Summer Palace in Beijing

Why is Summer Palace so Special?

The Summer Palace is located in Haidian District, northwest of Beijing, 15 kilometers (9 miles) from the downtown area. As the largest and best preserved royal park in China, it has greatly influenced China’s gardening and landscape with its famous natural landscape and cultural interest, and has long been recognized as the “royal garden museum”.

History of  Summer Palace

In the 15th year of Ganlong (1750), in order to prepare for the 60th birthday of Empress Xiao Shengxian, Ganlong Emperor ordered the excavation of the West Lake under the pretext of harnessing the water system in the west of Beijing. He also ordered the excavation of a high-water lake and a water-raising lake in the west of the West Lake. These three lakes were used as water storage reservoirs to ensure water for palace gardens and irrigation for the surrounding farmland. Emperor Ganlong changed the name of West Lake to Kunming Lake based on the story of Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty digging up the Kunming pool to train water troops.

In its heyday, the Summer Palace was large-scale and covered an area of 2.97 square kilometers (293 hectares). It was mainly composed of Wanshou Mountain and Kunming Lake, of which the water surface accounted for three quarters (about 220 hectares).

On December 25 of the 3rd year of Xuantong reign (1911), Pu Yi abdicated. As Pu Yi’s private property, the Summer Palace was still managed by the Qing Dynasty’s internal affairs office.

Due to the shortage of royal funds year by year and the depletion of financial resources for the Qing Dynasty, on January 14, 1914, in order to subsidize the garden finance, the Qing Dynasty’s internal affairs office changed the Summer Palace into a ticketing tour. In April, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Ministry of Military Affairs and the Office of Internal Affairs of the Qing Dynasty agreed that “during the open tour, there will be a fund-raising intention” and proposed the “Regulations for the Trial Sale of Tickets in the Summer Palace and Other Places”. It is stipulated that tickets will be officially sold to the public from May 6.

Architectural Pattern

The Summer Palace covers an area of 293 hectares and is mainly composed of Wanshou Mountain and Kunming Lake. There are more than 3,000 palace garden buildings in various forms, which can be roughly divided into three parts: administration, life and sightseeing.

The administrative district with Renshou Hall as its center was the place where Empress Dowager Cixi and Emperor Guangxu sat in court and listened to foreign guests. Renshou’s rear is where Empress Dowager Cixi, Guangxu and Empress Dowager lived.

The sea of wisdom at the top of Longevity Hill descends to form a well-defined central axis. At the foot of the mountain is a “corridor” with a length of more than 700 meters. There are more than 8,000 colorful paintings on the beam of the corridor, which is called “the world’s first corridor”.
The back of Wanshou Mountain and the back lake are covered with ancient trees. There are Tibetan temples and Suzhou River ancient trading street. Small and exquisite, it is called “the garden of the garden”.

Main Attraction

The Summer Palace can be divided into four parts: the Court Area, Front and Rear Area of Longevity Hill, and Kunming Lake Area. 

the Court Area

It is located in the northeast of the Summer Palace, which is an alternative place for Empress Dowager Cixi and Emperor Guangxu to meet officials and handle state affairs. It consists of court affairs and life. In addition, the area is a comprehensive transportation hub and is also the first stop for tourists to enjoy the beautiful scenery of Kunming Lake and Wanshou Mountain.

Front and Rear Area of Longevity Hill

This is the most built and magnificent area. It is symmetrically distributed in many delicate buildings and beautiful gardens in the east and west, with the Buddha incense tower facing south as the central axis. To the top of the mountain, there are many important buildings on the top of the mountain.

Kunming Lake Area

The area covers a larger part and opens up the prospect of Kunming Lake. The east causeway of the lake is connected to the west causeway by a long corridor dotted with pavilions, bridges and docks. As the breeze gently blows and the waves flicker, willow trees kiss the ripples on the vast water surface, and no pleasant scenery on it can make the bright spots disappear.

Rear Area of Longevity Hill

Compared with the Qianshan District of the Summer Palace, it is very quiet here. After the war, most of the buildings could not be repaired, leaving only a few ruins. Although there are few buildings here, it has a unique landscape with dense green trees and winding paths. Walking here, tourists can feel rare peace and elegance.

Tourism Information

Admission ticket

Ticket Type Price (CNY)
April to October November to March
Entrance Fee 30 20
Dehe Garden 5 5
Tower of Buddhist Incense 10 10
Wenchang Hall 20 20
Suzhou Street and Danning Hall 10 10
Combo Ticket 60 50
Recommended Time for a Visit 3 hours

Open time

April – October November – March
06:30 – 18:00 07:00 – 17:00

How to Get There

  • By Bus:
    To the East Palace Gate: Take bus 303, 331, 332, 346, 508, 579, or 584, and then get off at Yiheyuan Station; or take bus 384, 394, 563, 594 or 601 to Poshangcun. After that, walk west for about 200 meters (220 yards) to the gate.
    To the West Gate: Take bus 469 or 539 and get off at Yiheyuan Ximen (Yiheyuan West Gate) Station.
    To the North Palace Gate: Take bus 303, 331, 346, 394, 563, 584, 594 or Singtseeing Bus Line 3, and get off at Yiheyuan Beigongmen (North Palace Gate) Station; or take bus 332, 384, or 601 to Beigongmen Subway Station.
    To the New Palace Gate: Take bus 74, 374, or 437, and get off at Xin Jian Gong Men (Yiheyuan New Palace Gate) Station.
  • Take the subway:
    1. Take Line 4 to the North Palace Gate, exit D, then walk west for 3 minutes to the North Palace Gate.
    2. Take Line 10 to Bagou Station. Then take the western suburbs line to yihe park west gate station. Go north for 4 minutes to reach the west gate of the summer palace.
    3. Take Line 4 or Line 16 to Xiyuan and leave at Exit C2. Go west for about 15 minutes to reach the east gate.
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