Monday, March 19, 2007

Parks Parks Parks - Volume 1

Beijing, as a playground for succesive dynasties (whether divine, nationalistic or dictatorship of the proletariat) has its fair share of parks. I went to a few of them. Want to hear about it? With lots of pictures?


Read on.

Volume 1: Beihai Park

If you want the full history lesson you can ask Google, but basically Beihai park is where ol' Kublai Kahn used to hang out in the pre-Forbidden City days. The only thing remaining from his era is a big jade jar carved with dragons, which I couldn't really photograph because it's in a big glass case outdoors so is pretty much a reflection-fest. The center piece of the park is the Jade Islet, upon which sits a Bái tǎ (White Tower), built to impress the Dalai Lama some 350 years ago when he and China were on somewhat better terms.

Some of my photos are kind of bluey because I was screwing around with white balance settings to see what would cut through the smog most effectively. Turns out its the 'Halogen' setting.

Like this (dull original here):


That white tower you see there is the white tower.

Here it is a little closer. I guess if I was a reincarnated New World Camelid I'd find that impressive. But once you've been around a few centuries who knows? I bet you'd get sick of climbing stairs.



Anyway, it seems the most surefire way of impressing one of the innumerable incarnations of Avalokiteśvara is a simple formula of maximum buddhas per square inch.


The best thing about Beihai park though, is at the northern end of the lake, where they tone down the buddhas and start packing in the dragons. In particular the Jiǔlóng Bì or 9 dragon wall. According to local signage (and why would they lie?) this is the largest example of glazed tile art in China. I just thought it was pretty damn cool.

Here's one of the dragons in close up:


And here's the whole shebang in panaramavision. Once again you can click to embiggen but its pretty huge (and the joins are much more obvious).

9 dragons mural

If you just can't get enough Beihai goodness, or you want to see close ups of all the dragons, the full set is here.

NB: In the course of writing this post, I had cause to Google the word 'Dalai Lama', and was even foolish enough to click one of the links. Now I'm getting a 'the connection was reset' error every time I try to load Google. If you're reading this oh diligent Chinese internet police, please understand that my intent was to have a laugh at his holiness' expense, not to overthrow the legitimate government of the People's Republic. Furthermore, his holiness could stand to take some fashion tips from his predecessor, especially in the kickass moustache department.

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