The Summer Palace in Beijing served as a place of rest for the emperors of China. We can say that it was an imperial dacha. Of course, it's not 6 acres, but 29 000, but the essence of this does not change.
We love to call the Summer Imperial Palace a "landmark with a guarantee". All the interesting places in Beijing cause different feelings for tourists. Even the Great Wall of China is not popular with all travelers. All except the Summer Palace. Everyone likes it without exception.
It's really nice and interesting. You can reach it quickly and easily, which is very important. Agree, getting to the landmark three hours, you already see it quite different than if you walked up to it five minutes on foot.
The summer palace was intended only for rest. Here the emperors did not accept foreign ambassadors, did not hold ceremonies and did not collect state councils. For all these purposes, the Forbidden City was intended. Sometimes here ministers or other high officials were received, but, rather, as an exception.
Only Empress Dowager Empress Cisi preferred to run the country from here. She was allowed to do everything, because everyone was afraid of her. It is associated most of the history of the Summer Palace, and her name will often be found in this article.
The name "Summer Palace" is used in Russian, English and other European languages. In Chinese it is called Yihe Yuan. In this phrase there is not a word "palace", nor the word "summer". He was so called by the Europeans by analogy with the residences of his monarchs, as, for example, the Hofburg and Schönbrunn in Vienna.
In Chinese, the word "yuan" can be translated in different ways, depending on the pronunciation. This is the word "round", which served as the name of the currency of China , and the word "garden" or "park." It is in this sense that it is used in this case.
The Summer Palace is considered a masterpiece of Chinese landscape design. The park consists of a large Kunming Lake, the Longevity Hill about 60 meters high and the surrounding territories.
The hill and the lake are artificially created structures. The lake was dug up, and the hill was created from the seized soil. Construction took place in the 18th century, and there were no excavators in China at that time. All this was digging and laying workers with shovels and simple hoes. Even scary to imagine how many people worked here, and what a hell of a work it was.
The result is amazing with its beauty. This is the most famous park in China, surpassed in its glory and the Imperial Garden of the Forbidden City , and the Yu Yuan Garden in Shanghai .
How to get there
The easiest way to get to the Summer Palace is by metro from Beijing . We need to get to the station Beigongmen (Beigongmen) on the 4th line. As soon as you exit the metro, you will immediately see the Summer Palace, it will not be confused with anything. If in doubt, you can go where everyone is, do not get lost. After a hundred meters, you will find yourself at the northern gate and the ticket office.
But we do not recommend immediately to run to watch this landmark. Near the station there is a shopping center, shops and a snack bar KFC. Eat or buy food, and be sure to stock up on drinks. Go to the Summer Palace will have a long time.
Another option is to get off at Xiyuan Station (Xi'ian), this is one station to Beigongmen (Beigongmen) on the 4th line. It is necessary to go to the western direction about 600 meters. The advantage of this route is that you will enter through the eastern gate. There are far fewer people, and there are no queues at the ticket offices.
How long will it take to visit the Summer Palace
The Summer Palace covers an area of 290 hectares. For comparison, the Forbidden City occupies 72 hectares, that is, four times less. But three quarters of the Summer Palace occupies Lake Kunming, and it turns out that they have the same "dry" area.
If you have already visited the Forbidden City, and this place is going to look at the same pace, then plan the same time.
If not, then allocate 2 hours for a "quick" inspection, or 4 hours for a leisurely walk through the Summer Palace. Some tourists enjoy spending the whole day here. On the territory there are several small restaurants and food trays. Prices are high, but not frightening.
In the period from November 1 to March 31 - from 7-00 to 17-00
In the period from April 1 to October 31 - from 6-30 to 18-00
What's the cover charge
A simple admission ticket costs 20 yuan from November 1 to March 31, or 30 yuan April 1 to October 31.
But with this ticket you will not be able to see all the buildings. Some rooms can be accessed only at an additional cost. The easiest way to buy a ticket is "all inclusive", which costs 50 and 60 yuan, respectively.
History of the Summer Palace
The first palace appeared on this place in the times of the Jin state. It is not known how this palace looked and when it was built. It is believed that this happened around the year 1150. Then this territory was even difficult to call China, the population of Jin was a rattling mixture of Jurchen, Khitan (both peoples nomads) and Chinese.
In 1215, the Mongols, under the leadership of Genghis Khan, plundered and burned the city of Zhundu, which was the name of Beijing at that time. Nothing left of the palace.
