One of China’s greatest historical treasures is the magnificent Summer Palace in Beijing. The Summer Palace is the largest and best-preserved imperial garden in China. Its Chinese name, YiHeYuan, translates as ‘Garden of Nurtured Harmony’ or ‘Garden for Maintaining Health and Harmony’. If you go in the depths of winter, you’re in for a big surprise…
The Summer Palace, located northwest of Beijing’s center, is easily accessible from most parts of the city. Head north at Suzhou Bridge on the north-western 3rd Ring Road, north at Sihai Bridge on the north-western 4th Ring Road, or south at the northern 5th Ring Road at the Zhongguancun/Beiqing Road exit. Public transportation also serves the Summer Palace.
On its southern slope, Longevity Hill is adorned with an ensemble of grand buildings: The Cloud-Dispelling Hall, the Temple of Buddhist Virtue, and the Sea of Wisdom Temple form a south-north (lakeside – peak) oriented axis which is flanked by various other buildings. In the center of the Temple of Buddhist Virtue stands the Tower of Buddhist Incense (Fo Xiang Ge), which forms the focal point for the buildings on the southern slope of Longevity Hill. The tower is built on a 20-meter-tall stone base, is 41 meters high with three stories and supported by eight ironwood (lignumvitae) pillars.
The snowfall of winter brings the Summer Palace, an imperial garden of Beijing, the distinctive snow scene. The snow set off maple leaves, lotuses in their final stages of flowering, bridge and temple. So beautiful.
My visit to the Summer Palace on Beijing’s outskirts was memorable, not just for the amazing architecture of the temples and pagodas, but because the huge lake in front of the Summer Palace was completely frozen over. There were scores of people out skating and running around on the ice, over which a bridge surreally hovered in its temporary new landlocked status. As you can imagine, the kids love it, and were busy sliding around with much glee. It’s one of my most memorable days in China, perhaps because it was so unexpected.