Old Summer Palace (Ruins of Yuanmingyuan)

Also known as the Ruins of the Yuanmingyuan (the Garden of Perfection and Light), the Old Summer Palace is located northwest of Beijing and to the east of the present-day Summer Palace. The Garden was first constructed in the year of 1709 during the reign of the Emperor Kangxi of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). Over the next 150 years, this Garden was expanded into a large-scale Chinese emperors' private pleasure garden, covering a total area of over 864 acres (350 hectares).
Old Summer Palace
 Old Summer Palace Pictures

Generally speaking, the old Summer Palace consists of three parts - Yuanmingyuan, Wanchunyuan (the Garden of Blossoming Spring) and Changchunyuan (the Garden of Eternal Spring). These three gardens are often referred to as one common name: Yuanmingyuan. Hundreds of scenic spots in the Garden are made up of exquisitely constructed halls, pavilions, chambers, kiosks, earth and rock hills, rivers and ponds, and exotic flowers and grasses from different parts of the country. Indeed, it embodies the essence of Chinese ancient landscape gardening.

To be distinct from other traditional Chinese Gardens, the garden construction and horticulture of the Old Summer Palace is a harmonious blend of typical Chinese scenery and western architecture. Famous scenic spots in it include the Grand Waterworks, the Throne for viewing the Waterworks and the Labyrinth. No wonder the Old Summer Palace was also called the 'garden of gardens' or the 'Versailles of the East' in Europe during that era. Furthermore, it was also an imperial museum that collected a large number of books, treasures and cultural artifacts. However, a large number of these collections were plundered by the Anglo-French Allied Forces in 1860, at the same time as the Garden was burnt down. Now, most of these historical curiosities are displayed in the other countries' museums, including the British Museum; Bibliotheque Nationale de France; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, USA; Oslo Museum of Applied Art and so on.

The scatted artifact in the palace
Ruins in Old Summer Palace
Replicas of 12 Bronze Animal Heads
Replicas of 12 Bronze Animal Heads

The vast majority of the remaining scenic spots were destroyed in the 1900s, but under the due protection of the ruins, a park has been established on the ruin site. So visitors can imagine the former grandeur of it from the crumbling walls and ruins. What's more, there is also an opportunity for visitors to view the complete picture of the garden in its 'heyday' in the exhibition hall. The reconstruction of some of the original structures and scenic spots provides people with a lovely place to relax.

Each year, a Lotus Festival is held in this park from June to August. Changchunyuan Garden is the best place to appreciate lotus flowers.

Old Summer Palace

How to get to the Old Summer Palace

 By Subway:
Take Subway Line 4 and get off at Yuanmingyuan Station. Get out from Exit B and you can see the south gate of the park.
 By Bus:
 South Gate: Take bus 332, 432, 508, 579, 594, 584, 601, 664, or 686 and get off at Yiheyuan Rd. East Station. 
 East Gate: Take bus 305, 320, 365, 375, 424, 432, 614, 681 or 982 and get off at East Yuanmingyuan Rd. Station.
 Zaoyuan Gate: 303, 331, 346, 394, 437, 476, 534, 563 or 608 and get off at North Xiyuan Station. Then walk northward to the Zaoyuan Gate.
Beijing Bus / Subway Search

Admission Fee Entrance Fee: CNY 10
Sites of European Palaces: CNY 15
Exhibition Hall of Yuanmingyuan in Heyday: CNY 10
Combo Ticket: CNY 25
 Note: free for minors and the old over 60
Opening Hours Apr. 1 - Oct. 31: 7:00 - 19:00
Nov. 1 - Mar. 31: 7:00 - 17:30
Recommended Time for a Visit 2 hours

 Battery Car Service
Ticket Price CNY15
Hours 9:00 - 17:00

 Further Reading:
Top 10 Things to Do in Beijing in Winter
Top 10 Beijing Historical Sites You Should Not Miss

- Last updated on Dec. 20, 2023 by Kate Liu -
Questions & Answers on Old Summer Palace
Asked by katia from ITALIA | Mar. 28, 2020 08:54Reply
Hi, can i know in what period the Old Summer Palace is most crowded
and if in it takes place events? thank you
Answers (1)
Answered by Olga from FINLAND | Apr. 02, 2020 20:51

Generally speaking, the tourism peak season is from April to October. There would have crowded people on weekends and holiday.
Asked by Virginia Robbins from UNITED STATES | Apr. 29, 2019 14:11Reply
The Old Summer Palace in Beijing. Where in 3 gardens are the ruins?
Answers (1)
Answered by Nina from NEW ZEALAND | Apr. 29, 2019 19:09

They had been burned and only the ruins of Xiyanglou Area is visible.
Asked by Lisa from CHINA | Oct. 04, 2018 06:59Reply
Do you need to show your passport before entering the yuanmingyuan park?
Answers (1)
Answered by Josh from USA | Oct. 10, 2018 23:28

It seems that you don't need to show but you'd better take your passport with you.
Asked by Ryan from MALAYSIA | Jan. 04, 2018 23:20Reply
Old summer palace to Present Day Summer Palace East Entrance
How do you get from the Ruins of the Yuanmingyuan to present day Yiheyuan? Also at old one is there a bus from the Park South-East Station to the Ruins? (Electric Bus)? Which gate is nearest to Yuanminyuan subway?
Answers (1)
Answered by Eglise from FRANCE | Jan. 07, 2018 20:50

You can take bus 437 from Xiyuanbei stop near the South Gate 4 and get off at Liulangzhuang Xikou, you will see the Yiheyuan.
Asked by P AKERS from CANADA | Feb. 11, 2017 09:16Reply
from persent day summer palace to old summer palace
how do you get from the present day summer palace Yiheyuan to the old summer palace Ruins of the Yuanmingyuan ? how long does it take? can I see both in the same day?
Answers (1)
Answered by Cindy from UNITED KINGDOM | Feb. 12, 2017 00:54

They are close to each other. Walk to the North Gate of Summer Palace. Board bus no. 375, 384 or 563, any of which can take you to the old site and it will only pass one station. If you have enough time, it is also fine to walk between and it only takes around 20min. At last, touring both of them in a day is possible. Just well plan your trip!
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