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Summer Palace, situated in the western outskirts of Haidian District and 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) away from central Beijing, owns the largest and best preserved royal park.
Summer Palace was first constructed in the Jin Dynasty (1115-1234), during the succeeding reign of feudal emperors, it was extended continuously. By the time of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), it had become a luxurious royal garden providing royal families rest and entertainment environment.
It was originally called "Qingyi Garden" (Garden of Clear Ripples). Like most of gardens in Beijing, it could not elude the rampages of the Anglo-French allied force and was destroyed by fire. In 1888, Empress Dowager Cixi embezzled navy funds to reconstruct it for her own benefit, changing its name to Summer Palace (Yiheyuan). She spent most of her later years there, dealing with state affairs and entertaining. In 1900, it suffered again, being ransacked by the Eight-Power Allied Force. After the success of the 1911 Revolution, it was opened to the public.
Composed mainly of Longevity Hill and Kunming Lake, Summer Palace occupies an area of 294 hectares (726.5 acres), three quarters of which is water. Guided by nature, artists designed the gardens exquisitely so that visitors would see marvelous views and be amazed by perfect examples of refined craftwork using the finest materials.
Centered on the Tower of Buddhist Incense (Foxiangge) Summer Palace consists of over 3,000 structures including pavilions, towers, bridges, and corridors.