Situated at the northwest of the city and east of today’s Summer Palace, the Old Summer Palace is now known as the Ruins of Yuanmingyuan or the Garden of Perfection and Light. Initially constructed during the reign of the Qing Dynasty’s Emperor Kangxi in 1709, the garden has undergone several large-scale expansions. The Old Summer Palace covers a total area of more than 864 acres or 350 hectares and used to function as a private pleasure garden of the Chinese emperors in history.
The garden is composed of three major parts namely Yuanmingyuan, Wanchunyuan or the Garden of Blossoming Spring, and Changchunyuan or the Garden of Eternal Spring. The said three gardens are usually referred to as one general name which is Yuanmingyuan. Hundreds of picturesque spots in the garden are consist of intricately built walls, chambers, pavilions, kiosks, rivers and ponds, earth and rock hills, as well glamorous flowers and grasses from various parts of China. It definitely depicts the true essence of Chinese ancient landscape gardening.
To be unique from the usual traditional Chinese Gardens, the Old Summer Palace’s garden construction and horticulture is a linking blend of classic Chinese scenery and western architecture and design. Some of the popular tourist spots in the Garden of Perfection and Light includes the Grand Waterworks, the Throne which is used for viewing the Waterworks, and the Labyrinth. It was even called the ‘garden of gardens’ and ‘Versailles of the East’ during its era because of its grandiosity and distinct pattern and style. In addition, the garden was also regarded as an imperial museum which houses a collection of an enormous number of books, cultural artifacts, and treasures. Unfortunately, a huge number of the said collections were devastated when the garden was burnt down during the war with the Anglo-French Allied Forces in 1860. Today, many of the historical artifacts and curiosities that were used to be seen here in Yuanmingyuan are displayed in other countries’ museums such as Bibliotheque Nationale de France, British Museum, Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, USA, Oslo Museum of Applied Art, and others.
The other massive majority of the remaining picturesque spots were then damaged in the 1900s. Luckily, a park has been established on the ruin site with the aim to protect the area. So visiting the Old Summer Palace would allow you to imagine the former grandeur of the imperial garden from its crumbling walls and ruins. The tourists can also go to the park’s exhibition halls to view a complete picture of the garden during its ‘heyday’ time. Some of the initial structures and tourist spots were also reconstructed to provide the garden’s visitors a lovely and serene place to relax.
A Lotus Festival is being held in the Old Summer Palace’s park every year from the months of June to August. The best place in the garden to enjoy the beauty of lotus flowers is in the Changchunyuan Garden.
How to get to Old Summer Palace?
- You can ride the Subway line 4 to go to the Yuanmingyuan Station. Upon alighting the train, proceed to Exit B which will lead you directly to the park’s south gate.
- The buses that can take you to the south gate of the park are buses 331, 432, 438, 498, 508, 579, 594, 601, 664, or Yuntong 124, or Special Line 18 or 19, or Sightseeing Bus 3. You will need to get off at the Yuanmingyuan Nanmen Station.
- Buses 365, 429, 432, 562, 614, 664, 681, 699, 717, 982, or Yuntong 105, 124, or 126, or Special Line 4, on the other hand, can take you to the Yuanmingyuan Dongmen Station which will lead you to park’s east gate.
- Lastly, in order to go to the park’s west gate, you need to ride buses 333 Inner, 333 Outer, 393, 437, 438, 476, 498, 509, 534, 636, or Special Line 6, or Yuntong 106, 108, 114 or 118 and alight at Saoziying Station.
- Entrance fee to the park is at CNY 10.
- Ticket fee to the Sites of European Palaces is at CNY 15.
- Going to the Exhibition Hall of Yuanmingyuan in Heyday costs CNY 10.
- Children who are under 3.9 feet are free of charge.
- There is a battery car service which can take you to the different parts of the garden.
- Route A costs CNY 8 which includes Junction of Three Gardens and Sites of European Palaces
- Route B costs CNY 8 which includes Junction of Three Gardens and Jiuzhou Site
- Route C includes Sites of European Palace, Jiuzhou Site, and Zaoyuan Gate and costs CNY 15
- Route D includes Junction of Three Gardens, Jiuzhou Site, and Zaoyuan Gate and costs CNY 15.
- The garden is open from 7 am to 7 pm from May to August, 7 am to 6 pm in the months of April, September, and October, and 7 am to 5:30 pm in the months of January to March and November to December.