Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Beijing: Summer Palace

I've visited the Summer Palace twice, once during the National Day holiday, where, as you can see, I appeared to be joined by a sizable proportion of China's population! This is the seventeen arch bridge leading to the Jade island. On National Day, I ended up spending half an hour waiting in a queue for a boat across Kunming Lake, surprising Chinese people by refusing to allow them to cut in front of me, before giving up and finding the queue on the other side of the bridge only had a five minute wait. Bizarre.
This is the superbly photogenic Buddhist Fragrance Pavilion. To be able to get up close and personal with it, you have to walk up the steps marked out by the brown diamond on the base, by which point you may be feeling less than fragrant yourself.
The Pavilion in all its glory; sadly visitors aren't allowed to climb up inside. Although on busy days perhaps it's a blessing - I can imagine people getting shoved off the balconies by the crowds!
I love the intricately decorated traditional Chinese ceilings.
A brief history of the Summer Palace will tell you that it was built by the Emperor Qianlong in the eighteenth century as a summer retreat for the royal family. A lot of the buildings were destroyed by the British and French during the Second Opium War, and it was later lavished with funds by Empress Cixi, soaking up funds that could've been used to strengthen and improve the country.

This was one of the few non-blurry photos that I managed to get when watching the acrobatic show in the Garden on Virtue and Harmony.

Despite the huge crowds over National Day, I found that as soon as I wandered away from the most famous sights, I could easily find a tranquil spot.

I came across this building, which was slightly shabby and covered in creepers. It housed a collection of Qing dynasty furniture that I can remember little about, but the galleries were divinely cool and peaceful.

A gave Suzhou Street a miss as it seemed to be a tourist trap within a tourist trap, although I did enjoy leaning against the parapet of a bridge and watching the hordes of tourists mingling amongst vendors dressed up in traditional Chinese costume.

Take a day trip somewhere new with My World Tuesday.


  1. Absolutely amazing. We forget that China got sophisticated much earlier than Europe. Good thing Mao didn't destroy all the history.

  2. hehe.. this is a must visit place for me. I already mark it on my schedule.

  3. These are such lovely shots!
    I kept scrolling up and down. Coincidentally I too did a post on a palace. :)

  4. beautiful captures...love that last.
    i so love the vastness of china and the many diverse geographical areas and why i am anxious to return for another visit.
    have a great week.

  5. What I beautiful place! I'd love to see it in person.

  6. Great photos and text, J! As always...

  7. Such a fascinating place. Beautiful photos J, I hope I will get to China one day.

  8. I guess we were lucky being taken there by a well educated foreigh office gentleman when there were few people there and the air was clear. Thank you for sharing your experience and lovely pictures.

  9. kb guy - you should definitely visit, it's a great place. my favourite thing was actually just wandering along the long corridor by the lake.

  10. What an amazing opportunity for you. Enjoy being there and don't worry about getting a real job when you grow up. What you are doing is so much better!

  11. What an interesting post. Love the tranquil spot.