My dear travelers and fans of unusual trips, welcome to the new series of long-awaited travelogues from China on the Mr.M blog. The month of May will be dedicated to one of the cradles of human civilization and a country with thousands of years of written history – China. At the very beginning of today’s travelogue, I would like to thank the Ministry of Tourism of the People’s Republic of China – Visit China and the leading Turkish airline Turkish Airlines for the kind invitation and hospitality. With their help, the travelogues and fashion stories that you will have the opportunity to read this May were created and I sincerely hope that you will enjoy them.
If by any chance you missed reading the previous travelogues or want to remind yourself of some interesting things, take the opportunity to visit the following links:
- Letters from China: Explore the Peal of the Far East with Turkish Airlines
- Letters from China: The Peninsula Beijing, explore the first luxury hotel in the heart of Beijing
- Letters from China: Tiananmen Square, let’s explore The Gate of Heavenly Peace together
- Letters from China: The Temple of Heaven, the Imperial Sacrificial Altar in the Heart of Beijing
Today we will explore together the complex complex of large ensemble of lakes, gardens and palaces in Beijing. It was an imperial garden in the Qing Dynasty.
The Summer Palace is a huge ensemble of lakes, gardens and palaces in Beijing. It was once a magnificent imperial garden in the Qing Dynasty. Inside are the famous Longevity Hill, Kunming Lake and the famous Seventeen Holes Bridge. This entire complex covers an area of almost 3 square kilometers, of which almost three quarters is surface water.
The Hill of Longevity is about 60 meters high and has many buildings arranged in a row. The front hill is rich in sumptuous halls and pavilions, while the back hill, in stark contrast, is silent with natural beauty.
Kunming Central Lake, which covers an area of 2.2 square kilometers, is completely man-made, and the excavated soil was used to build the Hill of Longevity. Inspired by the gardens of Southern China, the Summer Palace, there are over 3,000 different Chinese ancient buildings that house a collection of over 40,000 kinds of valuable historical relics from each dynasty.
In December 1998, UNESCO included the Summer Palace on its World Heritage List. The Summer Palace has been declared a masterpiece of Chinese garden landscape design. The natural landscape of hills and open water is combined with man-made elements such as pavilions, halls, palaces, temples and bridges to form a harmonious ensemble of exceptional aesthetic value. Especially in Chinese history, it is also the terminus of the Central Route of the South-North Water Transfer Project which has traveled 1,267 km from Danjiangkou Reservoir, Hubei, making it the main water supply of Beijing.
The origins of the Summer Palace date back to the Jin Dynasty led by Jurchen in 1153, when the fourth ruler, Wanyang Liang, moved the Jin capital from Huining Prefecture to Yanjing (present-day Beijing). He ordered the construction of a palace in the Fragrant Hills and Jade Spring Hill in northwest Beijing. Around 1271, after the Yuan Dynasty established its capital at Khanbalik (present-day Beijing), the engineer Guo Shoujing initiated a waterworks project to direct water from the Shenshan Spring (shén shān quán) to the village of Baifu (bái fú cūn), Changping to the western part – the lake, which will later become Kunming Lake.
Guo aimed to build a water tank that would ensure a stable water supply for the palace. Later in 1494, Emperor Hongzhi of the Ming Dynasty granted permission to build the Yuanjing Temple for his wet nurse, Lady Luo, in front of Yar Hill, which was later renamed Longevity Hill. The temple fell into disrepair and was abandoned over the years, and the area around the hill became lush with vegetation.
The Zhengde Emperor, who succeeded the Hongzhi Emperor, built a palace on the shore of the West Lake and turned the area into an imperial garden. He renamed Jar Hill “Golden Hill” and named the lake “Golden Sea”. Emperor Zhengde and Emperor Wanli enjoyed boating on the lake. During the reign of Emperor Tianqi, the court eunuch Wei Zhongqian took the imperial garden as his personal property.
In the early Qing Dynasty, Jar Hill served as a place for stables in the imperial palace. Eunuchs who committed offenses were sent there to weed and cut grass. At the beginning of Emperor Qianlong’s reign, many imperial gardens were built in the area around present-day Beijing’s Haidian District, and accordingly water consumption increased significantly. At that time, a large part of the water stored in the West Lake came from the fresh water spring at Jade Spring Hill, while a part came from the Wanquan River. Any disruption of the water flow from Jade Spring Hill would affect the water transportation and water supply system of the capital city. Around 1749, Emperor Qianlong decided to build a palace near Yar Hill and West Lake to celebrate the 60th birthday of his mother, Empress Chongqing.
