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Sommerpalast (Bejing, China)

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      14.10.2009 09:08
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      A beautiful sight very pleasing on the eye.

      The summer palace Beijing.

      The summer palace is perhaps one of my favourite places we visited in Beijing. It is approximately ten miles from the centre of Beijing and is a very popular place to visit.
      You can get there by bus or taxi and the fares are very cheap. The thing about China is that a lot of the taxi drivers can not speak English so when you go out make sure the hotel gives you a card with the name of the hotel on it so that you can show it to the driver.

      The summer palace is massive and was built for the Royal family to escape from the city for rest and relaxation and there used to be great processions when they moved there during the very hot summer months away from the heat and noise of the city.

      The palace is surrounded by mountains and lakes and is so picturesque and peaceful there is a massive Buddhist temple that overlooks the Palace and stands majestically overlooking the main lake. Parts of the lake were man made to the whim of various Emperors but the most notable was the Dowager Empress Cixi who spent the whole of the Chinese navy budget on her follies of the palace causing the Chinese to lose the war against the Japanese invasion.

      Dowager Empress Cixi was a manipulative woman who acted as Emperor after the death of her husband as her son was too young to act as Emperor when he was old enough to take the reigns of power she manipulated him and was infact still the power behind the throne. The son died and she appointed a grandson to the role of Emperor another one who could be manipulated. In the latter part of the 18th century she announced that she was going to retire to the summer palace however she continued to rule China from there via the courtiers who accompanied her.

      The palace is very vast and opulent no expense was spared in the building of the summer palace. There are over 3000 different structures within the palace grounds including bridges one of which has 17 arches, pavilions, palaces, towers, pergolas, and the long walk which is a highly decorated covered walkway along the shores of the lake. The most expensive folly of all is the massive Marble Boat she had built at the side of the lake where she used to dine and entertain her guests and important visitors. The Kunming Lake was man made and all the earth from the excavation was used to build the massive hill called longetivity hill where the Buddhist temple is built. There are other buildings built around the hill which were built to impress the empress.

      Basically the palace is divided into four areas:

      Front hill area where most of the buildings are situated in front of the lake and the hill including the Gate of dispelling clouds, the hall of the dispelling clouds, the hall of sea and wisdom the Buddhist temple and the hall of moral glory.

      The court area this is where the Empress would meet court officials conducting business and affairs of state. Here she had sumptuous apartments and she had her lover ensconced within the palace grounds with his own apartments. This is also where you will find the long walk gallery.

      The Front lake area is where the great man made Lake Kunming is made including the small island and the seventeen arched bridge and various statues around the lake and the marble boat.

      The rear hill area is the backdrop to the palace gardens which gives wonderful views in the background from where ever you are standing. There are landscaped walks and thick coverings of trees and formal gardens and bridges. It is supposed to represent everything there is about China its natural beauty.

      The most notable areas.

      The Front lake area this is probably one of the best places to view the lake, the palace, long walk, the Buddhist temple and the rear hill area in the background. Boats ply across the lake taking tourists from the end of the long walk and beside the marble boat over to the small island where you can walk over the seventeen arched bridge back to this area.

      The Palace.

      You can walk around the palace and the palace rooms set around little courtyards. In the courtyards are small ornamental trees and bronze statues. The buildings are in Chineses style and painted red with golden slated roofs and the dragons running down the four points of the roof indicating that it is a royal residence. There are various halls around the palace all with designated uses for official business and then the ones for relaxation and entertainment. They are beautiful to look at and either enter or look through the windows admiring the contents of each room as not all of the rooms are open to the public.

      The long Walk.

      The long walk is a covered walkway built in the 1800's built of wood and slating roof which is intricately painted. There are 14, 000 such paintings along the inside of the roof and arches and on the pillars supporting the roof. They look stunning and are very fine and tell stories. Every so often you come to an round area where they would have stood to observe the views around the lake. Here the ceiling of the roof is brilliantly decorated and in each section of the rounded area is painted with different Chinese scenes. The long walk is nearly 728 metres long.

      The Marble boat.

