Summer PalaceThe Summer Palace is a favorite among toursts sightseeing in Beijing. Indeed, it is one of the best parks in the city. Originally it was a retreat for emperors to escape the scorching summer heat of Beijing. The Summer Palace was used by emperors for 800 years, but fell into disuse in the 18th century. Then in the 19th century, the Empress Dowager Cixi made massive renovations and restored many buildings using money funneled out from the state treasury.
The Summer Palace is huge, most of it being taken up by Kunming Lake. The dirt that was dug up to make the lake was piled up and made into Longevity Hill. On top of Longevity Hill are several Buddhist temples, which, on clear days, offer good views of the lake. Small boats are available for rent and you can motor or paddle about the lake. Which is especially comfortable on really hot days. Along the shore is the famous Long Corridor, next to which a sign boasts that it is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the “longest painted corridor in the world. ” the Long Corridor features painted scenes from various Chinese mythical and traditional tales. Also on the shore of the lake is the Marble Boat, a large, sort of boatshaped marble pavilion which lies in the shallow water just off the shore. Empress Dowager Cixi liked to have dinner there, and then watch an opera at the outdoor theater. You can dine on Qing courtstyle dishes at the restaurant inside the Ting Li Guan (the pavilion for Listening to the Orioles).
Another part of the park, called suzhou street, requires a separate ticket, unless you buy the comprehensive 30 yuan ticket at the main gate. Suzhou street is supposed to be a model of what the city of Suzhou looked like in the Qing Dynasty. The listless workers in the overpriced souvenir shops are all decked out in Qing costumes, and there are also tea houses and snack shops that you can visit. The “street”encircles a short canal, which you can go up and down in a gondola-like boat.