Beijing, China: The Summer That Never Came
Originally named The Garden of Clear Ripples, the Summer Palace, or Yihe Yuan, in Beijing, China was built in 1750 and was used as a pleasure garden for emperors and empresses.
(This page contains affiliate links. That means if you click on them and purchase something, I will get a percentage of the transaction to keep up this blog and maybe if there’s a little extra to buy a bottle of red wine to go with dinner. Thanks for the support!)
The majority of the site is the massive Kunming Lake that covers three-fourths of the area. To get a spectacular view of the water that ripples and the rest of the site from high above, tourists hike up the many steps of Longevity Hill enjoying the halls and pavilions on the way up. Though, if you visit in the middle of winter like we did, you will see the lake covered in ice and sparkling under the sun from high above. In contrast, if you walk down the back side of the hill you are met with the simple beauty of the natural garden surroundings.
We were met with a few more people at this site than we’d seen at the Great Wall or even in the Forbidden City but still for the most part we had the corridors that wound this way and that to ourselves. Though visiting a place in the middle of winter has many downsides, mostly the fear of frostbite and toes frozen to boots, there are some upsides including empty or near empty tourist sites. Who doesn’t like wandering through old palaces alone daydreaming of a time when people actually lived in them and wondering what it was like?
Beijing, China has some amazing places to stay. Check out the Legendale Hotel Wangfujing Beijing, Raffles Beijing Hotel or the Jianguo Garden Hotel for a picturesque stay in the city.
Built in 1750, the palace was destroyed in 1880 and plans to rebuild began in 1886 with misappropriated funds. The Empress Dowager Cixi took the money designated for the Chinese navy in order to reconstruct and enlarge the palace complex. Unfortunately, just six years later China was thrust into the First Sino-Japanese War which they lost and no doubt those funds would have been helpful had they been used appropriately. In 1894, the empress dowager had large-scale plans drawn up to celebrate her 60th birthday but due to the war she was forced to cancel her elaborate schemes making it clear that the 3 million taels of silver she’d used had been for naught.
The names of the buildings seem to have some dreamy ideas behind them with titles such as the Cloud-Dispelling Hall, the Sea of Wisdom Temple and the Hall of Happiness and Longevity to name just a few. They live up to their name in beauty and intricate detail and one can only hope that just a visit to them will lead to wisdom, happiness and longevity.
Having now visited three sites that were massive and lived up to the enormity of the country they resided in, we were ready to hit the streets and celebrate the Lunar New Year Chinese style. Though we had no idea what that entailed, we were ready for anything and headed back to our hotel to get ready.
The Summer Palace
Subway: Beigongmen Station on line 4, exit D. Walk to the west and enter the palace from the north gate. OR Bagou Station on line 10, get a taxi from any gate and go to the New Palace Gate or walk the 1.5 km to the palace.
Bus: Buses to the east gate of the palace (颐和园正门, 东宫门): 330、331、332、346、394、712、718、726、732、737、801、808、817、826; Buses to the north gate of the palace (北宫门): 303、330、331、346、375、384、393、634、716、718、737、801、808、817、834、Express 5; Buses to the south gate of the palace (新建宫门): 374、437、481、952、704、992
Taxi: from the center of Beijing a taxi would take about 50 minutes
Low Season (November ~ March):
Entrance ticket (not good for paid attractions inside of the complex): 20yuan
Through ticket (includes admission to some paid attractions inside): 50yuan
High Season (April ~ October):
Entrance ticket (not good for paid attractions inside of the complex): 30yuan
Through ticket (includes admission to some paid attractions inside): 60yuan
Hours: April 1 ~ October 31: 6:30AM ~ 8:00pm; November 1 ~ March 31: 7:00AM ~ 7:00PM
Last tickets sold two hours prior to closing.