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A Summer Palace in Winter

Part 1 of 2 from Beijing Summer Palace


Beijing, December 27th 2012

A dozen thanks to Google Map as always, I arrived safe and sound (but shaking) by subway, at the Summer Palace. As my head popped up from the subway tunnel, I noticed the ground and trees above were covered white. Did it snow last night? Here? I didn't see this much snow anywhere near my hotel. And, it's much colder. This must be on higher ground compared to Beijing downtown. Back to Google. Yes, it is. Will I survive? I could feel the cold wind sweeping on my thighs.

From the subway tunnel I took a long walk searching for the entrance gate. It was a silly mistake actually. That, I will tell you at the end of this post. Anyway, having walked all the way outside Summer Palace's outer wall until I met a huge parking area with dozens of tourist buses, my body turned warm. At this entrance there were many personal tour guides offering themselves. But, 95% of them spoke Chinese. When I got tired of being approached, I spoke in English, "I'm sorry, I don't understand." The guide obviously looked shocked and walked away. This happened two three times. Therefore, I assume these guides speak only Chinese. Otherwise they wouldn't have walked away.

The entrance gate wasn't a place for me to linger. Apparently one of the guides told his fellow-guide that I was a foreigner. When I laid my camera-backpack on the ground, someone approached me, in (broken) English. You know, these tour guides are like bees buzzing around. Then, I got an idea.

"Ee? Nan desuka? Sumimasen. Wakarimasen." This, solved the problem. I became a free honey again.

I sat down under a tree, took off my hand gloves, turned open my flask, and in a hurriedly put on my hand gloves back. The warm vapor from my flask's cup glittered in my eyes like gold. So precious. If only I could do magic, I would turn this cup into a pail and then put my face into it. How nice would that be. By the way, according to the weather channel, Turpan is colder than Beijing. I shuddered at that thought.

Among the tourist attractions I've been in China, Summer Palace is to me the most foreigner-friendly. A detailed map in Chinese but also in English, is provided. At the backside is the information of each bridge, pavilion, lake, etc. in Chinese, but also in English. Furthermore, in good English.

Here's an introduction in 5 languages: Chinese, English, Japanese, Korean, and Russian.

It's a pity the English version of Summer Palace's website is not working now. At the time I prepared for this trip, it was working very well. It had a different appearance then. There were plenty of helpful information e.g. opening hours, tickets prices, means of transportation, etc., etc. which helped me plan for the day.

What has lured me to the Summer Palace? Pearl S. Buck's "Imperial Woman". It's a novel without photos but gives a thousand pictures. Many say, a photograph is a painting painted with light. I say, "Imperial Woman" is a photo album painted with words. That Imperial Woman was Cixi, the last empress of the last empire of China. Here's a brief introduction to the Summer Palace which I copy from the map above.

The Summer Palace, originally named Garden of Clear Ripples, was built by Emperor Qianlong in 1750 to celebrate his mother's birthday. It was later used as a pleasures garden for emperors and empresses. In 1860, it was brutally burned down by the Anglo-French Allied Forces. To seek pleasure, Empress Dowager Cixi diverted navy funds to rebuild it in 1886. The gardain was again seriously damaged by the Allied Forces of Eight Powers in 1900 and was rebuilt again in 1902.

In 1914, the Summer Palace was opened to the public as a private property of the Qing imperial family and was formally opened as a park in 1924. Only then did ordinary people have a chance to enter the garden. In 1992, the Summer Palace was appraised as the most perfectly preserved imperial garden with the richest man-made scenery and most concentrated architecture in the world. It was inscribed on the World Heritage List by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization in 1998 and has become a park of high culture value for tourists and a treasure of human civilization.

If the weather wasn't foggy, maybe far behind Tower of the Fragrance of Buddha there, Jiulong Mountains could be seen. A few hours later, even the tower, disappeared from sight. Below there, the blue thingies, are tourist boats rested for the season -- in ice. Kunming Lake has frozen.

For the ducklings, it was the best season of the year. I watched them walking up and down the layer of ice, and then jump into the water for a swim. That small part wasn't frozen, because there was a strong current of wastewater from nearby restaurant that thrust into the lake.

This weather I cannot identify. How do you call this? Sunny? But the sky is so grey and bare. Overcast? But the sun is shining bright and I can make a full silhouette from it.

Every here and there were signs of not to step on the ice. Nevertheless, I saw people, locals and foreigners, walking up and down the lake with great ease.

They didn't just step. They crossed the lake, on foot!

This was funny. I don't know what this little girl was looking for. She walked cross the lake while constantly looking down searching for something. If it were on the beach, it must have been for seashells. But on a frozen lake? Her mother followed -- looked more like chasing -- from behind. I was watching them from a bridge. Her mother pleaded for her to stop, turn back, and pose. But her daughter had no time for that. The frozen lake under her feet was too precious to leave out of sight even just for a pose. Maybe she thought she had already posed ten times, why pose again? Ah, her mother must have wanted one pose with the bridge -- which I was standing on -- as background.

Eventually, this little girl lost her patience. She gave up towards her mother's begging. Suddenly she turned back, pulled her face, and then stretched her arms and legs like a scarecrow. "There! Quick! Take my picture!"

Hahaha, I would like to see how her face looked like on her mother's camera preview.

In winter like this, let alone ripples, none of the hills are visible. Well, that's why it's not called "Winter Palace".

Facing the Heralding Spring Pavilion is this Wenchang Tower.

Next to Wenchang Tower, is Wenchang Gallery. I think it's better to say "Wenchang Galleries", because the complex consists of many galleries in separate houses. They were galleries of music, painting, etc. The ornament of the interior was awesome. Such as the photo above, every bar of wood is painted carefully with different scenes of the vicinity.

This is Seventeen-Arch Bridge from where I took pictures of the mother and daughter who was an opposite-narcissist.

At the end there is South Lake Island.

Posted by automidori 07:44 Archived in China Tagged china beijing summer_palace

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