Summer Palace

summer_palace_beijing

Don’t Forget The Summer Palace!

The summer heat maybe a welcome change for most people who love to basked in the warm rays of the sun but sometimes there is a time when you seek the constricting summer heat especially when the temperature rises and the air becomes suffocating to breathe.  It is the same reason why Chinese Emperors, Empresses and other royalties build the Summer Palace, to escape the greatly intolerable heat of the sun during a Beijing Summer.  This place was destroyed when Europe tried to invade China in 1860 but it was rebuilt later on after that.  The Summer Palace is situated on a higher level than the main city which is why the air is cooler there.

Beautifully manicured gardens and landscapes surround the Summer Palace courtyards and imperial residences.  The Summer Palace was build in an area surrounded by water and is located just outside of Beijing.  If you are planning to visit this place you can expect a 45 minute ride to reach the Palace.  One of the most notable Chinese royalties that you will see a portrait of is the Empress Dowager Cixi who used the Summer Palace as her place of retirement in 1889.  The Hall of Dispelling Clouds (Paiyundian) is said to be where the Empress Dowager Cixi celebrated most of her extravagant parties.  A tour to this hall will reveal some of the gifts that she received on her birthday.

This famous Summer Palace can be entered through its East Gate.  While walking along the paths before entering this gate, you will notice statues of mythical creatures with some of their body parts on display to represent disloyal subjects.  Inside the Hall of Benevolence you will see nine dragons carved into the sandalwood throne that this Empress used during her stay there.

The Palace of Virtueand Harmony (Deheyeun) is a theater which witnessed the Chinese dramas that Empress Dowager Cixi used to entertain herself.  She even took on the role to represent the Goddess of Mercy.  For ten years, Jade Waves Palace has been used as a prison cell for Emperor Guangxi who opposed Empress Cixi’s rule.  Empress Cixi used the Hall of Joy and Longevity as her place of residence as she enjoyed the sumptuously prepared 18 course meals.  In 1903, chandeliers were installed in the Summer Palace powered by a generator.  These chandeliers represent the first electric light inChina.

An ancient but richly preserved and designed pagoda rises on the Longevity Hill at the Summer Palace.  A large square can be found at the bottom of the stairs from this pagoda where you can fly your Chinese kites and enjoy other games.  The Tower of the Fragrance Buddha is a sight to behold since you will see a thousand handed Buddha made of bronze and gold that stands inside this tower.  Baoyun Pavilion is one of the largest bronze buildings that you can see that still exists in present day China.  The set of buildings reflect the versatility of Chinese craftsmen in designing such an elaborate set of buildings that exude peace and tranquility.  You can also take a boat ride around Kunming Lake in a dragon shaped boat during the summer.  Skating is more fun in the winter on the same lake.  Classical Chinese gardens can be seen in The Garden of Harmonious Interests.  A great panoramic view that your eyes can feast on is what will greet you while walking through this garden of gardens.

More at the Summer Palace

As the site for 2008 Beijing Olympics open water swim competition the Summer Palace was transformed into something that closely resembles Disneyland.  The Western Hills are located near the Summer Palace which has numerous parks that made the air cooler and the view greener.  One of the famous parks here is Fragrant Hills Park where the tree leaves transform into a glorious red in autumn.  The Botanical Gardens found in Western Hills exude a special air of beauty especially in the spring when flowers are in full bloom.  The Western Hills were made famous when Chairman Mao Zedong used this place as his personal oasis and retreat from the maddening sounds of the city.

Our next article covers what everyone wants to see during their Beijing visit, The Great Wall of China.