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Thursday, February 21, 2013

Beijing - Summer Palace

Date of visit: 4th December 2006

Breathtaking scenery by the frozen lake in Summer Palace

It was a productive trip for our first day in Beijing, as we managed to cover 4 places thus far, Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City, Jingshan Park and Hutong. Before proceeding to Hutong and later to the Summer Palace, we had our lunch. As we were the only family who had a "concern" on Halal food, we merely asked the restaurant to provide us a steam rice, vegetables and omelette's. We had brought along "Serunding" and "fried sambal bilis", to savour the food even better. It was not bad after all. The restaurant owner served us 2 kinds of vegetable dishes, 1 fried 1 soup.

Syahirah and Mao Zedong statue at National Museum

After a visit to Hutong, we made a quick stopped at National Stadium to see the China's athletic had their preparation and practicing for Olympic 2008. We were briefed about the past achievement of China athletics in Olympic and worldwide tournament. When we reached Summer Palace, it was just nice to have our pictures taken the lake with sunset.



According to Wikipedia source, the Summer Palace, situated in the Haidian District, northwest of central Beijing, is said to be the best preserved imperial garden in the world, and the largest of its kind still in existence in modern China. It’s hardly surprising that, during the hot Beijing summers, the Imperial Family preferred the beautiful gardens and airy pavilions of the Summer Palace to the walled-in Forbidden City. Dowager Empress Cixi (I read her biography book) took up a permanent residence here for a time, giving rise to some wonderful tales of extravagance and excess.



Summer is the best time to visit Summer Palace. The lake would not be frozen and you can even get to cruise in the palace beautiful lakes if it's not winter. Our family was fine without the cruise as we had a rather hectic tour itinerary to cover during our holidays.


It's a short drive, about 15 km from central Beijing. Once you reached this place, you would agree if I said that it's a tales exactly how it was pictured in the Chinese movies and dramas. The landscaped gardens, temples and pavilions were designed to balance a man made work,  harmonies with nature, which is pleasing the eye. The park spreads across the low hills, including Longevity Hill, around Kunming Lake, and was divided into 3 main zones (administration, living, and relaxation). The wonderful buildings and courtyards wander beside the lake, along the waterways and climb the low slopes of the hillside. The arched bridges, pretty promenades, decorated ‘corridors’ and breezeways all lead visitors through ever-changing views and scenery. Here the marvelous marble boat, are an old theatre, an island reached by small wooden boat, and in the distance the hills, with a temple on the hillside, framed by dark trees. It was listed on the World Heritage List by the UNESCO in 1998.


UNESCO has this to say of the Summer Palace: "…a masterpiece of Chinese landscape garden design. The natural landscape of hills and open water is combined with artificial features such as pavilions, halls, palaces, temples and bridges to form a harmonious ensemble of outstanding aesthetic value". Selection criteria as World Heritage List are:-
  1. It 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. It epitomizes the philosophy and practice of Chinese garden design, which played a key role in the development of this cultural form throughout the East; and
  3. The imperial Chinese garden, illustrated by the Summer Palace, is a potent symbol of one of the major world civilizations


Many of the buildings have been meticulously restored, and maintenance and restoration activities are ongoing. The current project has been completed by the end of 2010, and it’s open to the public now. Thus, we had no chance the explore all of the buildings at the time of visit. Most people spend their time at least half a day here, there’s so much to see and enjoy in the gardens, buildings and waterways, involve plenty of walking. During summer, visitor can take a 10 minute boat-ride to see an island temple, sit and watch a traditional Chinese performance in the restored theatre (1 of the 3 great traditional theatres in China), or explore the recreated traditional shops by the river, (the story goes that former Emperors, or their concubines, used to enjoy 'pretend-shopping'), enjoy the different buildings and courtyards, or just take in the views from one of the many vantage points.


The park falls naturally into several sections, each with its own distinct character. The palace buildings where Dowager Empress Cixi and Emperor Guangxu used to stay, and also to conduct the business of government, are in the Court area, near the East Palace Gate, include a number of Halls, courtyards and displays. From here the paths run beside the lake (which takes up about 75% of the park), under shady trees or along the roofed breezeway known as the ‘Long Corridor’, with its magnificently painted ceilings. Bridges, island, boats, willows, lotus and attractive landscaping make this a pleasant place to soak up the atmosphere and take in the longer views.


Beside the lakeside paths the land rises to Longevity Hill, dotted with some superb Halls and temples and wonderfully decorated Gates. Those who had stamina can climb the hill to the Buddhist Temple overlooking the entire area. The waterside path continues across bridges, past boathouses and the amazing Marble Boat, to an area of tranquil gardens, hillocks and winding paths. In this area the ‘Suzhou Market Street’ also recreates traditional riverside shops, many of which can only be reached by boat. The Summer Palace is one of the beautiful spots in Beijing. Though not all of their buildings are open to the public, but the one that Government allowed visitors to visit suffice to meet the visitor's expectation.


The Garden of Virtue and Harmony was built as a theater for the Empress Dowager. Its construction began in the 17th year of Emperor Guangxu's reign (1891) and lasted for 5 years. The 3 storey theater stage is the biggest and best-preserved wooden stage of delicate design and magnificent structure, and is therefore of much scientific and artistic value. Famous Beijing Opera actors of the Qing Dynasty such as Yang Xiaolou and Tan Xinpei would come here to perform for the Empress Dowager and the stage was regarded as the "Cradle of Beijing Opera". The Empress Dowager also granted special permission for some of the princes, dukes and cabinet ministers to watch Beijing opera here. Visitors can imagine the scene when the Empress Dowager watched opera in this garden. A large number of precious articles used by emperors and empresses, as well as some of the gifts presented to the Qing court by foreign states, are on display here.


After we finished with the exploration in Summer Palace, we made a quick stop at the tea house. Our exhausted day ended with a remarkable Acrobatic show provided for in our itinerary by the tour agent followed by diner.


Source of reference: Wikipedia and other related website/
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