Marble Boat

The Marble Boat is located in the northwest corner of Kunming Lake and close to the western foot of Longevity Hill at the Summer Palace. It is flanked to the east by Baizhang Pavilion and to the north by Xing Bride. Hidden from the surrounding views, the boat comes as if it was just sailing from the south. The boat is also called Han Chuan (Land Boat) or Bu Ji Zhou (Unmoored Boat) because it is not navigable. In ancient China, people often built smaller versions of boats as part of the decoration in classical gardens to enrich the beautiful scenery, as well as provide a seat for people to enjoy the sight and feast.  

The Marble Boat was built in 1755 with a base made from huge stones. The base supported a wooden pavilion in traditional Chinese style imitating the sailing boats of Emperor Qianlong (1711 - 1799). The boat replaced a platform belonging to Yuanjing Temple during the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644). Wei Zheng, a prominent prime minister under the reign of Emperor Taizhong, Tang Dynasty, once said, "Water can carry the boat as well as overturn it." He meant that water symbolizing the common people can support a good emperor or overthrow a bad emperor. Emperor Qianlong had the huge Marble Boat fastened in the water to indicate the steadfast rule of the Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1911).
Marble Boat Tourists in the Marble Boat
In 1860, the wooden pavilion was burned leaving only the hull of the boat remaining. Empress Dowager Cixi had the boat rebuilt in 1893 using a Western design. She financed the rebuilding using funds embezzled from the navy. The boat's name was changed to Qingyan Fang and provided a venue for Cixi to view the scenery and be entertained. When the empire was facing a military and political crisis, Cixi embezzled more funds to rebuild the Summer Palace under the guise of naval development. The only concession actually made to the navy was that they took possession of the marble boat. As magnificent as the boat was, it was, of course, no use to the navy. In fact, Qing's Navy was completely vanquished in sea battled seven years later.

The boat is now the only western-style structure in the Summer Palace. Inlaid with colorful glass windows and wheels and paved with colored bricks, the boat is 36 meters long, and two stories and eight meters high. Using the huge mirrors fixed on each deck, Cixi could enjoy the exquisite lake scene while having tea. The roof of the two-decked pavilion is made from brick carvings.  Four dragon heads mounted in each direction serve as drains, allowing rain water to be channeled out of their mouths. With its arcing stern and bow and a hull shaped like paddle wheels, the big boat looks very much like a steamer ready for sailing. A thick layer of moss covers the outside of the boat revealing its long tenure here. Visitors can view the boat by walking the length of the Long Gallery that begins at the Gate of Inviting the Moon (Yaoyuemen) close to the eastern gate of the Summer Palace.

Next: Kunming Lake

 Related Link: Summer Palace Travel Tips

- Last updated on Dec. 01, 2023 by Kate Liu -
Questions & Answers on Marble Boat
Asked by Barthol Barsham. from CUBA | Sep. 20, 2022 00:52Reply
Hi, is the marble boat expensive ??
Is the boat on sale?? i am Looking for a party yot for my daughter -in law for her Jubilee/48 party. This looks so oriental and just what she is looking for. Jaimaima has been daughter for many years and she deserves a wonderful smashing gift ,so i wouod like to purchase, msg if available??
Answers (2)
Answered by Barthol Barsham. | Sep. 20, 2022 00:53

please respond ,her celebraton is in 2 wekes
Answered by Leo | Sep. 20, 2022 02:16

I think you are looking for the cruise ship on the lake. As I know, the ticket fare for a large ship which can accommodate at most 98 passengers is CNY30/person, so you might rent a whole ship at CNY3,000, possibly. BTW, the rental fee for a 6-seat small ship is CNY180/hour.
Asked by Kyle Jin from NEW ZEALAND | Apr. 08, 2020 00:45Reply
Marble Boat from the Summer Palace
Hi, can the marble boat inside the Summer Palace been rode on?
Answers (1)
Answered by Eli from GERMANY | Apr. 12, 2020 19:29

No, it cannot.
Asked by Janice from UNITED KINGDOM | Jul. 25, 2019 02:48Reply
Which subway station is best for Kunming Lake inside Summer Palace?
Subway for the lake please my start station is Jianguomen
Answers (1)
Answered by Lynda from USA | Jul. 29, 2019 19:52

Take metro line 2 from Jianguomen Station to Xizhimen Station, and transfer to metro line 4 to Beigongmen Station (Exit A), then walk west of 400m to Summer Palace. It takes around 1 hour with CNY6.
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