china edition


Summer Palace - Kunming Lake

Kunming Lake is the central lake on the grounds of the Summer Palace. Together with the Longevity Hill, the lake forms the key landscape features of the Summer Palace gardens. With an area of 2.2 square kilometer, Kunming Lake covers approximately 3 quarters of the Summer Palace grounds. It is fairly shallow with an average depth of only 1.5 m. Since the lake develops a solid ice cover in winter, it is used for ice skating.

Kunming LakeKunming Lake is a man-made lake. Its predecessors were called Wengshan Pond and Xihu Lake. They were reservoirs which had been used as sources of water both for the city and irrigation of fields over a period of 3,500 years. Guo Shoujing, a famous astronomer and engineer in his time, developed it into a reservoir for the capital of the Yuan dynasty in 1291. The conversion of the area into an imperial garden was commissioned by the Qianlong Emperor with the work being carried out between 1750 and 1764. In the course of creating the gardens, the lake area was extended by a workforce of almost 10,000 laborers.

In the year 1990 and 1991, the Beijing Municipal Government undertook the first dredging of the lake in 240 years. A total of 652,600 cubic m of sludge were removed in the work. 205 Japanese bombs dropped during the Sino-Japanese War were also found.

With its 3 large islands, Kunming Lake represents the traditional Chinese garden element of the "fairy hill within the sea". The 3 islands are named Nanhu (South Lake), Tuancheng, and Zaojian Island and are modelled after the 3 famous fairy tale islands Yinghzou, Penglai and Fangzhang, where immortals were said to live. Many features of Kunming Lake are inspired by natural scenery from the region south of the Yangtze River. In particular, the west Dike is a recreation of the famous Su Di Dike on the West Lake in Hangzhou. It cuts diagonally through the southern part of the lake. Like the Su Di Dike, the West Dike is connected through 6 bridges, each with its own distinctive style: Jiehu, Binfeng, Yudai, Jing, Lian, and Liu Bridge.

The largest bridge on Kunming Lake is the seventeen-arch Bridge.