Trip to the Summer Palace! (Beijing, China)


I woke up Saturday morning with excitement and anticipation for my group’s trip to the Summer Palace. The skies were clear and the temperature wasn’t as hot as it could’ve been, so I considered it the perfect day for the adventure! The Peking University campus east gate was conveniently located only two subway stops away from the Summer Palace west gate, so the journey there was quick and surprisingly painless, especially after I figured out how to use the subway ticket machines (selecting the English option helped a lot).

When we passed through the East Palace Gate, called the “Imperial Gateway”, taking care not to trip on the tall doorway thresholds, and rounded the corner of one of the many ancient buildings, we were greeted by a massive lake! I was so surprised by the unexpected finding! The lake, man-made I later discovered and taking up 3/4 of the palace grounds, was surrounded by beautiful forests made of cypress, pine, and willow trees, was the perfect frame to observe all of the palace structures, and was itself stunning to view. On it there were dozens of row boats, pedal boats and dragon boats, all filled to the brim with tourists, traveling across its still green waters. Our group promptly began walking along the southeast side of the lake towards the South Lake Island, which we  reached by crossing the Seventeen-Arch Bridge. Located on the island was the Hall of Embracing the Universe, the first of many majestically named structures I encountered at the Summer Palace.

Quite naturally, a group of my friends and I rented a 6 person pedal boat and hit the lake. From it we had the best view of the island, temple and lake and journeyed under the bridge, around the island and back to the docks while aptly avoiding the many other watercraft crowding the Kunming Lake waters.

A little after lunchtime, we decided to brave the steep stairway passed the Gate of Dispelling Clouds to reach the top of the Tower of Buddhist Incense. What an incredible view! We could see the entire garden grounds, much of the Beijing skyline, and even the tall tower from Peking’s campus. The view was well worth the many steps!

As we walked around the Palace, I was amazed to read all the fascinating facts about the statues and buildings, each of which had so much history behind it. At the end of the day I was wiped out, hot, sweaty, and hungry, but overall very happy with my site visit! While I was there I bought a beautiful painted map of the Summer Palace and also one of the Forbidden City, our group site visit for next weekend. I know I will be just as amazed by the scenes and history of that trip as I was of this one, and I can’t wait to go!



View of the Kunming Lake with the Tower of Buddhist Incense in background.


The Spacious Pavilion before the Seventeen-Arch Bridge.


A view of the Seventeen-Arch Bridge, the South Island with the Hall of Embracing the Universe and a Dragon ferry boat.

My seafaring crew and its captain!


At the bottom of the Tower of Buddhist Incense.


And at the top!


Chill’n in Buddhist Incense!

– Jakim Johnson, 纪家盛