      The original wooden boat burnt down so the Dowager Empress spent the money earmark for the Navy to build this pavilion. It is a two story structure ornately carved out of marble. It is built in the style of a paddle steamer and is 36 metres long where the empress used to hold banquets and entertain her guests. There are little pieces of coloured glass in it and a large mirror giving the impression that it is bigger than it actually is. At the four corners there are dragons and any falling rain drains through the mouths of the dragons. The marble boat looks beautiful reflecting in the lake.


      The Island.

      Catching the little motor launch to Nanhu Island is next thing we did. All the boats are built in the Chinese design with their typical pointing roofs and nicely painted. The views of from the lake are wonderful and then when half way across you can see the majestic Buddhist temple on top of the hill in all its glory standing resplendent on its peak. The island is man made and is about 3 acres with a hall and temple on it. There are planted trees and the grounds are landscaped attempting to create a natural look.

      The seventeen arched bridge.

      From a distance this white bridge looks as if it could be made from marble but it is made of stone. It is supposed to replicate Lougou Bridge in Beijing which is also known as Marco Polo Bridge after he described it as the most beautiful bridge he had ever seen. There are 544 individually carved stone lions and each one different decorating the bridge. The bridge has seven arches the middle arch representing the son of heaven the emperor and the 8 arches either side representing the revered by the Chinese as a lucky number. It is very picturesque and the reflection in the lake is beautiful each arch giving the impression that it is a circle.

      Suzhou Market Street.

      A small replica was built by the emperor of a scene from the picturesque water town of Suzhou with tiny little shops and stalls built around it. This was so that the royal ladies from the palace could experience the joys of shopping. The shops used to be manned by the eunuchs who would serve the concubines acting out scenes as if it were true to life.


      The park as a whole.

      The palace park is beautifully laid out and it is very peaceful with lots of vistas giving absolutely wonderful views around as far as the eye can see right out to the surrounding mountains. The lakes, towers, pavilions and statues dotted around the grounds are very beautiful sights here. Everything is built to give pleasure on the eye. It must have been a magnificent sight to see all the pomp and ceremony when the emperor or the dowager Empress Cixi moved the court here. The parade of soldiers horses, scribes, advisors, and the ornate sedans and the accompanying luggage moving in unison to the banging of drums and fireworks paving the way out to the palace. There would have been lots of the workers standing en route cheering and bowing at the Emperor or Empress as they passed by.

      For me the palace was one of the most enjoyable visits to an attraction in Beijing and although we only spent half a day here before flying onto Xian I think you could spend at least a whole day here. I would definitely like to return to the summer palace when we return to Beijing but I would make sure I had a whole day to spend there.

      The cost of entry is only about 70 Yuan which is just over one pound and is an absolute bargain. There are a number of cafés and kiosks around to buy refreshments and ice creams, souvenir shops and good toilet facilities.

      A top place to visit. This should definitely be on your places to visit list when in China.

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        15.04.2008 19:11

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        Well worth a visit

        First of all i presume the name SommerPalast is referring to the Beijiing Summer Palce (as pictured).
        On my first day when i flew into Beijiing, this was the first place i was taken to. Having seen nothing else of the city so far, i arrived not knowing what to expect. I was stunned.
        The summer palace was believe it or not where the leaders and royalty of china traditionally spend the summer. You can definatley see why. A huge beautiful lake surrounded by an array of traditional chinese buildings. I'm not too sure of the history of this place.
        The first thing you notice is the amazing scenery with the temple on one side of the lake (as in the picture). Its truly incredible. There are a couple of ways to travel round the lake. I wanted to experience it to its fullest so walked the full circle, going through the variety of museams and shows available throughout the tradtional buildings which were beautiful and entertaining. The walkway around the lake is decorated and pleasent. For those who dont wish to walk the entire distance boats accross the lake are available and are ridulously cheap, i think it worked out about 20pence per person.
        My only critism is the locals. We were constantly bothered to buy postcards and other things. However this is the same for most tourist destinations in China. After a few days there you develop the ability to completely ignore them and then the dont bother you.
        Anyway well worth a visit to this beautiful summer palace based around wonerful natural and hand made scenery.

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