Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Winter Day at the Summer Palace
Looking to do a little sightseeing and jump back into the role of a tourist, I decided to visit the Summer Palace. My friend Mike, from China Daily, hadn't seen the royal summer grounds yet and I wanted to actually see the palace instead of walking around the entire lake area (recall, the last time I visited the Summer Palace I was taking part in a "race").
Much like the Forbidden City, everything about the Summer Palace is elegant. Built on the side of a small hill overlooking a lake, which was expanded a few times to accommodate the needs of the numerous royal families that used the lake during the summer months, each building has an individual design with intricate carvings and vibrant colors. Red is everywhere.
The lake was all but drained, with a few icy patches near the center. Despite the "Do Not Walk in the Lake" signs, a large number of people were out and about, slipping and sliding their way across the once-full lake instead of walking around it.
But one of the more impressive aspects of the Summer Palace is the marble ship docked next to the main palace buildings. The ship is exactly as the name describes it -- a boat made of stone. While not meant to actually float, the Marble Boat was more of a symbol of longevity, that the current dynasty would last as long as the stone used in the ship. The funds used to build the structure were originally earmarked for a new Chinese navy.
There were a few other special festivities as part of the Spring Festival and, of course, food. But unlike my previous visit to the Summer Palace, I opted out of walking around the whole lake. Maybe in the early summer months, when it's a bit warmer.