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The Summer Palace is north-east of Beijing, an easy cycle ride from the university district.

There have been palaces in this area since the 12th century, but the first major development was commisioned by the Qing dynasty emperor Qian Long (1736-1797). This Summer Palace complex was burned down by a British-French force in 1860.

Once again the Summer Palace was rebuilt, this time by the Empress Dowager Ci Xi (Tzu Hsi) in 1888, but it was again damaged during the Boxer Rebellion of 1900. The last major restoration was in 1903.

Only foreigners refer to the area as the Summer Palace. This was its function in Imperial times, but its official name has always been Yi He Yuan - Park for Maintaining Health and Harmony.