5 Reasons to Visit the Summer Palace in Beijing2016-10-19 17:38:11Share:
Once used as an imperial summer residence for the Empress Dowager Cixi, Summer Palace in Beijing is now a favorite tourist spot and lush recreational park. There are so many exciting things to experience in Beijing, such as Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, the National Museum of China and the Great Wall in Beijing, but a Summer Palace in Beijing should be on your list. A visit to this UNESCO World Heritage Site brings to life the pages of a book on Chinese imperial history, culture and architecture. Around every corner and through every doorway, you’ll marvel at the precise construction and impeccable garden design.
1. Profound History of Beijing's Summer Palace
Summer Palace’s history stretches back hundreds of years and includes many highs and lows as you might expect. It was conceived by the Qing Emperor Qianlong between 1750 and 1764 and was formerly known as the Garden of Clear Ripples. Kunming Lake and Longevity Hill served as the centerpieces of the landscape and were meant to balance the manmade structures built on the grounds. Striking a balance between man and nature is crucial in the Chinese Culture.
Nearly 100 years after the gardens were created, they were destroyed (1860), only to be rebuilt and renamed Summer Palace, damaged again by war (1900) and finally restored to its original grandeur and designated a public park in 1924. It was among the first group of historical and cultural heritage sites in China to receive special state protection. Most recently, the park became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998.
2. Central Features of Summer Palace
A “masterpiece of Chinese landscape garden and design,” Summer Palace attracts many visitors who want to see the incredible Imperial garden design complemented by a natural landscape, much of which is water. The property spans 290 hectares and includes a number of historic pavilions, palaces, temples and bridges. The way the natural landscape flows to the manmade structures and back again is simply breathtaking.
Major attractions include the following areas that have been fully restored:
The Four Great Regions, a grouping of four Buddhist structures named the Jambudvipa, Uttarakara, Purvavidewa, and Aparagodahiya that were built to resemble a monastery in Tibet. All of the original buildings were destroyed in 1860 but were painstakingly reconstructed in 1980.
Suzhou Street, a shopping street originally constructed in 1762 that resembled Shantang Street in Suzhou. Restored in 1988, Suzhou Street includes tea shops, souvenir shops and more.
Pavilion of Bright Scenery, a structure designed and built based on an original painting, “A Picture of Enjoying the Cool under the Lotus Pavilion,” by Zhao Mengfu, a well-known artist during the Yuan Dynasty.
Hall of Serenity is a beautiful building nestled on a hill facing the lake. First built during Emperor Qianlong’s reign, the hall was destroyed in 1860 and only rebuilt in 1996 on the original site in its original style.
Wenchang Galleries, the largest gallery of its kind in a classical Chinese garden. It includes six halls, each of which displays thousands of artifacts representing more than 3,600 years of Chinese history. View jewelry, chinaware, furniture, handmade crafts, and much more.
3. The Intricate Gardens
As the largest imperial garden in China, there is much to see. It’s also the perfect place to retreat and find balance during your visit to the busy city. In addition to elegant buildings and bridges, Summer Palace is an oasis of breathtaking gardens including the famous Garden of Harmonious Interests. There are many beautiful areas to explore throughout the park. However, this garden is designed with such perfection it’s known as the “garden in the gardens.”
While the park is in Northern China, this garden is an excellent example of classical gardens in South China. It was built in the mid-1700s when then Emperor Qianlong surveyed South China and admired its beautiful landscape. This garden, which has been rebuilt twice, includes a lotus pond in the center surrounded by pavilions, small bridges and more. The arrangement of all of these structures and natural areas was carefully thought out with a focus on striking a balance between man and nature.
Summer Palace in Beijing is beautiful in every season. Springtime brings graceful willows followed by summer with its fragrant lotus trees. In the winter, you can often find the pavilions and trees covered in a picture perfect blanket of snow.
Summer Palace Beijing Hours – The park is open Nov. 1 to March 31 from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., and April 1 to Oct. 31 from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Visit the park’s website for a Summer Palace Beijing map and suggested routes for you to explore.
4. Stay at Aman Summer Palace
Just steps away from the historic Summer Palace is Aman Summer Palace, a renowned resort that was once a waiting area for guests who had come to see the Empress Dowager Cixi. Now, much like the neighboring Imperial Gardens, Aman Summer Palace is a perfect retreat for travelers searching for luxurious accommodations.
It offers 51 elegant rooms and suites reflecting the Imperial period as well as a spa and fitness area beneath the resort in a unique underground recreational facility that spans 5,000 square meters and offers an array of health, well-being and beauty treatments.
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