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Published: November 1st 2006
Gate of the Dispelling Cloud
Intricately painted triumphal arch leads to the climb up Longevity Hill in the Summer Palace complex. Also known as "Jade-Like Firmament in Bright Clouds". Have no idea what that's supposed to mean!
A visit to Beijing is not complete without an excursion to the Summer Palace in the far NW of Beijing. It took over an hour to arrive there through horrendous traffic, so I definitely got to see a lot more of Beijing even if it was main roads, road construction and flyovers!
A more pleasant way of getting there, is to hire a bike and follow the canal so as to miss most of the traffic. I was told that it takes about 1.5hrs- almost the same as the bus. Next time!
The area surrounding the Summer Palace had been used as a pleasure garden for centuries, when in the 1880’s, the Empress Dowager Cixi decided to substantially expand the original park, and the “new” Summer Palace was built to replace the old one that had been destroyed 20 years before. Cixi loved it so much she basically packed up her court in the Forbidden City and moved “to the country” , where she effectively ruled China for 20years until her death. Since the quick rebuild from damage following the Boxer Rebellion in 1900, the Palace has survived civil war and the Cultural Revolution to become one of Beijing’s top
Hall of Dispelling Cloud
Site of an ancient Ming Temple, this was rebuilt by Emperor Qianlong and renamed Temple of Gratitude for a Long Life to celebrate his mother's 60th birthday. Towering behind it is the Buddhist Fragrance Pavilion otherwise known as the Pagoda of Buddhist Virtue or Tower of Buddhist Incense. It houses a gilded bronze statue of the Guanyin Bodhisattva dating back to 1574.
On the day I visited, the weather was decidedly hazy, crowds were huge and large sections were off limits for-you guessed it- restorations/renovations! Despite this it was a day well spent. From the elderly gentleman doing his Tai Chi in the Bamboo Grove, the three-tiered Grand Theatre and other magnificent structures to the cruisy little boat ride on Kunming Lake, I thoroughly enjoyed it all.
However, one increasingly annoying thing that now seems “endemic” at Chinese Scenic Spots, is the tendency to hike up entrance fees (this year many sites more than doubled their fees from the previous year) and then every time you want to do something else in the park, you pay an extra fee. I guess someone has to pay for the incredible restoration/maintenance costs, but the sheer size of the numbers involved is astonishing. I have no idea how the average Chinese family affords it.
As it was my last night in Beijing, I went out with a group of the backpackers from the Beijing Downtown Backpackers. We had a great night and tasted some good food, but can’t say I was enthralled with the toffee potatoes?! A fitting end to
Impressive open air 3-tiered Grand Theatre built by Cixi in the Garden of Virtue and Harmony. Cixi was passionate about Beijing Opera, and had her own ensemble of nearly 400 eunuchs to perform at her whim. The three stages were connected by trapdoors, so that characters could swoop down or rise up from the "depths" of the underworld. There was even an underground water reservoir for so-called "wet" scenes. Sounds a bit like the Colloseum, doesn't it?
my first “adventure” in and around Beijing. I will be back!
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