The new palace began to be built in 1750 under Emperor Qianlong. This emperor ruled for 60 years, and on his account many achievements, including the construction of the Summer Palace.
The palace remained standing until 1860 until the Second Opium War, when British and French troops were already stationed near Beijing. Then there was a very unpleasant incident. A group of English envoys was captured by the Chinese, tortured and tortured to death.
The heads of the coalition forces led by the English Lord Elgin decided to carry out an act of retaliation for such barbarity. The purpose of the punitive expedition was chosen the Summer Palace. There were proposals to destroy the Forbidden City, but this was considered a "search".
The ruins of the ruined Summer Palace lie still. You can see them nearby (in the photo on the right). For this, it is necessary to go from the station Xiyuan (Xiyuan) not to the west, but to the north. This place is now called the Old Summer Palace.
After the Second Opium War, the palace began to be rebuilt, but in another place. There is a version that Empress Cisi used money for this purpose, intended for the construction of the navy. It's hard to say, so it was or not.
In any case, China then really needed money for modernization. The country lagged far behind the European powers in the technical level. Such a large-scale construction was clearly out of place. Empress Dowager Empress Cisi "drove another nail into the coffin of the Chinese Empire."
Another destruction was awaiting the Summer Palace in 1900. Then there was a major popular uprising, which is called "boxing" or "Ikhtuanskoe." It was suppressed by the troops of the coalition of eight countries, which included the Russian Empire. The Summer Palace again looted and burned most of the buildings.
What we see now is the restored last version of the garden.
What to see for tourists
The whole territory is divided into four parts. The backyard, the front hillside, the back hillside and the lake part.
As you can see on the map to the left, the lake part (4) is the largest in area and along the length of the route. Hence the conclusion - if you have very little time, then donate it by inspection first.
The yard part (1) is the official territory where the monarchs of China received visitors, worked and lived.
The front slope of the hill (2) can be called a religious territory. There are most buildings here, and the center of this garden district is the Tower of Buddhist incense.
The back slope of the hill (3) is a recreational area where there are many trees and plants, but fewer buildings. The lake part (4) is a place for walking and an exhibition of architecture and sculpture in the open air.
We will not describe each building, but we will dwell on a few of the most interesting in each part of the Summer Palace.
The yard part
The first building you will see after entering is the Hall of Kindness and Longevity. This is the official reception room, it was not advisable for guests to go far into the garden, and they tried to take it here. In this room is the throne, on which the emperor was seated, receiving guests.
Around the hall are bronze sculptures of dragons and phoenixes, as well as incense censers. Surprisingly, the throne to tourists is almost not interesting, the statues attract far more attention of travelers.
Most of all tourists are interested in this beast in the photo on the right. It's called "cousin". He has a dragon's head, a lion's tail, a deer's horns and it is difficult to say whose body it is. It is believed that this is the body of some ungulate animal.
Kulin protects the Summer Palace from fires. Although, judging by the history, the Chinese should have come up with a talisman, protecting from the British and the French.
In sculptures there is one important circumstance that very few people notice, but it is very interesting. Phoenix figures are closer to the entrance, pushing the dragons to the periphery. Given that the dragon symbolizes the emperor, it looks strange. Dragons should be in the center.
Empress Cisi was too fond of power. This is her initiative, the phoenix is her symbol. This position of the statues, she showed who actually rules the empire. Dragons are pushed aside, too, as the emperor Guangxi was removed by her from power.
The Hall of Kindness and Longevity is named so according to the Confucian dogma: "The ruler, ruling with kindness, will live a long life".
Another interesting place is the Garden of Virtue and Harmony. This is not a garden, but a theater, where emperors and empresses enjoyed performances of the Beijing Opera .
And this is not even one building, but four courtyards and several buildings. The Bolshoi Theater is the tallest of them, 21 meters high and three stories high. Empress Cisi was very fond of the Chinese opera. There were delivered more than 200 performances specially for her.
This building is specially designed as a theater. Special containers with water are created inside to enhance the sound. Behind the theater is a two-story building for the dressing room for changing the actors, it is connected to the theater building.
Opposite the theater is the Hall of Natural Joy, from where Cisi watched the performances. Her throne is very beautifully adorned.
Garden of Virtue and Harmony can be viewed for a fee of 5 Chinese Yuan. As we have already said, it is easier to buy a combined ticket, and you will be able to walk everywhere without restrictions.
The front slope of the hill
There are many buildings here, and many can be reached by the Long Gallery. It is a corridor over 700 meters long leading from east to west. According to legend, Emperor Qianlong built it for his mother so that she could enjoy the garden in any weather.
