The history of the Summer Palace starts with the Jin Dynasty (1115-1234) when the Golden Hill Palace was built in the present site of the Summer Palace. The Summer Palace that exists today dates back to Kublai Khan (Yuan Dynasty – 1277-1367). In 1750, Emperor Qian Long (Ch’ing Dynasty – 1644 -1911) had canals built leading to Kunming Lake, which was enlarged to serve as a reservoir for Beijing and is still in use today. He built palaces on the hill to celebrate his mother’s birthday.
In 1860, during the Second Opium War, a combined British-French military force invaded Beijing and destroyed many of the buildings. Twenty-eight years later, the Dowager Empress Ci Xi’s brother-in-law rebuilt and expanded the palaces using money (when he was the leader of China’s the navy) that was meant to modernize the Chinese navy.
After the Ch’ing Dynasty was swept aside during the 1911 rebellion, this new Summer Palace was opened to the public. In 1990, the Summer Palace was designated a world heritage site by the United Nations.
This “site” has more pictures and information about the Summer Palace.
This “video” shows the Summer Palace from the main gate to Suzhou Street where Emperors went to be entertained.
To learn more about China, see Zhouzhuang—China’s Venice
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