The best walking routes within the Summer Palace

The Summer Palace is one of the largest and best preserved Imperial Gardens in the world. Its Chinese name, Yiheyuan translates into the ‘Garden of Nurtured Harmony’ and that is exactly what this vast ensemble of lakes, gardens and palaces nestled among the surrounding landscape forms. First designated a UNESCO world heritage site in 1990, it’s easy to see why. The sheer size and beauty of the place means you can easily spend an entire day exploring or even meditating here. To help you get the most out of your time at the Summer Palace, here are some of the best walking routes to help you explore and see as much as you can.

The Summer Palace has 3 main accessible entrances:

  1. The East Palace Gate
  2. The North Palace Gate
  3. The New Palace Gate (also known as Xin Jian Gong Men.
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East Palace Gate

ROUTE 1: ENTER FROM THE EAST PALACE GATE (about 3 hours)

Enter from the East Palace Gate and head towards the Hall of Benevolence and Longevity. This area was originally built in 1750 but burned down in 1860 before being reconstructed in 1888. It formed one of the major administrative areas of the Emperors.

From here, wander through the Garden of Virtue and Harmony to Wenchang Hall which holds a range of cultural artifacts.

Next move to the Hall of Jade Ripples which is a courtyard consisting of a main hall and two smaller halls.

Walk along to Yiyun House.

Head to the Hall of Joyful Longevity. This was the occasional residence of Empress Dowager Cixi during the late Qing Dynasty.

Stroll onward to the Long Gallery which winds out around 728 meters. It forms one of the longest and most famous galleries in China. There are about 8000 colorful paintings here, which depict landscapes, human figures, battle scenes, flowers and birds.

Walk through the Hall of Dispelling Clouds to the Tower of Buddhist Incense and along to the Marble Boat way. This structure is neither a boat nor really made of marble but has been designed to look as a-boat-like-structure. It is actually made of stone that has been painted to look like marble and is permanently ‘docked’ on the lake next to the shore.

From here head to Nanhu Island. You will have to take a boat.

Find the Seventeen Arched Bridge.

Look for the Bronze Ox and eventually end your walking route at the newly-built Palace Gate.
 

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Tower of Buddhist Incense

ROUTE 2: ENTER FROM THE EAST PALACE GATE (about 2.5 hours)

Enter from the East Palace Gate and head towards the Hall of Benevolence and Longevity. While here take in the ancient architecture. You will find within the hall a platform with a throne furnished with nine dragons.  Wander around the courtyard and find an exquisitely sculpted bronze beast known as Kylin. This structure has a dragon head, lion tail, deer horn and cattle hoof.

Wander through the Garden of Virtue and Harmony to Wenchang Hall.

Next move to the Hall of Jade Ripples.

Walk along to Yiyun House.

Head to the Hall of Joyful Longevity.

From here wander onward through the long gallery and admire the 8000 traditional paintings. These paintings cover themes from famous legends and classic novels like Strange Tales of Liaozhai, Pilgrimage to the West and The Romance of the Three Kingdoms.

Walk through the Hall of Dispelling Clouds to the Tower of Buddhist Incense.

On this route you will skip the Marble Boat area and head directly to the Suzhou Market Street.

Explore the many shops that famous emperors used to wander through before heading to the North Palace Gate to end your journey.

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Hall of Dispelling Clouds

ROUTE 3: ENTER FROM THE NORTH PALACE GATE (about 3.5 hours)

Start at the North Palace Gate and head to Suzhou Market Street.

Wander around the Four Great Regions to the Tower of the Buddhist Incense.

Head to the Hall of Dispelling Clouds.

Move onward through the Long Gallery towards the Marble Boat.

Catch a boat to Nanhu Island and find the Seventeen Arched Bridge.

Look for the Bronze Ox.

Stroll through the East Causeway of Kunming Lake to Wenchang Hall and the Hall of Jade Ripples.

Wander through Yiyun House.

Next head to the Hall of Joyful Longevity and the Garden of Virtue and Harmony.

Explore the Hall of Benevolence and Longevity before ending at the East Palace Gate.

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Four Great Regions

ROUTE 4: ENTER FROM THE NORTH PALACE GATE (around 2.5 hours)

Start at the North Palace Gate and head to Suzhou Market Street.

Skip the stairway leading to the Four Great Regions and head directly to the Marble boat area.

From here wander to the Hall of Dispelling Clouds and the Tower of Buddhist Incense.

Head to the Hall of Joyful Longevity and the Garden of Virtue and Harmony.

Wander in Wenchang Hall before exploring the Hall of Benevolence and Longevity and ending at the East Palace Gate.

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Kunming Lake

ROUTE 5: ENTER FROM THE NEW PALACE GATE (around 3 hours)

Start at the New Palace Gate and head to the East Causeway of Kunming Lake.

Wander in to Wenchang Hall and see many ancient artifacts.

Head to the Hall of Benevolence and Longevity before strolling along to the Garden of Virtue and Harmony.

Next head to the Hall of Jade Ripples and Yiyun House followed by the Hall of Joyful Longevity.

Stroll through the Long Gallery and towards the Hall of Dispelling Clouds.

Head to the Tower of Buddhist Incense.

Explore the Suzhou Market Street before exiting through the North Palace Gate.

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Suzhou Market Street

ROUTE 6: ENTER FROM THE NEW PALACE GATE (about 3.5 hours)

Start at the New Palace Gate and head directly towards Nanhu Island.

Wander along the Seventeen Arch Bridge and towards the Bronze Ox.

Cross over to the Marble Boat structure (by boat).

Head to the Farming and Weaving Scenic Area before moving to the Suzhou Market Street.

Head to the Tower of Buddhist Incense and the Hall of Dispelling Clouds.

Wander through the Long Gallery.

Head towards the Hall of Joyful Longevity followed by the Garden of Virtue and Harmony.

Next wander along to the Hall of Jade Ripples and Yiyun House.

Explore the ancient artifacts at Wenchang Hall before heading to the Hall of Benevolence and Longevity.

End your walk at the East Palace Gate.

Further Reading:
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Hi World! I'm Shal - an environmental microbiologist, writer, teacher and artist from Durban, South Africa. I've spent the last two years traveling and teaching Chemistry and English to young kids in Asia. Life of Shal was founded as a way to share travel experiences, tips and other worldly magic with you! Join me on my journey!

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