 2 million) was spent on renovating the Summer Palace to retain its resplendency and magnificence annually.

Few people know that the summer palace has one of the richest collections of cultural relics in China, probably in the world as well. There are nearly 40,000 relics in collection, including many that are extremely rare. In both historical and artistic value, the collection in the Summer Palace matches the collections of the Forbidden City. The collection includes more than 20,000 relics that are under special protection as national treasures. These are, in fact, world treasures. To name just two: a bronze tripod belonging to Prince Bai of the State of Gao from the Western Zhou Dynasty (1046-771 BC), and a bronze wine vessel in the shape of three rhinos that dates back to the Shang Dynasty (1600-1046 BC).These cannot be found anywhere else in the world. As part of the cultural treasures, the 400,000 trees that also crystallize the essence of Chinese culture have been well looked after.

Amongst the trees, 1, 600 are more than 200 years old. Every tree has a file and is kept in the garden’s database for protection. However, due to a lack of programming, the tree species were not very well selected to plant in the garden in the 20th century. Realizing this, the palace authority plans to plant more pines and cypress trees. In order to restore the original construction, the government has started to move out residents that have occupied the park for many years.