Monday, February 20, 2012

winter at the summer palace

One of the advantages of bus tours is the ability to see a lot of sights in a limited time.

The disadvantage of bus tours is the limited time to see a lot of sights.

The “if this is Tuesday, it must be Belgium” syndrome set in with our third major sight of our first tour day -- the Summer Palace.

The Ming emperors built the Summer Palace as a seasonal get-away from the heat (both physical and political) of the Beijing summers.  It is not far from the Forbidden City.  But far enough for the men who carried the emperor in his processional sedan chair.

If you are thinking summer camp, you are close.  There is a lake.  And boats -- including one made of marble.  And forests.  But the comparison stops there.

This is a summer camp in the rarefied manner that the Forbidden City palaces are mere houses.

The emperor had political duties to perform.  So, there are the usual array of political and religious buildings.  (The vandals of the cultural Revolution managed to smash the Buddhas that once graced the temple complex.)
But the lake is the centerpiece of the Summer Palace.  In the summer, it must be stunning with its lotus pond.  In the winter, it is simply cold. 

If the surface water in the photograph seems calm, the reason is simple.  It is ice.  Ice thick enough for adult men to walk on.

The park has been open to the public since the Communist revolution.  No longer is it restricted to the emperor and his retainers.  But irony can run as thick as lake ice.

In the middle of the lake is a former palace where a dowager empress imprisoned her emperor son.  It is now a restaurant.  A restaurant available only to politicians and oligarchs.

The revolution did not end all aspects of feudalism and emperor worship.  Not even on a Belgium Tuesday.


Felipe Zapata said...

Nice photos, señor.

Debiinmerida said...

and always the prose, you teach us so much about every place you visit. Thanks!

Hindi SMS said...

i wish i could be here

Steve Cotton said...

 Thanks.  It was a photogenic place.

Steve Cotton said...

The inner historian is always seeking an escape.

Mbsmith94 said...

One of my favorite spots. I really liked the covered walkway with the painted beams. Could picture myself strolling there in the spring - which would be much perferrable to the winter!

Steve Cotton said...

The lotus garden must be pretty in spring. In the winter, it was merely a sheet of ice topped by a few dead stems. But I never did find my flower blossom tea.

Kim G said...

Interesting post. I'm enjoying your  "China from a Mexican Expat Perspective" posts.

I've heard tell that Northern China has a climate very similar to New England, which is why the lake is frozen.

It may also be behind the economy price for a tour in February.

You are a brave soul.  I hope you packed a lot of warm things, though I guess Melaque has likely taken the chill off your bones by now.


Kim G
Boston, MA
Where we love visiting London in the winter, as there are few tourists, and it's still much warmer than Boston.

Jansmith said...

Thanks for taking us along with you on this trip. I've always wanted to go to China. Now you have me psyched to go. Jan in Mississippi

Steve Cotton said...

China has been on my travel list for at least five years. Now, I want to go back.

Steve Cotton said...

There is no doubt that the tour price was based on the time of year. The advantage was that all the big tourist sights were almost free of other tourists. The downside was the Arctic cold. Copper Canyon was a good warm up (if you pardon the apparent Hegelian contradiction) for the trip. The sweaters I brought south proved to be a good choice for China. I will now leave them in Oregon when I head south on Friday. Right now, I am sitting in Bend. The pond at my brother;s place is frozen. But the warmth of Melaque will soon be mine.