In the name of improving the capital’s water system, he ordered the West 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 as a source of water for the surrounding agricultural areas. Emperor Qianlong collectively named the three lakes “Kunming Lake” after Kunming Basin, which was built by Emperor Wu in the Han Dynasty to train his navy. The earth excavated from the expansion of Kunming Lake was used to enlarge Yar Hill, which was renamed “Longevity Hill”. The Summer Palace, completed in 1764 at a cost of over 4.8 million silver taels, was first named “Kingiiiuan”.
The design of the Summer Palace is based on the legend from Chinese mythology about the three divine mountains in the East Sea, namely Penglai, Fangzhang and Jingzhou. The three islands in Kunming Lake – Nanhu Island, Tuancheng Island and Zaojiantang Island – were built to represent the three mountains, while the lake itself was based on the West Lake design in Hangzhou. In addition, many architectural features in the palace were also built to resemble or imitate various attractions around China. For example, Phoenix Pier represents Lake Tai; Jingming Tower resembled Yueyang Tower, Hunan Pavilion Wangchang resembled a yellow crane tower, shopping streets were designed to imitate those of Suzhou and Yangzhou.
The centerpiece of the Summer Palace was the “Great Temple of Gratitude and Longevity.” There was also a Long Corridor with a length of more than 700 meters, which was equipped with artistic decorations. Since the palace was not equipped with facilities for long-term stay and daily management of state affairs, Emperor Qianlong hardly lived there and only stayed there for a day each time he visited.
As the Qing Empire began to decline after the reign of the Daoguang Emperor, the Summer Palace gradually became more and more neglected and the architectural features on the three islands were ordered to be dismantled because the maintenance costs were too high. Later, in 1860, British and French troops looted the Summer Palace at the end of the Second Opium War, and on October 18, 1860, the British burned the nearby Old Summer Palace. The destruction of the palace was ordered by Lord Elgin, the British High Commissioner to China, and was undertaken in response to the torture and imprisonment of two British envoys, a Times journalist and their entourage.
The destruction of large parts of the Summer Palace continues to cause outrage in China. In the period between 1884–95. During the reign of the Guangxu Emperor, Empress Dowager Qiqi may have ordered up to 22 million silver taels, originally intended to upgrade the Qing navy, to be used for the reconstruction and expansion of the Summer Palace to celebrate her 60th birthday.
However, some other sources state that a maximum of six million taels were allocated, none of which came from the Navy’s capital budget, but only paid accrued bank interest. As funds were limited, construction work was concentrated on the buildings in front of Longevity Hill and the dam around Kunming Lake. The Summer Palace also received its current Chinese name, “Yiheyuan”, in 1888. In late 1900, towards the end of the Boxer Rebellion, the Summer Palace suffered damage again when the forces of the Eight-Nation Alliance destroyed the imperial gardens and confiscated many artifacts that were in the palace, luckily the palace was rebuilt two years later.
Later, during 1912, after the abdication of Puyi, the last emperor, the Summer Palace became the private property of the former Qing imperial family. Two years later, the Summer Palace was opened to the public and ticket sales officially began. A few years later, in 1924, after Puyi was banished from the Forbidden City by the warlord Feng Yuxiang, the Beijing Municipal Government took over the management of the Summer Palace and turned it into a public park.
In the middle of the 20th century, the Summer Palace briefly housed the Central Party School of the Chinese Communist Party. Many of Mao Zedong’s friends and key Communist Party figures, such as Liu Yazi and Jiang Qing, also lived there. Beginning in 1953, major works were carried out on the restoration and renovation of the Summer Palace, which is now open to the public as a tourist attraction and park. In November 1998, the Summer Palace was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. In late 2006, the Chinese government also began issuing commemorative coins to celebrate the Summer Palace as a world cultural relic.
In short, the entire Summer Palace is centered around Longevity Hill and Kunming Lake, with water covering about three-quarters of the area. Most of the important buildings were built along the north-south axis of the Hill of Longevity, which is divided into the front and back hills. There are three small islands in Kunming Lake: Nanhu Island, Zaojiantang Island and Zhijingge Island. The West Dam of Kunming Lake divides the lake into two parts. The East Dam was built during the reign of the Guangxu Emperor. The attractions in the Summer Palace can be divided into six different parts or scenic areas: the Halls, the Hill of Longevity, Kunming Lake, the Agricultural and Weaving Scenic Area, the Long Corridor, and the Central Axis Area. The Summer Palace is among the most visited destinations in China, ranking in the top five and attracting around 10 million tourists a year.
