Friday, March 23, 2007

Parks Parks Parks - Volume 2

Well, blogger is back on the blacklist again, hopefully not because of anything I did. Anyway, via the dark internet magic of proxies, here is:

Volume 2: The Summer Palace

The Summer Palace, or Yíhé Yuán, has been a popular hang out for Beijing's elites for almost 1000 years (if my Chinese tourism sources are to be believed which maybe they aren't) . Certainly since the 1700's its been the place to go when the cobbled shady alleyways and impenetrable walls of the Forbidden City started making the Ming Emperors and their gang feel a little hemmed in.

Basically the park consists of a large lake,
Kūn Míng Hú and a hill, Wàn Shòu Shān (Longevity Hill) that was made from the soil that was manually removed in the enlarging of the lake. Its a big hill. One imagines that it probably didn't represent longevity for the labourers who had to move the approximately 3.3 million cubic metres of soil without the aid of machinery. (Someone check my math, the lake is 2.2 square kilometres in area, and averages 1.5m deep, I'm kind of rusty)

Anyway, its a pretty park. Its component parts are supposed to be a representation of China at large, with the lake, the hill and the architecture all stand ins for their real counterparts in the places that were too far from Beijing to warrant visiting.

Upon entering, we find that, as with all major toursty things in Beijing at the moment, parts of it are being restored and are off limits. Next to the big tarp with the weird 2D representation of the building its covering, this guy guards the entrance in all his horsey dragony snakey liony deery glory.


In turn, the statue is protected by this sign:


Which seems to suggest that the railings are as important as the centuries old statues. I attempted to translate that second line of characters, and came up with something resembling 'love the fence post' which isn't any less confusing.

From the top of
Wàn Shòu Shān, there are some nice (if smog obscured) views North West from Beijing


Coming down the face of the hill, you get to see a pretty cool mishmash of buildings, windy stone paths, buddhisty things (again proving the buddhist 'more is more' density rule) and a nice tree-lined corridor.




Now, being the Summer Palace, Summer is probably a great time to visit. As it was, I was there at the tail end of winter, when the lake is, either due to freezing or draining, basically a giant, slightly noxious smelling mud flat. It does detract from the money shot a little, but here it is anyway:


And what better to sail on a non-existent lake, than an immovable stone boat?


The weirdest thing about the vast stinky mudflat, is that people were actually walking out on it, foraging for something or other. Like this guy. Either he thought there was something edible beneath that smelly mud, or he didn't get the memo that the Ming Dynasty was overthrown and the lake is quite deep enough now thanks.


In the centre of the 'lake' there is an small island with a cluster of temples and things, including the delightfully named 'Temple of Timely Rains and Extensive Moisture'. (I didn't find the temple of Foul Smelling Mud.) I was in photo fatigue by this point (as you probably are), but I got a nice shot of the bridge to the island.


And that is that. We made our way out, running the gauntlet of hawkers that yelled 'tour guide! tour guide!' on the way in, dodging them as they yelled 'taxi! taxi!' on the way out. Then I probably went and got drunk if memory serves (it does not).

And if all that hasn't given you your daily fix of waiting for images to load, there's more here.


The Summer Palace Drinking Game: Every time you see a plaque saying "this building was burnt/destroyed by Anglo-French forces in 1860", take a drink. Finish your beverage if they carted off a priceless relic in the process. You won't make it half way around.

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