The summer palace on the outskirts of Beijing, was began in the Jin dynasty, but developed heavily during the Yuan dynasty since Mongolians, being from the north, did not enjoy the hot Beijing weather. The cool air blowing off of beautiful Kunming lake is still refreshing today!
Unfortunately, the palace was sacked a few times by Westerners during the Anglo-French invasion and during the Boxer Rebellion, with most artifacts stolen. The grounds, however, are still breathtaking today.
It's best to start a trip to the summer palace in Beijing at Beigongmen station on line 4 (the north gate). This way you can get off at the top of "Longevity Hill," and your visit will be a walk down towards Kunming lake. It costs 30 RMB to enter the park plus 10 RMB for the entrance to the Temple of Buddhist Incense, which I recommend.
The buildings of the summer palace have a lot of similarities to the Forbidden city, but much better scenery. For this reason, I enjoyed the summer palace more so than the Forbidden City, which becomes repetitive.
Suzhou street, where vendors are located.
Stairs down from the temple.