Wednesday, July 10, 2013

#807 Summer Palace, Beijing, China

When you walk through the grounds of Beijing's Summer Palace, (Yíhé Yuán, literally "Gardens of Nurtured Harmony") the size is mind-boggling, for this is not just a little cluster of buildings but a huge area with a lake, a mountain, and buildings sufficient for several small towns (it is 2.9 square kilometers). It was the playground of royals where they came to escape Beijing's sweaty heat. Always a garden (established by Chin emperor Wányán Liàng in the 1100s) they were expanded by Emperor Qianlong around 1750 and after damage in the Anglo-French invasion, the Boxer Rebellion and the second Opium War, again by Empress Dowager Cixi (cheekily spending money earmarked for the navy, so one of the constructions is a rather large useless marble boat!).
Whether it is wandering the tree-lined paths, climbing in a small paddleboat, crossing the magnificent bridges, watching someone write poetry on the ground in water, or a stroll under the arched wooden pathways, it is a magical place.
 Sights in the palace grounds: 
  • Hall of Benevolence and Longevity (main palace structure)
  • Garden of Virtue and Harmony 
  • Sea of Wisdom Temple
  • Kunming Lake (3/4 of the area)
  • Mirror Bridge
  • Longevity Hill (artificial, 60m high)
  • Cloud Dispensing Hall
  • Tower of Fragrant Buddha
  • Long Corridor (700m along the lakeside)
  • Jade Belt Bridge
  • Chain Bridge
  • Willow bridge
  • Suzhou Shopping Street created exclusively for the emperor and entourage

Soure: Lonely Planet Best of Beijing 1st Edition

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