Thursday, June 28, 2012

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. But, wealth has its privileges. They could view the koi ponds with musicians hovering nearby to play for them. A servant would fetch them a pot of tea or a treat whenever they desired.

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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