Jul 6, 2015

Summer Palace Yiheyuan in Beijing

Getting to Yiheyuan or the Summer Palace was not as hard as I imagined. Before heading to Beijing I was fretting over how I was going to get to the Summer Palace since I was told it was on the outskirts of Beijing...but all that worry was just for naught. There was a direct subway there and it was just so convenient getting off the subway Line 4 onto Beigongmen station and walking a very short distant - about 5 minutes from the station...

It cost us RMB60 per person to enter the Summer Palace....but well worth every yuan... it was just majestic and gorgeous... though we did not stay too long since my daughter and I had only 5 days there in Beijing and we were trying to cram every place we wanted to go into these few days...

The Summer Palace was originally known as Qingyi Yuan or the Garden of Clear Ripples, was first built back in 1750.It was given the name the Garden of Clear Ripples, and was a lakeside oasis where the imperial court could escape the dust and heat of the Forbidden City during the hot sweltering summer, after all they did not have air conditioning last time... remember??? It was then razed to the ground by the Anglo-French Allied Forces in 1860. The Qing Dynasty government then rebuild it in 1886 with funds that it had taken from the Imperial Navy and other sources. Then it was renamed two years later as Yihe Yuan or the Garden of Health and Harmony, it was then the summer resort for the Empress Dowager Cixi. One of her grand ideas was building a marble boat that until this very day sits at the edge of the lake.

Suzhou Jie (Suzhou Street) was originally known as  Merchants Street, it was built in the style of South China towns during Emperor Qianlong’s reign (1736-1795) as a street where the emperors , empresses and concubines could pretend to go shopping as ordinary people. 

 The 300-meter street is built over water with shops and stands on the bank of the river. Over than 60 businesses, including a teahouse, a restaurant, a pharmacy, a bank, a hat store, a jewelry store and a grocery store, operate on the river bank, a sample of how South China towns in the 18th century were like.

I was there at the Summer Palace at 8am and Suzhou Street was not opened for business yet....and I did not want to waste too much time and just took these photos and moved on

Sida Buzhou (Four Great Regions) was built during Emperor Qianlong’s reign (1736-1795),  consisting of a group of Buddhist structures was built in accordance with the Tibetan style of architecture. They were called the Jambudvipa, Uttarakara, Purvavidewa, and Aparagoahiya. It was then burned down in 1860 by the Anglo-French Allied Forces, they were rebuilt to the original design in 1980.

Pretty imperial roof guardians...

Some lovely rooftop detail seen on our hike up part of the Longevity Hill..

The four buildings surrounding the central hall is to symbolize the four regions. The one in the south was rebuilt and changed to become the temple gate when Emperor Guangxu reconstructed the Summer Palace. They have different appearances and each Buddhist building has two smaller rectangular or hexagonal structures nearby together with a lama pagoda. 

The eight structures are considered the Eight Lesser Regions and four pagodas in red, white, black and green colors symbolize the ‘four wisdoms’ in sutra. There are two altars, known as the Sun Altar and the Moon Altar, located in the centre of the ‘four regions’ and ‘eight lesser regions’, so that the Buddha is surrounded by the moon and the sun.

Long Corridor (Chang Lang) was built in the 15th year of Emperor Qianlong’s reign (1750) and then rebuilt again in the 12th year of Emperor Guangxu’s reign (1886) because the Anglo-French Allied Forces burned it down in 1860. 

It begins from the Inviting the Moon Gate in the east and ends at Shizhang Pavilion in the west, covering a distance of 728 meters with its 273 sections. Of all the corridors in Chinese classical gardens, the Long Corridor is the longest. On the beams are more than 8,000 colorful paintings depicting stories from Chinese classical novels, folk tales, landscapes as well as flora and fauna. Very fascinating.....

There are four pavilions and double eaves, built intermittently along the corridor. With the Palace of Dispelling Clouds as the center, the Long Corridor stretches symmetrically to the east and the west along the foot of the hill and the water bank, linking all the structures scattered along the Longevity Hill side into a whole.

I cannot help admiring the paintings under each eave... there were all different.. and there

were thousands of paintings to admire...

The Tower of Buddhist Incense was built by Emperor Qianlong and burned down by the Anglo-French Allied Forces in 1860, it was then rebuilt in its original style during Emperor Guangxu’s reign (1875-1908). The octahedral tower has three stories with four-layered eaves, standing a proud 36.44 meters high. Standing tall on a 20 meter-high stone foundation, it is the centerpiece of the the beautiful Summer Palace landscape. I did not go inside the temple but  it is said a statue of the thousand-handed Guanshiyin Buddha, cast in bronze and gilded with gold, stands inside the tower. 

The Hall of Dispelling Clouds, built on a stone terrace with staircases on three sides, is surrounded by white stone balustrades. 

Built in 1750 and rebuilt again in 1890,the Hall of Dispelling Clouds was the place for Empress Dowager Cixi's birthday celebrations on the 15th of the tenth lunar month each year. On that auspicious day all her high-ranking officials would stand outside the archway and kowtow to her to pay their respects. 

The hall was lavishly furnished even the ceiling is just amazing with the dragon tiles..., but Empress Dowager Cixi only used it once a year. The arts and crafts on display were gifts from the ministers for her 70th birthday. The two annex halls are also warehouses for the gifts.

The first layer of courtyard is between the Gate of Dispelling Gate and the Second Palace Gate, and there is a stone arch bridge over the rectangular pool in the center of the courtyard. 

The Hall of Dispelling Clouds is located at the second courtyard, as the main hall of the building complex. It is built on a raised terrace with marble balusters. It has a broad platform with steps in three directions. 

Behind the Hall of Dispelling Clouds is the Hall of Moral Glory which was once rebuilt on the basis of the Hall of Tahoden (Hall of Many Treasures) when there was still a temple. It was between the Hall of Dispelling Clouds and Tower of Buddhist Incense, and used as a wardrobe and resting when the emperor and empress prayed to Buddha.

The terrace in front of the palace is called the"Cinnabar Staircase."Bronze dragons, phoenixes, sacrificial vessels and large water vats are on display. 

Some of the paintings under the eaves which I really admire....along the Long Corridor on the way to the other side of the Summer Palace

The Marble Boat (Qingyanfang) on Kunming Lake is a (non-floating) stone structure built under Empress Cixi; it is considered an example of the diversion of resources to build the New Summer Palace--resources diverted from the Chinese Navy, which was subsequently defeated by the Japanese in 1895.

Some stone qilins in one of the concubines quarters, now turned into a tea house...

All in all, the Summer Palace is a place you really have to visit if and when you are in Beijing. To miss out on a visit there would be a crying shame....So don't forget to check it out when you are there in lovely Beijing...

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