“A masterpiece of Chinese landscape garden design” is how UNESCO described Beijing’s Summer Palace complex when it included this vast ensemble of lakes, hills, temples, pavilions and palaces on its World Heritage List. The park served as a haven from the summer heat for generations of Chinese emperors and their courtiers, and after sackings by various foreign powers in the 19th and early 20th century, the grounds and many of the buildings have been artfully renovated.
A labyrinthine network of paths, interconnected by ornamental bridges and lined by mulberry and willow trees, winds around the shore of shimmering Kunming Lake and through the woodland of Longevity Hill to numerous pagoda-roof Buddhist shrines – scenes depicted in many 18th-century Qing-dynasty watercolours. Visitors may also catch a ferry to the Dragon King Temple on South Lake Island, lingering at the numerous teahouses and restaurants dotted around the lakeshore.
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