Wanshou Shan (Longevity Hill):
Longevity Hill, 58.59 meters high, is an offshoot of the Yan Mountain range. Legend has it that an old man found a stone jar while chiseling at the hill rocks. The hill was therefore named Jar Hill and the lake before it, Jar Hill Lake. Also named West Lake, the lake in time came to be known as Kunming Lake. In the 7th year of the reign of Emperor Hongzhi (1494) of the Ming Dynasty, the emperor’s wet nurse, Madam Luo, built a temple at the foot of the mountain, which she named the Temple of Serenity. In the 15th year of Emperor Qianlong’s reign (1750), the Temple of Immense Gratitude and Longevity was built on the site of the ruined Temple of Serenity to celebrate the 60th birthday of the Emperor’s mother. The following year, the hill was renamed Longevity Hill. As the development of the Summer Palace grounds continued, soil quarried to enlarge Kunming Lake was piled up on the hill to put its east and west slopes in balance in terms of shape and size. This restyled hill became the mainstay of the garden. The majority of the structures built on the hillside during Emperor Qianlong’s reign (1736-1795) were burned down by the Anglo-French Allied Forces in 1860. Most of the existing buildings were rebuilt during Emperor Guangxu’s reign (1875-1908). The Tower of the Fragrance of the Buddha is a three-storey octahedral building with four-layered eaves built in front of the hill. An axis running uphill links all the structures together, starting from the archway at the foot of the hill, and going up through the Gate that Dispels the Clouds, the Second Palace Gate, the Hall that Dispels the Clouds, the Hall of Moral Glory, and the Tower of the Fragrance of the Buddha, and ending on the hilltop at the Sea of Wisdom Temple. Found on the east hillside are the Revolving Archives and the Longevity Hill and Kunming Lake Monument. Standing on the west hillside are the Pavilion of Five Locations and the Baoyun Bronze Pavilion. The buildings behind the hill include the “Four Great Regions”, a splendid Tibetan Buddhist structure, and the colorful Glazed Tile Pagoda of Many Treasures that stands in the greenery of the hill. Apart from that, there is a variety of traditional structures such as the Hall of Utmost Blessing, the Pavilion of Multi-layered Greenery, Painting the Autumn Pavilion, and the Strolling in the Picture Scroll, etc., making Longevity Hill a concentrated illustration of classical Chinese garden architecture.
Tower of the Fragrance of the Buddha (Foxiang Ge):
Originally built during the reign of Emperor Qianlong and burned down by the Anglo-French Allied Forces in 1860, it was rebuilt in its original style during Emperor Guangxu’s reign (1875-1908). The octahedral tower has three stories with four-layered eaves, altogether 36.44 meters high. Standing upright on a 20 meter-high stone foundation, it constitutes the center of the Summer Palace landscape and serves to accentuate its magnificence. A statue of the thousand-handed Guanshiyin Buddha, cast in bronze and gilded with gold, stands inside the tower. The statue, five meters high and five tons in weight, was cast during the reign of Emperor Wanli of the Ming Dynasty. Set off by the eight imposing pillars which support the tower, it glows with beauty, grandeur and brilliance. Its historical, cultural and artistic value can hardly be overstated.
Hall that Dispels the Clouds (Paiyun Dian):The original construction here was the Hall of the Great Buddha of the Temple of Immense Gratitude and Longevity in the Garden of Clear Ripples. It was burned down by the Anglo-French Allied Forces in the 10th year of Emperor Xianfeng’s reign (1860) and reconstructed on its original site in the 12th year of Emperor Guangxu’s reign (1886) as a place to celebrate Empress Dowager Cixi's birthdays. On display inside the hall are some of the birthday presents offered by princes, dukes and high-ranking officials.
Baoyun Ge Tongdian (Baoyun Bronze Pavilion):This pavilion, where Qing emperors and empresses used to pray and chant scriptures, was built in the 20th year of Emperor Qianlong’s reign (1755). It is 7.55 meters high and weighs 207 tons. All its component parts, the beams, pillars, supporting brackets, rafters, tiles, couplings, etc., were cast in bronze by traditional technical methods called “melting the wax” and “breaking the mould”, and the exterior was furnished in a greenish-gray color. The bronze pavilion is of great scientific value.
