Summer Palace Travel Guide

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The Summer Palace, known as Yiheyuan in Chinese, is a vast ensemble of lakes, gardens and palaces in Beijing, China. It serves as a popular tourist destination and recreational park. Mainly dominated by Longevity Hill and Kunming Lake, it covers an expanse of 2.9 square kilometres (1.1 sq mi), three-quarters of which is water.

Summer Palace of China
Summer Palace of China

Longevity Hill is about 60 metres (200 feet) high and has many buildings positioned in sequence. The front hill is rich with splendid halls and pavilions, while the back hill, in sharp contrast, is quiet with natural beauty. The central Kunming Lake, covering 2.2 square kilometres (540 acres), was entirely man-made and the excavated soil was used to build Longevity Hill.

Summer Palace of China
Summer Palace of China

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".

Summer Palace of China
Summer Palace of China

The origins of the Summer Palace date back to the Jurchen-led Jin dynasty in 1153, when the fourth ruler, Wanyan Liang, moved the Jin capital from Huining Prefecture to Yanjing (present-day Beijing). He ordered the construction of a palace in the Fragrant Hills and Jade Spring Hill in the northwest of Beijing.

Summer Palace of China
Summer Palace of China

The entire Summer Palace is centred around Longevity Hill and Kunming Lake, with the latter covering about three quarters of the area. Most of the important buildings were built along the north Csouth axis of Longevity Hill, which is divided into the front hill and the back hill. There are three small islands within Kunming Lake: Nanhu Island, Zaojiantang Island and Zhijingge Island.

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