Written by Mandy Hung
First built in 1750, the Summer Palace was largely destroyed in the war in 1860. It was subsequently restored on its original foundations in 1886 to it’s previous splendor.
A former imperial palace, the Summer Palace is now a park showcasing Chinese landscape garden designs and has been a UNESCO world heritage site since 1998.
Although we were able to witness first hand the Kunming Lake and view the 17-arch bridge, I can’t help but feel that I wanted to spend more time at this landmark to tour more of the man-made features, such as pavilions, halls, palaces, temples, and bridges to enjoy more of the classic Chinese style architecture and to frolic more among the natural landscapes the park has to offer. From our short encounter, I was able to appreciate the thought and work it must have taken to create such a large man-made park. There were many intricacies in the designs; for example all the wooden planks of the ceiling in a corridor were painted and decorated in patterns.
We experienced exceptionally hot/humid weather during the visit which made our stay a little uncomfortable. Also, there seemed to be large crowds at every turn which made it difficult to take unobstructed pictures, but most of us did manage to snap some quick photographs to admire at our leisure later on. My advice from this experience is to heed our tour guide Cherry’s tip, come in the spring or autumn when the weather is more tolerable and to allocate more time to explore the park. It can be a day trip in and of itself as there are many activities to do (ie. paddle boat on Lake Kunming – this looked fun! Or, take a hike up the hill to visit the different temples on it – this looked like it would have an amazing view overlooking Lake Kunming). I would try to avoid the crowds as it takes away from the experience of Summer Palace, but at the same time there seemed to be large crowds at every turn. Perhaps if one ventured deeper into the park, the crowds would thin out.
Overall, Summer Palace is a must see sight in Beijing! I’m glad we were able to drop by and enjoy the park, even if only for a short while.