Summer Palace in Beijing

The Summer Palace has a history of over 800 years. In 1153 when the Jin Dynasty made Beijing (then called Yanjing) its capital, the imperial court built a palace. In 1750, Qing Emperor Qianlong spent 4.5 million taels (140 tons) 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. In 1860, the Anglo-French allied forces invaded Beijing and burned down the palace. In 1888, Empress Dowager Cixi had it restored with the funds of 937 tons of silver intended for the develoment of the navy and renamed it the Summer Palace. In 1900, it was again plundered by the invadin troops of the eight powers. In 1903, Empress Dowager spent a fabulous sum of money to have the palace reconstructed a second time. In 1924, it was tuned into a park. the Summer Palace consists of Longevity Hill and Kunming Lake with a total area of 625 acres (or three hundred hectares), a remarkable figure considering that the park's entire landscape is artificial.

The Summer Palace (Yiheyuan, literally Garden of Harmonious Unity), in the northwestern suburbs of Beijing, is the largest and probably the best-preserved imperial garden in China. Many of the buildings are located on the Longevity Hill, including the Tower of the Fragrance of Buddha, the largest single building in the landscape. When the Qing emperors wished to pay respect to BUddha and appeal for divine guidance, they could do so in this tower without leaving the Palace. There are more than 3,000 buildings of different kinds in the Palace, tiled in muted blues and green, in contrast to the imposing red and yellow structures of the Forbidden City.

Roughly two thirds of the park's area is covered by waters of Kunming Lake, which begins at the southern foot of Longevity Hill. There are three islands on the lake, and each features its own halls, pavilions, and bridges--including the famous Seventeen-Arch Bridge at the southern tip of the lake.

Along the northern bank of Kunming Lake by the southern slope of Longevity Hill runs what is believed to be the single longest and most famous such corridor in the world. The long corridor is one of the more splendid constructions in the Summer Palace; it is 728 meters long, divided by cross-beams into 273 sections, and is indeed open on both sides. The corridor is interrupted by four large double-eaved octagonal pavilions representing the four seasons. The Long Corridor is decorated with a vast array of paintings along its length. On the beams, crossbeams, and supporting pillars of the corridor are more than 8,000 paintings, the subject of which include landscapes, birds, and flowers, as well as human figures and battle scenes based on folk stories, legends, fairy tales and classical novels. The nature paintings are based on the famous scenic beauty of West Lake in Hangzhou. These were executed by court painters who had accompanied Emperor Qianlong on his six trips to the south of the yangtzu River.