The pavilion is one of the few remaining buildings in the Garden of Clear Ripples that escaped the fire set by the Anglo-French Allied Forces when they ransacked the Garden in 1860. Unfortunately, all of the furnishings were lost. In 1900, the garden was again looted by the Allied Forces of the Eight-Powers, and ten of the pavilion’s windows found their way overseas. In 1993 the American International Insurance Group Inc. purchased the windows and sent them back to the Summer Palace as a gift to China.
Zhihui Hai (Sea of Wisdom Temple):Constructed in the reign of Emperor Qianlong(1736-1795), the Sea of Wisdom Temple was an arch-shaped structure built with bricks and stones without the support of a single beam or pillar. It therefore came to be known as the "Beamless Hall". The hall’s roof and murals were finished with colored glaze and decorated with 1,110 statuettes of the Infinite Longevity Buddha. These and the statue of Buddha inside the temple are all cultural relics from the reign of Emperor Qianlong. The glazed statuettes of Buddha were savagely destroyed in 1900 by the Allied Forces of the Eight Powers. The characters inscribed on both sides of the decorated stone archway form the text of a Buddhist hymn which says: “The Realm of Popular Fragrance, the forests of god; the seas of wisdom and the auspicious clouds.”
Realm of Popular Fragrance (Zhongxiang Jie):This archway is built with bricks and stones and decorated with colorful glazed tiles. The text of the Buddhist hymn, “The realm of popular fragrance, the forests of god; the seas of wisdom and the auspicious clouds” is inscribed on both sides of this archway as well as on the two lintels on both sides of the temple, suggesting this place resembles the Holy Land of the Buddha.
Wufang Ge (Pavilion of Five Locations):This is a religious building. Its name in Chinese, Wu Fang, means five locations: the east, the south, the west, the north and the center. According to Buddhist belief, there is a Buddha governing each of the five locations. A portrait of the Buddha would be hung in the indented part of the stone wall when lamas chanted their scriptures in front of the pavilion.
Zhuanlun Zang (Revolving Archives):Built during the reign of Emperor Qianlong, this group of buildings includes a main hall, an auxiliary pavilion and a stele inscribed with Emperor Qianlong’s essay on Longevity Hill and Kunming Lake. This is where the emperors and empresses stored their Buddhist scriptures and sculptures. It is also where they would go to recite scriptures and to pray. The auxiliary pavilion has two floors through which a four-storey, colored wooden tower stood. Inside this tower were scriptures and Buddhist statuettes. The tower could be turned to symbolize the cyclic chanting of scriptures.
Longevity Hill and Kunming Lake Monument:Erected in the 16th year of Emperor Qianlong’s reign (1751), this grand and well-proportioned 9.8 meter-high stele was meticulously carved out of a single piece of rock. The six Chinese characters inscribed on its front were Emperor Qianlong’s calligraphy meaning Longevity Hill, Kunming Lake. Inscribed on its reverse is the complete text of the essay, A Note on Kunming Lake at the Longevity Hill, written by Emperor Qianlong to describe why and how the lake was expanded.
Scenic Spot of the Hall that Dispels the Clouds and
the Tower of the Fragrance of the Buddha
(Paiyun Dian, Foxiang Ge):This scenic spot covers an area of 20,000 square meters with an assortment of buildings such as palaces, towers, corridors, pavilions, walkways, bridges, archways and inscribed stone steles. It comprises a well-arranged group of structures, all diverse in style, located in the center of the Summer Palace garden. This complex of structures, ranging from the Glowing Clouds and Holy Land Archway on the waterside, the Gate that Dispels the Clouds, the Hall that Dispels the Clouds, the Hall of Moral Glory, and the Tower of the Fragrance of the Buddha, to the Realm of Popular Fragrance and the Sea of Wisdom Temple, were built in an orderly manner running from the foot of the hill to its top, with gardens, temples and palaces harmoniously integrated into the whole. This manifests beauty, grace and splendor, reminiscent of the loftiness and grandeur of a once mighty empire. This whole area, with the Temple of Immense Gratitude and Longevity in the center, was built in the 15th year of Emperor Qianlong’s reign (1750) and burned down by the Anglo-French Allied Forces in 1860. The area was restored during the reign of Emperor Guangxu.