Located in the western suburbs of Beijing, 20 kilometers from the city proper, the Summer Palace is the best-preserved imperial garden in China and a classical park in the world, hence it enjoys a high reputation in the world. The Summer Palace covers an area of 2.9 million square meters, of which three fourths are taken up by water. Its main features are Longevity Hill, Kunming Lake, and various buildings. In Qing Dynasty, Summer Palace was divided into three areas for political affairs, daily life and sightseeing. Well designed, the park has the magnificence of the architecture of north China, and the elegance of the architecture of south China. Summer Palace also holds tens of thousands of precious cultural relics. In 1998 it was included in the World Cultural Heritage List by UNESCO.
Transport: Take public bus No. 332 at the Zoo, or No. 375 at Xizhimen.
In the center of Beijing City proper, Beihai Park is a former imperial garden with a history of over 1,000 years. This park mainly consists of Beihai Lake and Jade Flowery Islet, with a total area of 680,000 square meters. The islet is the center of the park, on which the White Pagoda stands. The Nine-Dragon Screen on the northern bank of the lake is majestic, being one of three such existing screens in China. Beihai Park, which preserves a large number of cultural relics and architecture, has been included in the World Cultural Heritage List.
Transport: Take trolley bus No. 103, 109, 107, 118 and public bus No. 701 and 801.
Garden in Prince Gong’s Mansion
Located near Shichahai Lake, to the northwest of the Forbidden City in Beijing, Prince Gong’s Mansion was first constructed in Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), and later became the residence of He Shen, Secretary of the Grand Council during the Qianlong reign period (1736-1795) of Qing Dynasty. At the first year of Xianfeng reign period (1851), the residence was given to Prince Gong Yixin. Since then it has been known as Prince Gong’s Mansion. Of the over 100 residences for former imperial princes, Prince Gong’s Mansion used to be the best, known as the “residence for immortals on earth, and a bright pearl by Shichahai Lake”.
Transport: Take public bus No. 13, 42, 107 and 111 and get off at the stop of Di’anmen.
Garden of Perfection and Brightness (Yuanmingyuan)
The construction of Garden of Perfection and Brightness started in 1709 (the 48th year of Kangxi reign period of Qing Dynasty), and was completed in 1860 (the 10th year of Xianfeng reign period of Qing Dynasty), lasting some 150 years. With an area of nearly 3.5 million square meters, this garden once had more than 160 tourist attractions. Three islets scatter in Fuhai (Lake of Blessings), the center of the garden, signifying a Taoist saying of “one pond and three immortal hills”. Scattered over the vast expanse of lakes and hills were hundreds of painted and gilded palaces, halls, waterside pavilions, studios and houses, some of which contained valuable art treasures and libraries; hence the fame “the garden of gardens”. The famous sites included the Open and Aboveboard Hall where the emperor received officials and handled political affairs, Jiuzhouqingyan for throwing imperial banquets, Anyou Palace for holding the sacrificial rites, and Wenyuan Pavilion for keeping books, in addition to other scenic spots, such as Three Pools Mirroring the Moon, an imitation of a scenic sight on the West Lake in Hangzhou, and other European-style architectures. It was a great pity that in 1860 the Anglo-French joint force invaded Beijing, set fire to this favorite garden, and felt free to plunder it at will. Now you can only see the ruins of Garden of Perfection and Brightness.
Transport: Take public bus No. 320, 331, 333, 716, 717, 801, 826, 963, Te 4 and Te6.