Introdution of Summer Palace
The Summer Palace, is a vast ensemble of lakes, gardens and palaces in Beijing, China. It serves as a popular tourist destination and recreational park. Mainly dominated by Longevity Hill and Kunming Lake, it covers an expanse of 2.9 square kilometres (1.1 sq mi), three-quarters of which is water.
Longevity Hill is about 60 metres (200 feet) high and has many buildings positioned in sequence. The front hill is rich with splendid halls and pavilions, while the back hill, in sharp contrast, is quiet with natural beauty. The central Kunming Lake, covering 2.2 square kilometres (540 acres), was entirely man-made and the excavated soil was used to build Longevity Hill.
In December 1998, UNESCO included the Summer Palace on its World Heritage List. It declared 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".
The origins of the Summer Palace date back to the Jurchen-led Jin dynasty in 1153, when the fourth ruler, Wanyan Liang (r. 1150–1161), moved the Jin capital from Huining Prefecture (in present-day Acheng District, Harbin, Heilongjiang) to Yanjing (present-day Beijing). He ordered the construction of a palace in the Fragrant Hills and Jade Spring Hill in the northwest of Beijing.
Around 1271, after the Yuan dynasty established its capital in Khanbaliq (present-day Beijing), the engineer Guo Shoujing initiated a waterworks project to direct the water from Shenshan Spring in Baifu Village, Changping into the Western Lake (西湖), which would later become Kunming Lake. Guo's aim was to create a water reservoir that would ensure a stable water supply for the palace.
In 1494, the Hongzhi Emperor (r. 1487–1505) of the Ming dynasty had a Yuanjing Temple built for his wet nurse, Lady Luo, in front of Jar Hill, which was later renamed Longevity Hill. The temple fell into disrepair over the years and was abandoned, and the area around the hill became lush with vegetation. The Zhengde Emperor (r. 1505–21), who succeeded the Hongzhi Emperor, built a palace on the banks of the Western Lake and turned the area into an imperial garden. He renamed Jar Hill, "Golden Hill" and named the lake "Golden Sea". Both the Zhengde Emperor and the Wanli Emperor (r. 1572–1620) enjoyed taking boat rides on the lake. During the reign of the Tianqi Emperor (r. 1620–27), the court eunuch Wei Zhongxian took the imperial garden as his personal property.
In the early Qing dynasty, Jar Hill served as the site for horse stables in the imperial palace. Eunuchs who committed offences were sent there to weed and cut grass.
In the beginning of the reign of the Qianlong Emperor (r. 1735-1796), many imperial gardens were built in the area around present-day Beijing's Haidian District and accordingly, water consumption increased tremendously. At the time, much of the water stored in the Western Lake came from the freshwater spring on Jade Spring Hill, while a fraction came from the Wanquan River (萬泉河). Any disruption of the water flow from Jade Spring Hill would affect the capital's water transport and water supply systems.
Around 1749, the Qianlong Emperor decided to build a palace in the vicinity of Jar Hill and the Western Lake to celebrate the 60th birthday of his mother, Empress Dowager Chongqing. In the name of improving the capital's waterworks system, he ordered the Western Lake to be expanded further west to create two more lakes, Gaoshui Lake and Yangshui Lake. The three lakes served not only as a reservoir for the imperial gardens, but also a source of water for the surrounding agricultural areas. The Qianlong Emperor collectively named the three lakes "Kunming Lake" after the Kunming Pool (昆明池) constructed by Emperor Wu (r. 141–187 BCE) in the Han dynasty for the training of his navy. The earth excavated from the expansion of Kunming Lake was used to enlarge Jar Hill, which was renamed "Longevity Hill". The Summer Palace, whose construction was completed in 1764 at a cost of over 4.8 million silver taels,was first named "Qingyiyuan".
In 1912, following the abdication of Puyi, the Last Emperor, the Summer Palace became the private property of the former imperial family of the Qing Empire. Two years later, the Summer Palace was opened to the public and entry tickets were sold. In 1924, after Puyi was expelled from the Forbidden City by the warlord Feng Yuxiang, the Beijing municipal government took charge of administrating the Summer Palace and turned it into a public park.
After 1949, the Summer Palace briefly housed the Central Party School of the Communist Party of China. Many of Mao Zedong's friends and key figures in the Communist Party, such as Liu Yazi and Jiang Qing, also lived there. Since 1953, many major restoration and renovation works have been done on the Summer Palace, which is now open to the public as a tourist attraction and park.
In November 1998, the Summer Palace was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Towards the end of 2006, the Chinese government also started distributing commemorative coins to celebrate the Summer Palace as a cultural relic of the world.
Eastern Palace Gate: The main entrance to the Summer Palace. The two bronze lions on either side of the gate are preserved from the Qianlong Emperor's time while the Cloud Dragon Steps in front of the gate are relics from the Old Summer Palace. The three Chinese characters "Yiheyuan" on the sign above the gate were written by the Guangxu Emperor.
Hall of Benevolence and Longevity: The hall where court sessions were held. It was called "Hall of Good Governance" in the Qianlong Emperor's time but was given its present-day name by the Guangxu Emperor. The well north of the hall is called "Year-Prolonging Well" while the rockery behind the hall was designed to imitate the Lion Grove Garden in Suzhou. The stalactites are relics from the Old Summer Palace.
Hall of Jade Billows: Located west of the Hall of Benevolence and Longevity. It was the living quarters of the Qing emperors. The Guangxu Emperor was once confined here by Empress Dowager Cixi.
Dehe Garden: Houses the three-storey Great Opera Hall, where opera performances were staged.
Long Corridor: Stretches from the Hall of Joy and Longevity in the east to Shizhang Pavilion in the west. The entire corridor is 728 metres long and contains artistic decorations, including paintings of famous places in China, and scenes from Chinese mythology and folktales, The Twenty-four Filial Exemplars and the Four Great Classical Novels.
Hall of Dispelling Clouds: Situated on the centre of the central axis of Longevity Hill. Originally the Great Temple of Gratitude and Longevity , it was renovated in 1892 and became a place for Empress Dowager Cixi to receive guests, host grand ceremonies, and celebrate her birthday.
Suzhou Street: In 1762, after returning from touring the Jiangnan region, the Qianlong Emperor ordered the construction of a shopping street resembling Shantang Street in Suzhou. The street was destroyed by the British and French in 1860 and was only restored in 1988.
Garden of Harmonious Pleasures: Located in the northeast corner of the Summer Palace. In 1751, when the Qianlong Emperor toured the Jiangnan region, he was so impressed with Jichang Garden in Wuxi that he ordered a Huishan Garden to be built in the Summer Palace and modelled after Jichang Garden. Huishan Garden was renamed "Xiequ Garden" in 1811.
Four Great Regions: Located on the centre of the central axis of the back hill. It was designed to resemble the Samye Monastery in Tibet, and houses statues of Bhaisajyaguru, the Buddha and Amitābha. It was destroyed by the British and French in 1860 but was restored later.
Flower Pavilion and Glass Tower: Located east of the back hill. It was destroyed by the British and French in 1860; only the Glass Tower remains. During the Cultural Revolution, the Buddhist statue at the bottom of the tower was disfigured by the Red Guards.
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