The Summer Palace: A World of Color

The gorgeous Marble Boat, also known as the Boat of Purity and Ease,
which sits on Kunming Lake.
A map of the Summer Palace
(click to enlarge).
The Summer Palace(Yiheyuan; 頤和園)is a 1.1 square mile (2.9 square meter) compound of temples, residences, and gardens formerly occupied by Chinese nobility. Longevity Hill(wanshoushan; 萬壽山)and Kunming Lake(kunminghu; 昆明湖)dominate most of the land. Like many antiquated areas of Beijing, nature is the focal point of the Summer Palace, which was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998. However, I didn't find this to be the case in the Forbidden City, which has a more solemn feel in my opinion. 

People taking a rest.
While the location of the Summer Palace goes back as far as the Jin Dynasty (1115-1234), the palace as it's known now was established during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912). After part of it was destroyed during the Second Opium War (1856-1860), the infamous Empress Dowager Cixi used money allocated for the navy to rebuilt it for her 60th birthday.

In regards to ancient sites, the Summer Palace was my favorite stop in China. Unfortunately, my class suffered time restraints like we did when visited the Forbidden City. As a result, we only had about two hours to explore the massive palace. Nevertheless, my classmates and I somehow made it work and we were able to see several of the main temples and halls in the palace.

The Tower of Buddhist Incense
fuxiangge; 彿香閣)(Southern side).
As the tallest building in the Summer Palace, the Tower of Buddhist Incensefuxiangge彿香閣), is one of the more famous locations in the compound. As it sits atop the 200 foot (60 meter) Longevity Hill, the tower is virtually impossible to miss. If you're not in shape, it might be impossible to climb as well. To even get to the base of the tower, one must climb a set of steep stairs. I feel it goes without saying, but the Summer Palace is not a place where you want to wear your new wedges, ladies. I saw many women clunking their way to the top and it was not a pretty sight!

The tower's Northern face.
She had to lean on her boyfriend to
get up the stairs...wrong shoes, no?

The somewhat steep stairs leading up
to the tower.
The Pavilion of Precious Clouds(baoyunge寶雲閣).

On the way up to the Tower of Buddhist Incense, you will encounter the Pavilion of Previous Cloudsbaoyunge寶雲閣). I'm unsure if the architects were taking this into consideration, but I love how the white roofs sort of look like clouds. I don't believe the public is allowed to enter the pavilion.

When you finally reach the Tower of Buddhist Incense, you'll be impressed by the sculptures and statues which cover the temple. The bodhisattvas on the outer walls give a nice touch, and the famous savior Guanyin statue didn't disappoint. 

The large Buddha statue in
the Tower.
The famous Guanyin statue
on the top floor.
On the outside walls of the Tower
were these gorgeous bodhisattva figures. 
The Temple of Benevolence and Longevityrenshoudian; 仁壽殿)and Pavilion of Cultural Prosperitywenchangge; 文昌閣)have interesting decorations. The former was used for court hearings and has two intricate bronze statues of animals in the front while the latter has the common imperial decorations on the roof.

The Temple of Benevolence and Longevity

The Pavilion of Cultural Prosperity 

The imperial roof decorations(zoushou走獸)
on the Pavilion of Cultural Prosperity's
An elaborate paifang(牌坊)or
traditional Chinese arch.
Another paifang with gorgeous tile roofing.

Paifang(牌坊)or Chinese architectural arches are a common site at the Summer palace. They're made from a variety of materials like wood, stone, and bricks, and are usually decorated with calligraphy.

A shot of the Long Corridor.
A blue bird in a tree.
This looks like a nobleman or warrior
with a noblewoman.
I love art, so the Long Corridorchanglang; 長廊)was one of the more captivating areas in the Summer Palace for me. The outdoor hallway includes several miniature pieces of artwork, over 14,000 works in total! Furthermore, the pictures are not isolated; they are scenes from the eight stories depicted in the corridor. There is seating underneath the Long Corridor, so visitors are welcome to relax and gaze up at all the stories.

One of the boat stations around Kunming Lake.
Boats scattered around the lake.
The Marble Boat.
Longevity Hill is arguably the centerpiece of the Summer Palace, but the Kunming Lake area is nothing less than impressive. Pictures don't do the Marble Boatshifang; 石舫)justice. Built in 1755 and restored in 1893, the Marble Boat is both beautiful and ironic in that the money for the restoration was essentially stolen from the navy. Each floor of the immobile boat contains a mirror which gives the illusion of immersion under water. Although visitors are not allowed on or in the structure, looking at it from the shore is sufficient. Another magnificent site on Kunming Lake is the grand 17-Arch Bridgeshiqi kongqiao; 十七孔橋).

The 17-Arch Bridge flanked by pedal boats.
Boating is a popular pass-time on Kunming Lake, and visitors can choose to either ride a passenger boat or paddle around the lake. I wanted to rent a paddle boat, but unfortunately, the wait was an hour upwards so there wasn't any time.

The beauty of Suzhou Streetsuzhoujie; 蘇州街)and Jade Peak Pagodayufengta; 玉峰塔)are also embellished by nature. The Qianlong Emperor ordered Suzhou Street to be built after seeing a shopping street in the city Suzhou. After being destroyed in the Second Opium War, it wasn't restored until 1988.

The Qianlong Emperor also had a hand in the restoration of Jade Peak Pagoda as he renovated it in 1752. Impressively, the original pagoda was first built during the Liao Dynasty (907-1125).

Suzhou Street and the canal which runs by it.
Jade Peak Pagoda atop Jade Spring Hill.
A pond completely covered in lily pads.
The English on this sign is a little
strange, right?
A lovely wooded walkway.
Of course, nature is found in its purist form at the Summer Palace through the gardens and forested areas. There are several walkways which run between the trees and offer beautiful scenes on a sunny day. I also enjoyed the ponds and it seems the animals do too.

Cute ducks in a pond.
People resting on the top floor of the Tower of Buddhist Incense.
I have no clue what his job was
but he looked awesome!
This man was selling funny masks.
As I've said before, I think its fun to people-watch. I certainly did at the Summer Palace, particularly when our class met up and we had to wait for our teacher's decision on what to do next. There were many interesting people about, especially those selling toys. The people and the scenery go hand-in-hand.

The Summer Palace is certainly not a place to miss when you're in Beijing. Even though it's crowded, it doesn't feel overwhelming or as tight as the Forbidden City. It's a gorgeous place, and I hope the Chinese government continues to protect it in the future.

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