Beijing’s Park Life – The Old Summer Palace

Updated 2013-12-18 09:02:52

1)	The sole bridge that escaped the palace’s destruction in the 19th century.

1) The sole bridge that escaped the palace’s destruction in the 19th century.

by William Wang

In places, the Chinese capital's lack of colour puts the beige in Beijing. It's not the greenest of cities, but at least it has a multitude of parks to offer solace to the soul. Whether you're looking for a sense of community or a respite from the urban rush, you can find it in one of Beijing's parks. Parks are perfect places to be alone, or with family, friends or lovers.

CRI's William Wang strolls along countless quiet pathways in order to tell you about Beijing's unmissables.

2)	The ruins of Bitong Shuyuan.

2) The ruins of Bitong Shuyuan.

The Old Summer Palace

"It's pretty boring," commented one traveler about the Old Summer Palace. "The temple's destroyed so there's nothing to see," she concluded. This view is not unjustified if one goes to the Old Summer Palace expecting to be entertained or intellectually stirred. Yes, there is history to be had, but what remains of the luxurious palace is mostly unmowed grass.

Tragic as this is, what was once the exclusive territory of the imperial family has been converted into a massive park for the public to explore. Almost five times the size of the Forbidden City, it's not the kind of place that you want to see in a hurry.

The palace and its gardens date back to the 12th century, having gone through numerous stages of development. In the 18th century, Emperor Qianlong discovered a fondness for French and Italian architecture and accordingly ordered ten palaces to be built in the rococo style. When wandering through the park, visitors will differentiate the European ruins from the Chinese ones by the detailing in the stone.

The park is divided up into three sections: Yuanmingyuan (Garden of Perfection and Light) in the west, Wanchunyuan (Garden of 10,000 Springs) in the south, and Changchunyuan (Garden of Everlasting Spring). Each section has its own lake and maze of waterways.

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