Posts Tagged With: Summer Palace

THE SUMMER PALACE

The Summer Palace sits majestically over a lake. It is still used by the Empress Dowager and we didn’t go into the buildings but it was the favorite place of  Empress Cixi Putz, pronounced sissy-putz, who died in the late 1800’s.

We were ferried over the man-made lake by dragon boat to a landing where we waited in line to cross the seventeen arches bridge.

I am guessing that later construction in China did not obey the multiples of nine as in older buildings. The Summer Palace,  while still used officially, is a huge tourist attraction with boat rides of all types on the lake, beautiful gardens and in short, a lovely way to spend a day and picnic.

You enter through this beautiful gate.

As always, I had to take a picture of the ornate roof of the gate.

Our group stopped for a picture in front of this beautiful gate. The site is now designated a UNESCO site for its unique beauty and features.

The side of the gate is lined with the stone lion guards. Peeling paint is being scraped; the site repainted in preparation for the Olympics to be held in China for the first time in 2008.

Two  interesting  features of the Summer Palace are the Marble Boat, seen only in the background behind these people and the Long Hall which is not a hall, but a long covered walk way for the Empress to use.  On the Marble Boat, the Empress entertained guests  with a banquet as though they were actually traveling to some exotic place.

The Long Hall is also beautifully decorated. You can see the roof trusses beneath the picture.  The hall has many pictures depicting Chinese History, or famous storied fables to entertain her and her guests. It is lined with benches to rest often since the Empress, (and all women then,) had bound feet. The royal Empresses of old were confined to their Peaceful Garden and Long Hall since it was difficult for them to move about.

It would be fun to hear some of the stories these pictures represent. We were free to wander around the gardens and lake.

There are many bridges of great beauty. Chinese tourists love boating here.

Every bridge is guarded by those marvelous stone lions.

When we first arrived on the Island, we saw workers disembarking from a boat. This woman carries her own big metal “dust” pan and straw broom. The thermos we expect is her lunch. The dust pan can obviously hold discarded paper cups, napkins and other large debris dropped on the walkways and gardens.

These two little girls were well dressed and obviously having a good time. The one child per family edict resulted in more surviving males, by design. Women would line up to have sonograms and abort girl babies. Men grew up and couldn’t find a wife and had to go to Korea, Viet Nam, Indonesia,  or elsewhere to import brides. The sonogram “factories” have been closed and now, through education, people revere and prefer girls, especially in the big modern cities.  Farm families are allowed two children.

Since we couldn’t read Chinese script, we have no idea what significance this beautiful sculpture of a cow had.

At lunch, Viki explained to us that her own grandmother had bound feet, the cruel tortuous practice instigated by the Emperor’s favorite concubine who had tiny, tiny feet and danced for him on a drum. He considered them so beautiful and dainty, that aristocratic women made their own daughters emulate that beauty by binding their feet.  Vicki called it five hundred years of cruelty and crippling of women. Her grandparents were political, meaning outspoken, and were banished to the high country of China near Tibet. She remembers as her grandmother aged how painful her feet were and her inability to walk properly or very far.

All restaurant meals  are served on this giant turntable that takes up the complete center of the table.  We had delicious meals in China  that typically  included sea weed, cabbage, always bok choy, chicken, beef, cucumbers, soup, little meaty hors’ dueovres. Meat is in small quantities with many vegetables none of us recognized; always fish, normally cooked whole with head, eyes and fins attached. Everything came in a tasty sauce. Rice in good restaurants and affluent Chinese homes, is served last. It is only to fill you up if you didn’t get enough primary foods. We all wanted rice WITH our meals and of course, we were accommodated.

For more information about the summer palace, click the following link:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Summer_Palace

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THE SUMMER PALACE

There are four famous cultural things in China according to our guide.  Calligraphy, majong, opera, and acupuncture. I thought that list was quite short remembering their  lions, the abacus, their dragons, lanterns, and myriad other fascinating things we see in our travels.  In any case, Beijing has the traditional Opera. But, first, the Summer Palace.

It is  October of 2006, and it rained a bit the morning of our visit. We spot this imposing building from the bus as it sits next to the river. Our guide tells us this will be our only chance to catch a picture of  the entire building, which we obediently do.

There may be other ways to get to the Summer Palace but we are treated to a ferry ride across the lake in a replica of a boat  used in the days of Empress Cixi, (pronounced Sissy-putz.)

The lake has both modern and replica dragon boats plying tourists around the lake to support china’s newly burgeoning tourist market.

We enter the palace grounds through this exquisite gate.

Our group pauses for a picture.

As we cross over the bridge, I see the lions guarding us and notice the peeling paint.  (It will be gone soon.) The Dragon Lady Empress Dowager used the Summer Palace, which is the largest royal garden preserved in China.  The royal empresses of old were  confined to their “Peaceful Garden” and Long Hall, which is not a “hall” but  beautifully decorated covered walkways with many benches for resting because of their bound feet.

The wooden ceiling of this covered walkway is beautifully painted. And, about every ten feet or so is a painting like this one for her to enjoy. This walkway is probably a half mile long with many benches for the Empress to sit and rest her feet.

Her guests  would be entertained at a banquet on a marble boat in the Grand Canal as though they were traveling to some exotic place. In 2006 I had a brand new digital camera and didn’t use it to much advantage.  The marble boat, which obviously didn’t float is in the background of this photo. We were not allowed on the boat.

A majestic lion guards every corner of the bridge and smaller ones decorate each bridge support.

We walked all over the area and enjoyed this beautiful park. One of the buildings, the “Big Hall”  is reserved for visiting dignitaries and is still used by the government in that way.  The Empress’ personal quarters were not open to the public  as the Summer Palace is undergoing refurbishment in readiness for the first ever Olympics to be held in China.

We did not learn the significance of this carved ox because everything was written in script. Our guide told us that before the Olympics, all signage will be printed in other languages for the benefit of tourists.

People on the street don’t seem to like having you take their picture. I surreptitiously caught this of a Chinese worker carrying her thermos?  The brooms they use seem quite crude but they do the job.  Workers are distinguished by their deep blue costumes.

Lunch was a typical Chinese “private”, meaning not government owned, restaurant.  The best food so far with great sea weed, cabbage, always bok choy, chicken, beef, cucumbers, soup, little meaty hors’ duevres. Meat is always small quantities with many vegetables and usually a tasty sauce and rice that is traditionally served last. It is only to fill you up if you didn’t get enough of the primary foods. We all asked for our rice with our meal the way we are used to it and, of course, we are accommodated.

At lunch, Vicki, our guide, explained that her own grandmother had bound feet, the cruel tortuous practice instigated by the Emperor’s favorite concubine who had tiny, tiny feet. He considered them so beautiful and dainty that aristocratic women made their own daughters emulate that identified “beauty” by binding their feet. Vicky called it, “Five hundred years of cruelty and crippling of women.”  Her grandparents were “political”, meaning outspoken and were banished to the high country of China near Tibet, but Vicky remembers her painful feet.

 

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