Beijing Summer Palace, a walk through Chinese majesty

One of my favorite spots in Beijing was the Summer Palace (Yíhé Yuán, 颐和园), former royal residence surrounded by a breathtaking landscape mainly constituted by the Kunming Lake and the Longevity Hill.

Tower of Buddhist Incense from the boat we took to get to the Summer Palace

After visiting the Forbidden City, I thought I had seen the major royal remains of old China, but this palace situated on Beijing’s northwestern side really impressed me.

This was the kind of “dragon boat” we took to get to the Summer Palace

Of course, its name evokes the fact that former Emperors and their entourage liked to indulge here during the hottest months of the year, but the Summer Palace’s original purpose, when it was started in 1750, was being a luxurious royal garden. It was destroyed by a fire during the Anglo-French occupation, re-built in 1888 and finally open to the public in 1924.

The Gate of Dispelling Clouds in the Summer Palace, just a small idea of how many people were there

Today it’s the largest and best-preserved royal park in China, so it’s heaven for those who want to explore the Chinese gardening style that widely employs rocks in their natural shape.

It’s while visiting the Summer Palace that our guide told us that ancient Chinese culture considers stones a gift from Nature.

Pavilion in the Summer Palace

Needless to say, I did try to picture myself walking along the peaceful and quiet corridors, enjoying the breeze coming from the lake, imagining some tiny, skinny, silk-clad women swan around finely decorated pavilions and halls, but I couldn’t manage to.

In Beijing, in August, there is absolutely no lake breeze, and none of the royal gardens, residences, or pavilions are peaceful and quiet, but simply crammed with tourists, both foreigners and Chinese.

However, I must admit, I loved it.

On my way climbing up to the Tower of Buddhist Incense

After the due explanation, our guide gave us 30 minutes of free time to explore the Summer Palace by ourselves and a hint on how we would enjoy spending it: “If you want you can climb your way up to the Tower of Buddhist Incense, it’s very beautiful and from the top, you will have a stunning view. But I wait for you here.”

“Why not”, I thought, “I’m not going to let a couple of stairs scare me off such an occasion.” This is how I spent my 30 minutes of relaxation, sweating like never before while reaching the Tower, and taking pictures of the gorgeous panorama that step by step unfolded before my eyes.

Roof tile, in typical Chinese style even the smallest detail has been taken care of

My guide was right, the buildings are absolutely beautiful, even the smallest detail was looked after, the view on the lake was stunning and once on top I did enjoy stopping to admire it, and starting breathing again before undertaking the descent towards the real world.

The view on Kunming Lake and the Summer Palace from the Tower of Buddhist Incense

22 thoughts on “Beijing Summer Palace, a walk through Chinese majesty”

  1. Quels magnifiques beaux moments! J’aisurtout un très beau souvenir de la promenade sur la lac! une vraie merveille de la nature!

  2. What a beautiful experience! The Chinese always builds such beautiful things; I especially love that dragon boat. Its too bad that you didn’t get to experience the place as it used to be as I imagine jam packed tourists takes away from the serenity of the place. But still – impressive.

    • I stayed all afternoon, it was absolutely beautiful, the park and gardens are huge, exploring the pavilions, residences and the Buddhist tower was really nice, but to be honest if I have to go back I’ll avoid August. Winter in Beijing is pretty cold, but August is way too hot to fully enjoy outdoor activities.


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