Friday, July 8, 2011

The Summer Palace

The Summer Palace, or Yiheyuan, meaning" garden of restful peace," has  a history of over 800 years as an imperial garden, dating back to the 1150"s.  It is about 12 km from the center of Beijing, and was used as a summer retreat for the imperial court to escape the heat of the city.
Heading into the Summer Palace  by the north entrance.  Our guide we had at the Forbidden City knew we didn't have much time so drove us to the gardens and took us through part of it.  To see the whole thing would take you at least a day.  We hadn't expected to be able to get there at all, so were grateful for the chance to see a part of it.

Kunming lake was created in the 1750's.  The rocks and debris was used to enlarge Longevity Hill in the background.  The walkway goes all around the edges of the lake.

I think this lady was created around the same time as the lake!!
In 1924 the garden was made into a public park.  You can rent those little boats to putz around in.

This seventeen arched bridge is quite beautiful and is the only connection to Nanhu Island, which has temples on it.  The bridge is decorated with 544 lions.  Each one is uniquely carved.  The bridge is an imitation of the Marco Polo Bridge in Beijing.

In 1860 the Anglo- French allied forces invaded Beijing and set fire to many of the buildings in the Summer Palace.  The Empress Dowager Cixi used embezzled money from the navy to restore the gardens and Summer Palace.  Her extravagances were notorious and partially caused the downfall of the imperial court.

One of the many pavilions to rest in.
Our guide, and l and about a million other people!!
Lots of trees and even grass (something you don't see a whole lot of here) and more cool buildings.
These were windows from the Empress Cixi's rooms.  The decorations on the grill work are bats, which were supposed to bring her good fortune.
The entrance to the Long Corridor.  The colors are amazing and beautiful.  The boat pictured below, is one of the treasures at the end of the Long Corridor. 
The marble base is old and originally had a wooden Chinese type top but that burned along with all the rest and when it was restored in the 1800's it was made to look like a western paddle wheeler.  Cixi had mirrors and colored glass put in the top story to give it the illusion is was moving on the water. It is sometimes called Cixi's folly because of the cost to renovate.

The original Long Corridor was built in 1750 but it was burned along with the rest in 1860, and then rebuilt in 1866.  It is 728 m long and runs along the lake front connecting all the buildings on Longevity Hill and broken up by four pavilions.  It was built so there would be a covered walkway along the lake.  We just didn't have the time to walk all along it but it would have been amazing to see.
There are more than 14,000 paintings on the beams depicting folk tales, classic novels and landscapes.  They are really incredible.
Well our Beijing trip has come to and end.  Hope you got a small sense of what that incredible city and area is like.  We thoroughly enjoyed our time there.  If you ever get the chance!!  Go!!

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