The Summer Palace was first built in 1153 during the Jin Dynasty. At that time the hill was called Golden Hill and the lake was called Golden Water Pond. During the Yuan Dynasty(1206-1368), the hill’s name was changed into Jar Hill, because it was said that an old man had dug up a jar from the hill. And then the lake was changed to Jar Hill Pond.In the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) it was named West Lake. In 1494 Yuanjing Temple was built on the Jar Hill. and later Ming Emperor Zhengde named this area the Wonderful Imperial Garden.During the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) the famous ” Three Hills and Five Gardens” were built in the northwestern suburbs of Beijing. The Summer Palace was called the Garden of Clear Ripples at that time, which was one of the Five Gardens.
In 1750, Emperor Qianlong rebuilt the Garden of Clear Ripples for the purpose of his mother’s 60th birthday celebration. He changed the Hill’s name from Jar Hill into Longevity Hill in order to celebrate his mother’s 60th birthday. He also renamed the lake as Kunming Lake because he wanted to follow the example of Emperor Wudi of the Han Dynasty (206BC-220AD) who had trained his navy centuries before in Kunming Pool in Chang’an, the captial city at that time (somewhere near Xi’an today).
In1860, when the Anglo-French Allied Forces invaded Beijing, the “Three Hills and Five Gardens” were burnt down to ashes. In 1888, Empress Dowager Cixi spent the navy fund to rebuild the Garden of Clear Ripples. After that she renamed it the Summer Palace. In 1900, when the Allied Forces of Eight Powers invaded Beijing, the Summer Palace was destroyed for the second time.
In 1902, Empress Dowager Cixi spent fabulous sum of money to rebuild the Summer Palace again. In 1903, the reconstruction was completed. After that, Empress Dowager Cixi came to live in the Summer Palace from April to October every year for the rest of her life, So the Summer Palace today is more or less the same as the Summer Palace rebuilt in 1903. After the 1911 Revolution, the Summer Palace still belonged to the Qing imperial family. On July 1st, 1928, the Summer Palace was officially opened to the public.
Today, the Summer Palace has taken on a completely new look.”