A day at the lake in Beijing


In 2002, Alex and I went to China to bring home our new daughter/sister. While waiting for all the paperwork to be finalised, we passed the time, about a week all in all, having a closer look at Beijing and surrounds. Luckily Cat was – and still is – an easy-going child. On the other hand, she was – and still is – none too keen on temperatures above 30. Beijing in July is truly stifling, so a day out was just the thing.

When Chinese royalty wanted to get away from the oppressive summer heat of the city, the Summer Palace was their sanctuary. Way out in the countryside.

As Beijing, and not least Beijing’s traffic, has expanded, this is no longer the countryside, but rather an area between Beijing’s fourth and fifth ring road. Even so, it felt much more pleasant than the city centre.

Despite the name, the Summer Palace isn’t just a palace, but also temples, halls, bridges, pavilions and vast landscaped gardens. As holiday homes go, this one is quite substantial, covering 3 sq km around the pretty Kunming Lake and Longevity Hill.

Already in the 1100s, when Emperor Hailing Wang of the Jin Dynasty moved his capital to Yanjing (present-day Beijing), he had a palace built on Longevity Hill. Yet the Summer Palace as we know it today was built as late as 1750, only to be destroyed by warfare. Luckily for us, the charismatic Dowager Empress Cixi, who had ruled on behalf of her 6-year-old son, retired to the Summer Palace in 1888.

Although, ‘retire’ might not be the right word. She continued to be head of the royal household and was a powerful woman indeed. In fact, she nabbed 3 million taels of silver from the navy (which, if I’ve calculated correctly, should be about 44 million USD today) deciding the money was better spent on fixing up her retirement home. If she hadn’t, we might not be walking in these magnificent gardens today. On the other hand, in 1894, China was defeated in the first Sino-Japanese War.


A highlight at the Summer Palace is this nearly 800-metre-long, beautifully decorated walkway, appropriately named Cháng Láng, the Long Corridor. I can just picture Cixi wandering with her entourage along this walkway, scheming. However, my favourite structure here at the Summer Palace is the Marble Boat, a pavilion by the western end of Cháng Láng and one of Cixi’s many restoration projects.

Marble Boat at the Imperial Summer Palace, Beijing

unesco logo

The Summer Palace, an Imperial garden in Beijing is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Here are more UNESCO World Heritage sites we have visited around the world.


17 Responses to “A day at the lake in Beijing”

  1. Freya 4 March 2014 1518 #

    beautiful photos, beautiful memories. That walkway looks absolutely stunning.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 24 March 2014 1457 #

      Beautiful memories, indeed 🙂

  2. Mette 5 March 2014 1902 #

    Lovely memories and interesting story about one of the ‘natural’ attractions of Beijing.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 24 March 2014 1458 #


  3. Natasha von Geldern 5 March 2014 2248 #

    What a lovely memory of an important time in the life of your family. The marble boat is a wonderful folly!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 24 March 2014 1458 #

      Something for the backyard 🙂

  4. Michael Lynch 6 March 2014 0028 #

    It may have been stifling hot but, what wonderful memories !

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 24 March 2014 1459 #


  5. Muza-chan 6 March 2014 0756 #

    Very beautiful pavilion…

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 24 March 2014 1459 #

      Beautiful and unusual…

  6. Madagascar vacations 6 March 2014 1427 #

    Beinjing holds so much historical and cultural heritage! so nice!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 24 March 2014 1500 #

      It’s a fascinating city.

  7. Mary @ Green Global Travel 11 March 2014 0341 #

    Everything looks so beautiful! I’m glad you were able to spend some time there. Great memories. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 24 March 2014 1500 #

      Thanks for stopping by.

  8. Abby 19 March 2014 0717 #

    What a wonderful memory!! And how beautiful… I’ve never been to that part of China.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 24 March 2014 1501 #

      The Summer Palace is very much worth a visit when you’re in Beijing.

  9. Anirudh 27 April 2016 2105 #

    Nice to read about Summer Palace of Beijing. There is a Summer Palace of a popular King of Mysore in India as well (Mysore Palace).

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