Along the corridor there are four gazebos for the number of seasons. In the center there is the Gate of Blooming clouds, also a very beautiful place in the gallery.
Such galleries have been an integral part of Chinese architecture since the Tang Dynasty. In large buildings, they were used to connect rooms with each other.
On this corridor, every morning after breakfast, the Empress Cisi passed. Perhaps, thanks to these walking tours, she lived for so long?
Many parts of the gallery are well located, and from here you can see magnificent views of the Longevity Hill and Kunming Lake.
The most notable building of the Summer Palace is the Tower of Buddhist Incense. Originally it was planned not as a religious structure, but as an imperial tower with nine floors.
The number 9 is not an accident - this is the number of the emperor in China. For example, in the Forbidden City you will notice it many times, if you look closely. At the gate 9 rows of rivets with 9 skuks in each. The Temple of Heaven in Beijing is the most striking example. Nine there meets so often that you begin to doubt what he is dedicated to, the Sky or the number nine?
In the process of construction it was decided to make a Buddhist structure out of it. Many call it a pagoda, but it's not. The pagoda is a public structure, and access to this tower was limited.
The height of the tower is 41 meters. It is believed that the model for its design is the Yellow Crane Tower in Wuhan City. And, indeed, the similarity is beyond doubt.
Inside stands a bronze Buddha statue 5 meters high and weighs 5 tons. It is believed that this statue was cast by the order of Emperor Wanli of the Ming dynasty. Of course, he became more famous as the inhabitant of the only opened tomb of the Ming emperors , which is now open to tourists and is called the " Underground Palace ".
The entrance to the tower is paid separately and costs 10 yuan. On the front slope there are many other interesting places, but we will not talk about them in detail.
On the back slope there are only a few groups of buildings. The first interesting for tourists is the Market Street of Shujou. There are about 300 shops with souvenirs from China . The prices here are not cheap, but it's worth looking at the assortment, as here there are objects of calligraphy, painting and crafts that are inaccessible elsewhere.
The most interesting building on the back slope of the Hill of Longevity is the temple complex "Four Great Areas". It is made in a mixed Sino-Tibetan style.
Buddhism came to China from Tibet, and all Chinese schools, including Zen, are branches of the Mahayana tradition. Whatever the relationship between Tibet and China, this fact will always unite them. Chinese Buddhists do not now recognize the Dalai Lama as a great teacher, but in the time of the Chinese empire teachers from Tibet here appreciated it very much.
Tourists ask why this temple complex has such a name, and what is this "Four Great Regions"? It's hard to explain, it's part of Buddhist cosmology. All things are located in four groups of worlds. We live in a group of worlds of Passion (lower worlds), but there are three more. Each group in the temple is dedicated to its building.
It is the largest. According to the total length of the pedestrian route, it surpasses all the others taken together. If you want to see it, then comfortable shoes are required. The road passes along the banks of Lake Kangmin along the embankments, bridges and through pavilions.
On the way, you will meet a huge number of interesting objects, but we will dwell in detail on only three.
The most interesting building is the Marble boat. It is in the north-west corner of the Summer Palace right at the foot of the Longevity Hill. If you look closely, you can see that it does not have a Chinese style, and it's true. During the recovery after the robbery of 1860, it was already built in Western style.
Empress Cishi loved this place and often drank tea here, enjoying the view of Lake Kunming. Such building boats are often found in the classical parks of China, but in the imperial garden it has important symbolic significance.
One of the emperors of the Tang Dynasty served Minister Wei Zhen, who said: "Water can carry a boat, or can turn it." He meant that the common people can carry the emperor to glory and majesty, and can overthrow. Every ruler must remember this, and the Marble boat is a reminder.
The most beautiful of the bridges is the bridge of the Seventeen Arches. It connects the quay of Kunming Lake with the island of Nanhu. Of the thirty bridges in the Summer Palace, it is the longest - 150 meters.
The central arch is the largest and the ninth one on each side. Again a nine, did you notice? Total on this bridge 544 marble lions is a record for China.
Opposite the bridge there is another attraction of the Summer Palace - the Bronze bull (see photo )
Once it was called the Golden Bull, when its surface was covered with gilding. In 1960, during the plunder, gilt was stolen by looters. It is believed that this statue protects the Summer Palace from floods.
We did not tell about a tenth of all the buildings, bridges and pavilions in the Summer Palace. We leave you to enjoy their beauty on their own. Read our articles on China, there is still a lot of useful and interesting ( links below ).