Friday, June 11, 2010

China Trip: The Summer Palace

Canal at the entrance to the Summer Palace

Out of all the incredible things we saw on our China trip, my favorite had to be the Summer Palace, a site once used by
China's royalty as a summer retreat from the Forbidden City. M
y Lonely Planet described it as an "opulent dominion of palace temples, gardens, pavilions, lakes and corridors (that) was once a playground for the imperial court."

Words cannot convey the wonder I felt inside the Summer Palace. It was truly stunning — despite existing in a cloud of smog. Everywhere I looked in the Summer Palace looked like a beautiful photograph. I easily could have spent the entire day there wandering around taking pictures, and probably would have if Joe didn't start getting restless after a while.

Temple on the way to the main tower

Joe — too big for ancient China. Surprise.

The centerpiece of the palace complex was this magnificent structure, the Tower of Buddhist Incense. The inside, painted in extraordinary detail, houses a several-hundred-year-old bronze statue of Buddha featuring 1,000 hands, 12 heads and 24 arms.


The tower is perched at the top of a hill overlooking a giant lake dotted with dragon boats carrying tourists across to the Seventeen Arch Bridge. Imagine what this could look like on a clear summer day with water sparkling in the sun...

In the 1700s, the emperor ordered 100,000 laborers to expand and deepen this lake. He liked to sit on this hilltop and watch the imperial navy do drills.

The dragon boat we rode

Seventeen Arch Bridge on the other side of the lake

It was a fascinating place, and an afternoon I'll never forget.


AdelaideBen said...

"...featuring 1,000 hands, 12 heads and 24 arms" Ok... now you've got our attention... no photos! Actually, can't complain, as the photos were great.

Shame that it was a cloud of smog, rahter than a sea of fog... but still impressive.

Gail said...

Thanks Ben. Yeah, no photo of the Buddha... Not sure why I didn't photograph it. Maybe because it was dark in there, maybe because I wasn't sure if photographs were OK? I'm a little gun shy about that since Joe got yelled at once for taking a photo of a Buddha statue when photos were apparently prohibited.

echo said...

The architecture and embellishments are just breathtaking. Your photos are amazing!

Al said...

Clear days with water sparkling in the sun don't seem to happen anymore in China.

I encountered one clear day in the two weeks I was there but the temperature was below freezing and the winds were fierce.