The Great Wall of China is a series of fortifications that were built across the historical northern borders and ancient Chinese states. Imperial China built this series of fortifications as a form of protection against various nomadic groups from the Eurasian steppe. Several walls were built as early as the 7th century BC with selective sections later joined by Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China. Today, relatively little remains of the Qin Wall. Later, many successive dynasties built and maintained multiple sections of boundary walls. The most famous parts of the wall were built by the Ming dynasty. Besides defense, other purposes of the Great Wall included border control, enabling the imposition of duties on goods transported along the Silk Road, regulating or encouraging trade, and controlling immigration and emigration.
Furthermore, the defensive features of the Great Wall were enhanced by the construction of watchtowers, military barracks, garrison stations, signaling capabilities through smoke or fire, as well as the fact that the path of the Great Wall also served as a transport corridor. The border walls built by different dynasties have multiple layers. Together, they stretch from Liaodong in the east to Lop Lake in the west, from the present-day Sino-Russian border in the north to the Tao (Taohe) River in the south, along an arc that roughly outlines the edge of the Mongolian steppe; covers a total of 21,200 kilometers. Today, the defensive system of the Great Wall is widely recognized as one of the most impressive architectural feats in history.
The collection of fortifications known as the Great Wall of China has historically had a number of different names in Chinese and English. In Chinese history, the term “Long Wall(s)” (Changcheng) appears in Sima Qian’s Records of the Grand Historian, where it refers to the separate great walls built between and north of the Warring States and to the more unified construction of the First Emperor. The Chinese character chéng, meaning city or fortress, is a phono-semantic combination of the “earth” radical tǔ and the phonetic chéng, whose Old Chinese pronunciation is reconstructed as *deŋ. It originally referred to the ramparts that surrounded traditional Chinese cities and was used as an extension of these walls around their states; today, however, it is much more commonly the Chinese word for “city”.
The longer Chinese name “Ten Thousand Mile Wall” comes from Sima Qian’s description in the Records, although he did not refer to the walls as such. The 493 Song Book quotes the border general Tan Daoji as referring to the “10,000-mile long wall”, which is closer to the modern name, but otherwise the name rarely appears in pre-modern times. The traditional Chinese mile was an often irregular distance intended to indicate the length of a standard village and varied according to terrain, but was usually standardized at distances around a third of an English mile. However, this use of the word “ten thousand” is figurative in a similar way to the Greek and English countless and simply means “countless” or “immeasurable.”
Because of the wall’s association with the alleged tyranny of the First Emperor, post-Qin Chinese dynasties usually avoided referring to their additions to the wall as the “Long Wall”. Instead, different terms were used in medieval records. Poetic and informal names for the wall included “Purple Border” and “Earth Dragon”. It was only during the Qing period that “Long Wall” became a catch-all term for many border walls regardless of their location or dynastic origin, equivalent to the English “Great Wall”. Sections of the wall in the southern Gobi Desert and Mongolian steppe are sometimes referred to as “Genghis Khan’s Wall”, although Genghis Khan himself did not build any walls or permanent defensive lines.
In the following travelogues, you will learn more about the famous Hutongs… I am sure that this will be one of the most interesting adventures that you have had the opportunity to see so far on the Mr.M blog and will not leave you indifferent.
My dear adventurers, we have come to the end of this fifth special travelogue in the series of travelogues about distant China where we had the opportunity to enjoy the beauty of this unusual country in the heart of East Asia. Today’s travelogue would not be possible without the selfless help of the Ministry of Tourism of the People’s Republic of China – Visit China, the world airline company Turkish Airlines and The Peninsula Beijing Hotel in collaboration with local partners who allowed me to feel the spirit and beauty of ancient Chinese culture and tradition. Of course, as always, I tried my best to convey to you my impressions about this unusual experience from China with Turkish Airlines.
A person is rich in soul if he has managed to explore the world and I am glad that I always manage to find partners of my projects who help me to discover new and unusual destinations in a completely different way.
I am honored to have the opportunity to cooperate with companies that are the very top of the tourism industry and I would like to thank Turkish Airlines once again for this amazing adventure and for allowing me to experience the beauty of this unusual Far Eastern culture in a completely different way.
How did you like my story about China and the presentation of The Summer Palace and The Great Wall of China, which adorns the heart of this unusual capital of this interesting country in East Asia? Have you had a chance to visit China so far?
If you have any question, comment, suggestion or message for me you can write me below in the comments. Of course, as always, you can contact me via email or social networks, all addresses can be found on the CONTACT page. See you at the same place in a few days, with some new story!
In the following stories from China, we will discover some other interesting sights that you should visit if your journey leads you to this capital of this ancient faraway country!
With Love from Beijing,
This post is sponsored by world airline Turkish Airlines, Visit China and The Peninsula Beijing Hotel as well as other local partners. This post is my personal and honest review of the destination experience.