Situated in western outskirts of Beijing, the Summer Palace is 10 kilometers from the central city. It is China's leading classical garden, which enjoys a worldwide reputation. The Summer Palace was opened to the public in 1924 and was included in the UNESCO world heritage list in 1998. A whole day will be needed to view it in full detail.
The Summer Palace was first built in 1153 and served as an imperial palace for short vacations from the capital. Then Empress Dowager Ci Xi rebuilt it in 1888 with a large sum of money, which had been appropriated to build a Chinese navy.
The two main elements of the garden are Longevity Hill and Kunming Lake. Kunming Lake has an exquisite building in the middle and takes up three quarters of the garden's 290 hectares. The garden consists of three parts: the political activity area, the empress's living quarter and the scenic area.
The buildings on the southern slope of Longevity Hill are characteristics of the garden. Back Lake at the northern foot of Longevity Hill is natural and peaceful. On its bank is Suzhou Street, a replica of a commercial street in the old days. At the northeastern corner of the garden there is the Garden of Harmonious Interest, which imitates the famous Jichang Garden in Wuxi, Jiangsu Province. Diminutive and elegant, it is known as a garden within a garden.