A day at the lake in Beijing

2014-10-25T10:42:38+00:003 March 2014|Asia with kids, China, UNESCO World Heritage|

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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.

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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

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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.

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17 Comments

  1. Freya 4 March 2014 at 1518 - Reply

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

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 24 March 2014 at 1457 - Reply

      Beautiful memories, indeed 🙂

  2. Mette 5 March 2014 at 1902 - Reply

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

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 24 March 2014 at 1458 - Reply

      Thanks.

  3. Natasha von Geldern 5 March 2014 at 2248 - Reply

    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 at 1458 - Reply

      Something for the backyard 🙂

  4. Michael Lynch 6 March 2014 at 0028 - Reply

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

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 24 March 2014 at 1459 - Reply

      🙂

  5. Muza-chan 6 March 2014 at 0756 - Reply

    Very beautiful pavilion…

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 24 March 2014 at 1459 - Reply

      Beautiful and unusual…

  6. Madagascar vacations 6 March 2014 at 1427 - Reply

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

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 24 March 2014 at 1500 - Reply

      It’s a fascinating city.

  7. Mary @ Green Global Travel 11 March 2014 at 0341 - Reply

    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 at 1500 - Reply

      Thanks for stopping by.

  8. Abby 19 March 2014 at 0717 - Reply

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

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 24 March 2014 at 1501 - Reply

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

  9. Anirudh 27 April 2016 at 2105 - Reply

    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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