Front of Longevity Hill
Longevity Hill (Wanshou Shan)


Longevity Hill, 58.59 meters high, is an offshoot of the Yan Mountain range. Legend has it that an old man found a stone jar while chiseling at the hill rocks. The hill was therefore named Jar Hill and the lake before it, Jar Hill Lake. Also named West Lake, the lake in time came to be known as Kunming Lake. In the 7th year of the reign of Emperor Hongzhi (1494) of the Ming Dynasty, the emperor’s wet nurse, Madam Luo, built a temple at the foot of the mountain, which she named the Temple of Serenity. In the 15th year of Emperor Qianlong’s reign (1750), the Temple of Immense Gratitude and Longevity was built on the site of the ruined Temple of Serenity to celebrate the 60th birthday of the Emperor’s mother. The following year, the hill was renamed Longevity Hill. As the development of the Summer Palace grounds continued, soil quarried to enlarge Kunming Lake was piled up on the hill to put its east and west slopes in balance in terms of shape and size. This restyled hill became the mainstay of the garden. The majority of the structures built on the hillside during Emperor Qianlong’s reign (1736-1795) were burned down by the Anglo-French Allied Forces in 1860. Most of the existing buildings were rebuilt during Emperor Guangxu’s reign (1875-1908). The Tower of the Fragrance of the Buddha is a three-storey octahedral building with four-layered eaves built in front of the hill. An axis running uphill links all the structures together, starting from the archway at the foot of the hill, and going up through the Gate that Dispels the Clouds, the Second Palace Gate, the Hall that Dispels the Clouds, the Hall of Moral Glory, and the Tower of the Fragrance of the Buddha, and ending on the hilltop at the Sea of Wisdom Temple. Found on the east hillside are the Revolving Archives and the Longevity Hill and Kunming Lake Monument. Standing on the west hillside are the Pavilion of Five Locations and the Baoyun Bronze Pavilion. The buildings behind the hill include the “Four Great Regions”, a splendid Tibetan Buddhist structure, and the colorful Glazed Tile Pagoda of Many Treasures that stands in the greenery of the hill. Apart from that, there is a variety of traditional structures such as the Hall of Utmost Blessing, the Pavilion of Multi-layered Greenery, Painting the Autumn Pavilion, and the Strolling in the Picture Scroll, etc., making Longevity Hill a concentrated illustration of classical Chinese garden architecture.