Yi He Yuan, or the Summer Palace, is the best-kept existing royal garden in Beijing. With a concentration of the best of ancient buildings as well as styles of gardening, it is a virtual museum of traditional Chinese gardening.
The Summer Palace was first named the Garden of Clear Ripples, which was burnt down by the allied forces of Great Britain and France in 1860. Reconstruction started 25 years later and was completed in 1895, and the name was changed to Yiheyuan (Garden of Good Health and Harmony). The design gives prominence to the Longevity Hill and the Kunming Lake. The total area is 290 hectares, and the buildings are measured in over 3,000 bays.
The Foxiang Tower and Paiyun (Dispursing Clouds) Hall rise majestically on top of the hill. Other structures are scattered in a seemingly random way on the hill to enhance the majesty of the two main buildings. In front of the hill Kunming Lake stretches out like a mirror. There is an atmosphere of imperial dignity and an air of leisure of a garden.
It is the main entrance to the Summer Palace. The opening in the center was for the emperor and empress exclusively. The two side openings were for the use of princes and court officials. Eunuchs and soldiers used side gates to the south and north. The name plaque "Yiheyuan" in front of the gate was written by emperor Guang Xu. The stone slab in front of the gate bears a carving in relief of two dragons playing with a pearl, a symbol of imperial authority.