Old Summer Palace

Brief History of Old Summer Palace

The Old Summer Palace, also known as Yuanming Yuan in Chinese, which means “Gardens of Perfection and Brightness”, was a royal private garden. It was first built in the reign of the Emperor Kangxi of Qing Dynasty. And then he bestowed it to his forth son Yinzhen, who later became the Emperor Yongzheng, and named the garden “Yuanming Yuan” in 1709.  

Old Summer Palace

Over the next 150 years, the Old Summer Palace had been adjusted the landscape, and expanded into 3 parts – Yuanming Yuan (Garden of Perfection and Brightness), Changchun Yuan (Garden of Eternal Spring), Qichun Yuan (also named Wanchun Yuan, Garden of Elegant Spring), covering a total area of 350 hectares, of which, the water area is about 140 hectares. The large geographic area, excellent skills of construction, elegant garden style of a combination of Chinese and Western elements, numerous cultural & art collections, a wide variety of animals and plants made the Old Summer Palace being praised as the “Garden of Gardens” at that time. 

In 1860, the Old Summer Palace was robbed, burned and destroyed by French and British troops during the Second Opium War. In 1900, the Eight Power Allied Force invades Beijing, and then the Old Summer Palace was ruined again, left nothing but rubble from that time. 

Old Summer Palace

In 1988, the Old Summer Palace was officially open to the public. We and future generations can only through the wreckage to catch a glimpse of its former glory. 

What to See & Do

Unlike other traditional Chinese gardens, the architecture and gardening of the Old Summer Palace reflects a typical combination of Chinese and Western style. Famous scenic spots including Dashuifa (The Great Fountain Ruins), Wonderland on Fanghu Island, Haiyantang, European Palaces, Wanhuazhen Labyrinth, and each of them have their own typical characteristics. 

Dashuifa (The Great Fountain Ruins大水法) – the most spectacular fountain in the Site of European Palaces. Its greatest features are large quantity, magnificent momentum and distinctive conception. 

Old Summer Palace

Wonderland on Fanghu Island (方壶胜境) – the most beautiful architecture of the Old Summer Palace. It was built based on people’s imagination of celestial mountains and pavilions. 

Old Summer Palace

Haiyantang (海晏堂) – one of the landmarks of the Old Summer Palace, a European style garden landscape architecture. There is a big fountain pool in the center of Haiyantang, which is lined with 12 bronze Chinese zodiac animal head statues in a figure-eight arrangement. And every 2 hours of the day and night, the 12 statues will spray water from their mouth in turn; at high noon, they will spray water together at same time. 

Old Summer Palace

Old Summer Palace

European Palaces (西洋楼) – located in the northwest of Changchun Yuan, composed of more than 10 buildings and gardens, which is famous for its distinctive fragmentary beauty of western architectures. 

Wanhuazhen Labyrinth (万花阵) – a garden modeled after the European labyrinth, and its main feature is the white western style pavilion surrounded by 4 feet high carved brick walls. Although the diameter distance from the entrance to the central pavilion is less than 30 meters, it is easy to get in but difficult to get out. In Qing Dynasty, the emperor liked to sit in the central pavilion, and enjoy the beautiful view of palace maids carrying lotus lanterns made of yellow silk, flying to run in the paths, and who first arrived at the pavilion would receive the reward from the emperor. 

Of course, there’re other charming spots in the Old Summer Palace, like Jiuzhou Qingyan (九洲清晏), Apricot Blossom Spring Villa (杏花春馆), Ruins of The Magnanimous World (坦坦荡荡), Ruins of Hanjingtang (含经堂), Yuanyingguan (远瀛观) Ruins North side, Ruins of the Fangwaiguan (方外观), etc.

Opening Hours & Ticket Prices

Opening Hours:

January, February, March, November & December: 07:00 – 17:30

April, September & October: 07:00 – 18:00

May, June, July, August: 07:00 – 19:00 

Entrance Fee: CNY 10

Site of European Palaces: CNY 15

Exhibition Hall of Panoramic Model of Yuanming Yuan in Its Heyday: CNY 10 

Old Summer Palace


1. Admission free for children under 6 years old (6 years old included) or under 1.2 meters (1.2 meters included);

2. Admission free for seniors (age 65 and older) with a senior citizen card or an ID card;

3. Admission free for persons with disabilities (relevant ID required);

4. Half-price admission for seniors aged 60 to 64 (valid ID required);

5. Half-price admission for minors aged 18 or under 18 years of age, and full-time university undergraduates or college students (valid ID required), excluding graduate students, short-term trainees, or adult students in continuing education programs;

6. Tickets are valid only for the date sold and they are not refundable or changeable.

Recommended Time for a Visit: 3 hours

Old Summer Palace

How to Get Here

The Old Summer Palace (Yuanming Yuan) is located northwest of Beijing City center, and adjoins the present-day Summer Palace.

By Subway:

Take Subway Line 4, get off at Yuanming Yuan Station, and get out from Exit B.

By Bus:

East Gate: Take Bus 365, 432, 562, 614, 656, 664, 681, 717, 982, Special Line 4, Yuntong 105 or Yuntong 205, get off at Yuanming Yuan East Station, and you will arrive at the gate of Changchun Yuan.

South Gate: Take Bus 319, 320, 331, 432, 438, 498, 601, 626, 628, 664, 690, 696, 697 or Special Line 6, get off at Yuanming Yuan South Station, and you will arrive at the gate of Qichun Yuan.

Travel Tips

1. Facilities in the Old Summer Palace: free wheel chairs, courtesy umbrellas, water dispensers, touch screen inquiry machine, computers, etc.

2. Location of the Tourist Service Center: in the east side of the square outside the gate of Qichun Yuan.

3. In order to maintain the natural ecological environment of the Old Summer Palace, please do not pick flowers, gather wild herbs, collect mushrooms, etc.

More Attractions in Beijing

  • Summer Palace
  • Yonghe Lamasery
  • 798 Art Zone
  • Jingshan Park