Friday, October 19, 2012

The Summer Palace [颐和园 - Yiheyuan] - Absolutely Not The Full Guide @ Beijing, China

I have a thought - i should put "not a full guide" as part of the blog heading for most of the attractions covered during my recent China trip! The first post to be tagged with it shall be the one on summer palace today.

The simple outlook does not seem befitting for a royal palace but as the saying goes, looks aren't everything.

What lies beyond that simplicity is a humongous man-made scenic lake that covers 75% of the summer palace! To put it in easy perspective, the summer palace has an area of 2.9 square kilometers which means that if it is square shaped, the length and width would be 1.7 kilometers each!

In the beginning, i thought the guide was bringing us to Yuanmingyuan (圆明园), another nearby summer palace that is now known as the old summer palace even though in terms of history, Yiheyuan was older by a few centuries!

Honestly, i could not recall which gate i entered from although i am sure the 150 meters long, seventeen-arch bridge was behind us.

Our destination was supposedly right ahead; where the chubby yet beautiful Tower of the Fragrance of the Buddha (Chinese is an incredible language; seven words can be shortened into just three characters; 佛香阁) beckoned to us!

Another long walk that was in fact welcomed as i came to realise that whenever i visit China, i would lose weight (for this trip, i am lighter by around two kilograms).

The forever flower addict and she was not the only one in our tour group! The whole group was delayed by 10 minutes as all the ladies were scrambling to take pictures with these flowers that could be as big as your face!

Yu Feng pagoda (玉峰塔) in the far distance - contrary to Wikipedia's entry, this pagoda is not part of the summer palace! It is stationed on Jade Spring Mountain that has a spring supplying drinking water for the imperial palace in the past.

Boat cruise to enjoy the scenic view of the summer palace! The water might appear deep but this man-made Kunming lake has an average depth of only 1.5 meters!

Walking towards Wenchang Tower (文昌阁) - which is the largest gate in the summer palace. To put it bluntly, this gate looked more impressive than the entrance we came in from.

The weeping willows painted a wondrous picture of simple relaxation; the kind of life i envisioned to have. The small island houses a pavilion known as 知春亭 (heralding spring pavilion) and was said to be the best place to take in the sights of both kunming lake and longevity hill (where 佛香阁 is located).

That golden-topped arch was where our guide wanted to bring us and i was so hyped up as i assume he would bring us to 佛香阁; the fat building to the left.

I was wrong of course! Climbing up to that building would take too much time (this was confirmed by a student from China whom i spoke to today); an ill afford factor for guided tours. 

For Empress Dowager Cixi, this narrow walkway towards the golden topped arch was sufficient in the days when commoners were disallowed to enter its premises. 

However, the heavier human traffic we see now made it really frustrating to go from one end to another and to add on to the frustration, someone was actually pushing a baby tram that took up more than half the width!!

View from the base of the golden topped arch; that small island is the heralding spring pavilion. 

Known as the Long Corridor, this is way longer than the one at the Temple of Heaven at 728 meters long! I guess Cixi would need a sedan chair to cover the entire length!

It is also given the title longest painted gallery in the world with over 14,000 pictures painted on the sides of the roof beams! The one above shows a scene from Journey of the West where the mischievous Monkey God was battling the Princess of Metal Fan.

Hall of Joyful Longevity - residence of Cixi when she stayed in the summer palace during the hot and humid summer (you do realise it is called Summer Palace for a reason right)!

A pair of bronze cranes would not have attracted much attention except that in this case, the cranes fronting the hall had something really weird.

Their thin, slender legs were chained up!! I know the reason must be structural in nature although for a moment, i was feeling sad for them; thinking along the line of the movie Toy Story, they are basically stuck there permanently!

This hall (Hall of Jade Ripples) is famous for being the prison of Emperor Guangxu for ten years.

Anyone care to explain what is the purpose of this stone?

Along the walls that faced Kunming Lake, you can find a number of such glass covered openings that could do without the poorly painted pictures of trees and plants and butterflies etc.

People who would like to borrow inspiration to build a Chinese style garden should visit the Summer Palace which is considered to be the mother of all Chinese gardens in the world! 

Main governmental building for the Qing Dynasty when the emperor moved to the Summer Palace from the Forbidden City to hide from the summer, the Qilin stationed in front of the Hall of Benevolence and Longevity had a look of a cute puppy anticipating a tennis ball! 

Exiting the place. The areas we covered constitute only a tiny proportion on what the Summer Palace has to offer and this is a terrible disappointment for me! 

A map (and other information) for your easy reference.

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