The Summer Palace, located ten
kilometers to the northwest of Beijing, used to
be a summer residence of Qing Dynasty emperors
and is now a public park. It is an imperial garden
known far and wide for its architectural grandeur
and stunning natural beauty.
Construction of the Summer Palace
started in 1750. The northern part of the Summer
Palace is the 60-meter-tall Longevity Hill. Its
southern part is a wide expanse of water called
Kunming Lake. The whole garden covers 290 hectares,
with the lake taking up four-fifths of its total
A cluster of grand buildings
adorn the middle section of the Longevity Hill.
On the slope from the lakeside to the hilltop
stand: a decorated archway called Jade-Like Firmament
in Bright Colors, Cloud-Dispelling Hall, Hall
of Virtuous Brilliance, Pavilion of Buddhist Incense
and Temple of the Sea of Wisdom. Standing on the
top of the hill, a visitor commands a spectacular
view of buildings of different shapes and sizes
down below, their golden roofs glittering under
the sun; the placid, huge Kunming Lake dotted
with rowing boats; a 17-arch bridge that connects
an island with the lake's southern bank; the long,
winding west bank of the lake joined by six bridges;
and the distant West Hills.
Along the northern bank of Kunming
Lake runs the Long Corridor with a total length
of 728 meters and 273 sections. It is like a necklace
for Longevity Hill. Strolling in the corridor,
a visitor sees an endless lineup of corridor stands
stretching into the distance or curving away elegantly
at soft angles as well as Kunming Lake sparkling
under the sun. The crossbeams of the Long Corridor
are decorated with more than 8,000 color paintings
with Chinese landscape and historical stories
as their themes.
The 17-arch bridge on the southern
bank of Kunming Lake is more than 150 meters long.
Carved stone lions, of different sizes and postures,
sit on top of the bridge's stone columns. An octagonal
pavilion stands at one end of the bridge and near
the pavilion lies a bronze ox with its head raised
toward the lake. On the back of the ox is engraved
a line from Emperor Qianlong stating that the
ox is used to control flooding of the lake.
A Ming-style street winds along
a stretch of water on the back side of Longevity
Hill. The Suzhou Street, 300 meters long, is lined
with more than 60 shops and decorated with archways
and gateways. The shops, of different shapes and
sizes, are built with bluish gray tiles and bricks.
The marketplace lends a folksy flavor to the imperial
In 1998, the Summer Palace was
added to UNESCO's World Heritage List.