Friday, September 19, 2008

Camp David of the Far East

Like the Statue of Liberty or the Washington Monument, the Summer Palace was about to become one of those close-by landmarks that people take for granted. We couldn't let that happen, so we began our love affair with this wondrous site this past weekend. While we had visited during our '04 tour, scratching the surface on that trip would be quite an overstatement.

Yiheyuan, as it is known in Chinese, was the summer retreat for the Emperor, Empress, and their court since the Jin Dynasty. At the time, it was outside of the main city. Of course, with the size of Beijing now, it has been gobbled up by the city limits.

This place, which we can see from our balcony and walk to in around 15 minutes, has many gems within, including a water body called Kunming Lake (which supposedly freezes in winter and hosts many a skater), the Long Corridor (which really is long and has 10,000 painted scenes), the infamous Marble Boat (commissioned by the Empress Dowager Cixi, who used the money she was supposed to use to fund her navy to construct this most decadent vessel).

In the midst of weeping willows, rock gardens, and paddle boats, many a day can be spent wandering through seemingly endless expanses of beauty. It is not a surprise that this was such a special place for the imperial rulers. No doubt, it will become a special place for us as well, as it has already left us looking forward to a return trip.

~Desi

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