We have four days in Beijing, so it gives us a good amount of time to do the major attractions here without trying to rush them or combine two into one day. Yesterday we went to the Summer Palace, which is northwest of the city center and easily accessible by subway. The Summer Palace was like the ultimate royal garden where they could escape the city during the hot summer months. It’s been around since the 11th century. Empress Dowager Cixi is most associated with the gardens, as she rebuilt the palaces in 1888 and then restored them in 1902 after Anglo-Allied troops burned the place down and occupied it for a year.
Cixi is the infamous Empress Dowager who rose to power from being the Emperor Xianfeng’s favorite concubine. After her son became emperor, she ruled as regent, and when he died young, she put her nephew as puppet emperor in place so she could continue to rule. There is a huge marble boat in the lake that she built with the funds that were supposed to go towards strengthening China’s navy (which subsequently suffered major defeats against the Japanese). Cixi was extravagant, known for having 108-course meals and releasing 10,000 caged birds on her birthday. Her name kind of reminds me of Cersei (think I’m reading Game of Thrones much?)! Ha.
The gardens are beautiful and it was a nice sunny warm day of strolling around. Mike and I escaped to the west side and walked along the causeway, away from the tour groups.
A lot of the pavilions were beautifully restored and the most magnificent are the bright colors of the painted walkways and temples. The Summer Palace is known for its 900 meter Long Corridor, which is a pleasant covered walkway that has each panel painted with a different scene.
At the top of the Tower of Buddhist Incense, we enjoyed a gallery that displayed old photos of the Summer Palace from the early 1900s. Some were even taken by the Allied troops that occupied the Palace. Any bronze and glazed brick survived the fires of the Allied troops, but everything else was destroyed and had to be rebuilt.
Beautiful gardens and well worth the quick trip out here!