Summer Palace Beijing
The Summer Palace has a history of over 800 years. In 115, when the Jin Dynasty made Beijing (then called Yanjing) its capital, it built an imperial palace (the Golden Hill Palace) on the present site of the Summer Palace, In 1750, Emperor Qianlong spent 4.48 million taels of silver (140,000 kilos of silver) building the Garden of Clear Ripples in 15 years and changed the name of the hill to Longevity Hill to celebrate his mother’s birthday. He also named the lake Kunming because he wanted to follow the example of Emperor Wudi (156BC-87BC; reign 140BC-87BC) of the Han Dynasty (206BC-AD220) who had trained his navy centuries before in Kunming Pool in Chang’an (near present day Xian).
The Summer Palace was ravaged by the Allied Forces of the Eight Powers that invaded China in 1900. The damage was repaired in 1902. The Summer Palace became the residence of the Dowager Empress Cixi who spent a great deal of money expanding and beautifying the area, supposedly using funds allocated for the modernisation of the Chinese Navy.
Since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, the Summer Palace has been renovated several times. One of the two dominating features of the Summer Palace is Longevity Hill, the front of which contains the main rooms of the palace. The second feature of the palace is Kunming Lake, a man-made pool covering over 2.2 square kilometers whose excavated soil was used for the creation of Longevity Hill. The Summer Palace covers an area of 2.9 square kilometers, three quarters of which is Kunming Lake. It is well known for its large and priceless collection of cultural relics. The major attractions including the Pavilion of Bright Scenery, the Four Great Regions, the Hall of Serenity, Suzhou Street, the Wenchang Galleries and the Plowing and Weaving Scenery Area have been successively restored since the 1950’s.
The Summer Palace is a monument to classical Chinese architecture, in terms of both garden design and construction. In December 1998, it was inscribed on the World Heritage List by UNESCO, which commented as follows:
1) The Summer Palace in Beijing is an outstanding expression of the creative art of Chinese landscape garden design, incorporating the works of humankind and nature in a harmonious whole;
2) The Summer Palace epitomizes the philosophy and practice of Chinese garden design, which played a key role in the development of this cultural form throughout the east;
3) The imperial Chinese garden, illustrated by the Summer Palace, is a potent symbol of one of the major world civilizations.
At present, the Summer Palace has become one of the top famous tourist attractions in Beijing and China.