A brief history of the construction of Summer Palace (adapted from travelguidechina.com).
Construction of "Qingyi Garden" (Garden of Clear Ripples) began in 1750 and the garden was meant to be a luxurious royal garden for royal families to rest and entertain. It later became the main residence of royal members in the end of the Qing Dynasty. Like most of the gardens of Beijing, it could not elude the rampages of the Anglo-French Allied Force and was destroyed by fire during the Second Opium War (1856-1860). The garden was renamed the Summer Palace after its first reconstruction in 1888. The Empress Dowager Cixi (also known as the "Dragon Lady") embezzled 8,000,000 CYN from funds intended for the Chinese Navy to further renovate the gardens as a resort in which to spend the rest of her life. The embezzlement resulted in the Chinese Navy being inadequately supplied and unprepared to properly defend China in the Sino-Japanese war. In 1900, the Palace was damaged again when Allied Forces took control of Beijing during the suppression of the Boxer Rising. It was restored two years later and in 1924, it was opened to the public and named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1998.
(Side note - the Dragon Lady played a very significant role in Chinese history and in the decline of the Qing Dynasty. The corruption and greed in her administration as well as her anti-foreign and anti-reform policies significantly limited the modernization of China. If you have a few minutes, this article about her rise to power is well worth a read.)
Some photos from our visit.
Guardian Lions (I posted about the significance behind these here). The female.
This dragon symbolizes the Emperor. He is said to be holding out his hand as a request for more power. However, the Dragon Lady placed him under guarded house arrest at the Summer Palace and ruled the country so his hand remains empty.
Detail on a building.
The Dragon Lady's residence.
Photos taken on the shores of the lake. By this time, not only were we frozen solid but a wind blew in off of the lake and added to our misery.
Jim and Jan (somewhere under that hood).
Shiv was quite daring and took his hat off for the photo.
This is the longest covered walkway in the world. I think Lisa said it was 776 meters long. It ran along the edge of the lake for its entire length and was literally a freezing wind tunnel. I think we set a record for how quickly we walked those 776 meters! I felt bad for Lisa because we were moving so fast - a combination of trying to stay warm and finish the tour. I am sure she had a script to stick too but we just reached a point where we were DONE and wanted to be in the car and out of the cold and wind.
The kids and I in the car taking "selfies".
We warmed up at the hotel and then went out for dinner. When in Peking, Peking Duck is a must and we had been talking about it ALL day! Thanks to Jan and her research, we ended up at "Beijing Dadong Roast Duck Restaurant" which, according to Eyewitness Travel Top 10 Beijing is the number one restaurant in the city for Peking Duck.
The chefs carving the ducks.
Is this our duck?
It looked just like a slider. A little fancier though.
Yum! No complaints here.