Monday, January 14, 2013

China Day 2 Afternoon - The Summer Palace

After we all re-grouped in the village at the Great Wall, we drove about an hour southwest (in the direction of the Summer Palace) and stopped to have lunch at a small Chinese restaurant. Lisa helped us navigate the menu and we ordered a variety of dishes to share. We all must have been starving because each dish came out of the kitchen, was passed around the table and returned empty. There was not a whole lot of talking going on at our table. The food was good but not as good as some of the food we had on other days. As far as drinks, the only option available was hot water. Plain hot water. No lemon. No tea. Just hot water. As Lisa said, "The Chinese drink a lot of hot water." I am not sure what that was supposed to mean but I was still so cold that it was actually very nice just to drink hot water.

It was a short drive from the restaurant to the Summer Palace.The driver left us at the entrance to the Summer Palace and Lisa gave us a quick overview of what we would be seeing.

Here we are still bundled up! It was even colder at the Summer Palace than at the Great Wall so we pulled up our hoods and layered gloves and mittens for additional warmth. The Summer Palace is someplace that should definitely be seen in the Summer. Not in the Dead. Of. Winter.
The Summer Palace is 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) northwest of central Beijing and is the largest and most most well-preserved royal park in China. Because we were there in winter, it obviously looked pretty barren and brown. However, in doing some research for this post, I saw some photos taken in the spring and summer and the landscape was beautiful.  It is known as "the museum of royal gardens". 

A brief history of the construction of Summer Palace (adapted from

Construction of "Qingyi Garden" (Garden of Clear Ripples) began in 1750 and the garden was meant to be a luxurious royal garden for royal families to rest and entertain. It later became the main residence of royal members in the end of the Qing Dynasty. Like most of the gardens of Beijing, it could not elude the rampages of the Anglo-French Allied Force and was destroyed by fire during the Second Opium War (1856-1860). The garden was renamed the Summer Palace after its first reconstruction in 1888. The Empress Dowager Cixi (also known as the "Dragon Lady") embezzled 8,000,000 CYN from funds intended for the Chinese Navy to further renovate the gardens as a resort in which to spend the rest of her life. The embezzlement resulted in the Chinese Navy being inadequately supplied and unprepared to properly defend China in the Sino-Japanese war. In 1900, the Palace was  damaged again when Allied Forces took control of Beijing during the suppression of the Boxer Rising. It was restored two years later and in 1924, it was opened to the public and named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1998. 

(Side note - the Dragon Lady played a very significant role in Chinese history and in the decline of the Qing Dynasty. The corruption and greed in her administration as well as her anti-foreign and anti-reform policies significantly limited the modernization of China. If you have a few minutes, this article about her rise to power is well worth a read.)

From the United National Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization website, the Summer Palace "is a masterpiece of Chinese landscape garden design and the natural landscape of hills and open water is combined with artificial features such as pavilions, halls, palaces, temples and bridges to form a harmonious ensemble of outstanding aesthetic value. The Summer Palace covers an area of 2.97 square kilometers, 3/4 of which is covered by water. The main framework is supplied by the Hill of Longevity and Kunming Lake, complemented by man-made features. It is designed on a grandiose scale, commensurate with its role as an imperial garden. It is divided into three areas, each with its particular function: political and administrative activities, residence, and recreation and sightseeing."

Some photos from our visit.
Guardian Lions (I posted about the significance behind these here). The female.
The Male.
The cub (under the female's paw).
 A peacock symbolizing the Dragon Lady.
This dragon symbolizes the Emperor. He is said to be holding out his hand as a request for more power. However, the Dragon Lady placed him under guarded house arrest at the Summer Palace and ruled the country so his hand remains empty. 
 Detail on a building.
An incense burner.
The Lake. 
 The Dragon Lady's residence.
Photos taken on the shores of the lake. By this time, not only were we frozen solid but a wind blew in off of the lake and added to our misery.
 Jim and Jan (somewhere under that hood). 

 Shiv was quite daring and took his hat off for the photo.
This is the longest covered walkway in the world. I think Lisa said it was 776 meters long. It ran along the edge of the lake for its entire length and was literally a freezing wind tunnel. I think we set a record for how quickly we walked those 776 meters! I felt bad for Lisa because we were moving so fast - a combination of trying to stay warm and finish the tour. I am sure she had a script to stick too but we just reached a point where we were DONE and wanted to be in the car and out of the cold and wind.  
The "boat" behind Jan was built out of marble and was used as a venue for the Dragon 
Lady's dinner parties.  
A better photo.
The most wonderful sight! The parking lot was just over this bridge.  
On the way back to the city and our hotel, our driver took us by the Olympic Stadium (the "Bird's Nest"). Not all that much to see but as long as we didn't have to get out of the warm van, I didn't care.

The kids and I in the car taking "selfies".

We warmed up at the hotel and then went out for dinner. When in Peking, Peking Duck is a must and we had been talking about it ALL day! Thanks to Jan and her research, we ended up at "Beijing Dadong Roast Duck Restaurant" which, according to Eyewitness Travel Top 10 Beijing is the number one restaurant in the city for Peking Duck.

The chefs carving the ducks.

Is this our duck?
The condiment tray. Definitely a step above ketchup and mustard.
 Assembling the "sandwich".
 It looked just like a slider. A little fancier though.
 Yum! No complaints here.

We did not order this but it was one of the more interesting dishes featured on the menu. 
After a short walk back to the hotel, it was bedtime!

Next up - Day 3, The Ming Tombs, Tienanmen Square and the Forbidden City. And some shopping. 

Have a great Monday!

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