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Self-guided Summer Palace Tour

"Route from East Palace Gate"

  • Code: SP01
Summer Palace Tour from East Palace Gate: East Palace Gate - Hall of Benevolence and Longevity - Hall of Virtue and Harmony - Wenchang Gallery - Hall of Jade Ripples - Yiyun House - Hall of Joyful Longevity - Long Gallery - Hall of Dispelling Clouds - Tower of Buddhist Incense - Suzhou Market Street - Hall of Serenity - Garden of Harmonious Pleasures - East Palace Gate

Map of Summer Palace
Summer Palace Map

Have you ever seen a garden with vigorous and firm appearance, but full of graceful charm of water town? The royal Summer Palace trip will show you the miracle. You will be impressed by the beautiful landscape, unique constructions, exquisite craftworks and interesting historical and cultural background.

The Summer Palace covers an area as large as 290 hectares. You would get exhausted in a whole day tour without preplanning the itinerary. How could you get an easy and wonderful travel in the large Summer Palace? Here we recommend three self-guided Summer Palace tours so that you can make your visit worthy.

Three travel routes start from the three main entrances: East Palace Gate, North Palace Gate and New Palace Gate. There are Guide Service Stations at each entrance. You can hire a guide to show you around the palace. You can also rent an automatic Guide machine at CNY10. The deposit is CNY100 and it will be returned before you exit the Summer Palace.

The East Palace Gate, the front gate of Summer Palace, has three doorways. In the Qing Dynasty, the middle doorway was only for the emperor and empress, and the cabinet ministers could only use the two side doorways. There is a board placed on the lintel of the middle gate, inscribing the Chinese name of Summer Palace, "Yi He Yuan" which was written by Emperor Guangxu.

The first one you will see is the Hall of Benevolence and Longevity (Ren Shou Dian). It was the only place for Emperor Guangxu and Empress Dowager Cixi meeting ministers and dealing with national affairs outside of the Forbidden City.

On the left side of the Hall of Benevolence and Longevity, it is De He Yuan (Hall of Virtue and Harmony), which was built for Empress Dowager Cixi watching Peking Opera performances. It is a typical Chinese courtyard, which mainly consists of Yi Le Dian (Hall of Health and Happiness) and the Grand Opera Tower. This Opera Tower is the largest and best-preserved one in China. Its novel design and exquisite structure made great contribution to the development of Peking Opera, so it was considered as the cradle of Peking Opera. And also you can see the first portrait of Empress Dowager Cixi in this hall, which was painted by an American artist Karl in 1903.

Hall of Virtue and Harmony
Hall of Virtue and Harmony

Wenchang Gallery
Wenchang Gallery

On the right side of the Hall of Benevolence and Longevity, it is Wenchang Gallery. Built in 1998 and with an area of 5661 square meters, Wenchang Gallery is the largest high-class exhibition hall in Chinese ancient gardens. There are six sections, displaying thousands of various valuable antiques and cultural relics from the Shang and Zhou dynasties over 3000 years ago to the end of the Qing Dynasty.

The next is the Hall of Jade Ripples (Yu Lan Tang), lying behind the Hall of Benevolence and Longevity. It was built in 1750 as a study room for Emperor Qianlong, but burnt down in 1860 and then rebuilt in 1886. After the failure of the Reform Movement in 1898, Emperor Guangxu was confined to this hall by Empress Cixi. It was said that when Emperor Guangxu inclined to the Reform Movement, Cixi was very angry about him. In order to warn Guangxu, she ordered to place two rocks in front of the hall gate and named them "Mu Zi Shi" (Stones of mother and son) as a symbol of their deep affection. Nowadays, the two rocks are still displayed there side by side.

After passing by Yiyun House, the residence of Emperor Guangxu's empress, you will see the Hall of Joyful Longevity (Le Shou Tang). It was the residence of Empress Dowager Cixi. Backing on the Longevity Mountain, facing Kunming Lake, Hall of Benevolence and Longevity to the east and the Long Gallery to the west, the Hall of Joyful Longevity takes the perfect location with the best scenery in Summer Palace. It well showed Cixi's great power at that time.

The Summer Palace, Beijing
Hall of Joyful Longevity

Long Gallery
Long Gallery

Walking eastward to the longest gallery in the world, Chang Lang (Long Gallery). It was built along Kunming Lake with 273 meters long. There are four pavilions representing four seasons scattering along the Long Gallery. Walking through the Long Gallery, you will be attracted by the colorful paintings on the girders. Most of paintings describe stories or legendaries from Chinese famous classic books. It is a good chance to learn Chinese culture and better understand Chinese history.

Stop at the middle of the Long Gallery and enter in the Hall of Dispelling Clouds (Pai Yun Dian), where Empress Dowager Cixi celebrated her birthday every year. After going through it, you may climb up the Longevity Mountain to reach the Tower of Buddhist Incense (Fo Xiang Ge). It was the place Cixi sacrificed and prayed for safety. It is worth mentioning that with eight porticos and three levels, the structure of Tower of Buddhist Incense topped the Chinese classical architecture. From the tower, you will get a bird's view of the Summer Palace.

Suzhou Street was first built by Emperor Qianlong to please his concubines, modeled on the market street of Suzhou water town. Along the street, there were various stores of more than 60 and all the salespersons were played by maids and eunuchs. It was like the emperor and his wives were shopping in the real water town market.   

The Summer Palace, Beijing
Hall of Dispelling Clouds & Tower of Buddhist Incense

 Suzhou Market Street
 Suzhou Market Street

To the east of Suzhou Street, it is the Hall of Serenity. It was a deep and isolated bulling complex with fine structure and unique layout. In 1754, Emperor Qianlong ordered to build it to memorize his beloved grandfather Emperor Kangxi. Unfortunately it was burnt down in 1860 and rebuilt as an exhibition hall in 1996.

The last stop of your journey is the Garden of Harmonious Pleasures (Xie Qu Yuan), locating at the northeast corner of the Summer Palace. It is the best known "Garden within a Garden" structure in Chinese classical garden. In the garden, the pavilions, halls, towers, chambers and bridges are perfect connected by the winding corridor, which boasts a different flavor from the Long Gallery. Strolling around the garden, you will be embraced by the serenity and elegancy.

The East Palace Gate is just next to the Garden of Harmonious Pleasures. This Summer Palace tour takes about two and a half hours.

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