The construction of Summer Palace started in 1750 as a luxurious royal garden for royal families to rest and entertain. It later became the main residence of royal members, most notably Empress Dowager Cixi – also known as the “dragon queen” for the power she exerted.
She was selected as an imperial concubine, for her beauty in her adolescence, and gave birth to the only son of the Xianfeng Emperor. After the emperor’s death in 1861, the young boy became the emperor, and she became the Empress Dowager. Cixi ousted a group of regents appointed by the late emperor and assumed regency. Cixi then consolidated control over the dynasty when she installed her nephew as emperor following the death of her son at an early age; this being contrary to the traditional rules of succession of the Qing dynasty that had ruled China since 1644. Cixi rejected Western models of government and the reforms that the Emperor supported. She placed the Guangxu Emperor, who had tried to assassinate her, under virtual house arrest for his support of the radical reformers. The death of both Cixi and the Guangxu Emperor in 1908 left the court in the hands of Manchu conservatives, a child ( the last Emperor) on the throne, and a restless, rebellious public. Historians both in China and abroad have long portrayed her as a despot responsible for the fall of the Qing dynasty.
This is clearly a very popular spot for Chinese tourists and local residents. A 700 meter covered and decorated walkway runs alongside the lake .