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Visiting BEAUTIFUL Summer Palace in Beijing, China – Part 1

Filed Under (Beijing, China, Cuisines, Shopping, Travelling) by Janet on 25-05-2008

GOOD Morning Beijing!!

Views from our Room windows overlooking the backyards of Ai Hua Hotel – Daybreak started around 4 am & I couldn’t wait to get out there to EXPLORE the ancient historic capital city!

Nice Building below on the utmost right – Dear & I wondered what that is?!

Dear at the Elevator Lobby – we were both going downstairs for Breakfast.

Dear standing by the Buffet spread in the WESTERN RESTAURANT.

Pretty good Buffet spread – we were surprised & delighted to see there were various Western choices, unlike the usual CHINESE-types Breakfast we used to see & have when we traveled to China.

We liked the WESTERN RESTAURANT for its beautiful elegant cosy embience & I especially liked its very huge Chandeliers! What a nice place to have Breakfast!

The Breakfast was pretty good too :

After breakfast, we met up with our 2 other tour mates (a couple of Thai wife & Singaporean hubby) & our tour guide Wang Jing & Sifu (Chinese driver) at the Hotel lobby.

Seated inside Sifu’s van going on our sightseeing trip – Wang Jing gave us each couple a pack of freshly very WARM Roast Chestnuts – So SWEET of her!

During the drive, Wang Jing told us that because of the approaching Olympics in August 2008, the Beijing Government has planted many many beautiful COLORFUL flowers along the roads & everywhere. It has also renovated & PAINTED many old housing apartments & flats (which can be seen from the below photos which were taken from where I was seated in the van) – all PAID by the Government. Even their public buses were brand new as seen on the bottom photo.

However, in order to cut down on cost, some OLD housings are NOT painted at all by the Government cos these are in the places far from the Olympics areas. We can see from the below photos the big differences between the NON-PAINTED flats & the above PAINTED flats.

We arrived at the Summer Palace (called “YiHeYuan” in Chinese – translated as Garden of Nurtured Harmony). The Summer Palace is located on the Western edge of Beijing, between the 4th & 5th Ring Roads, close to the Western Hills, 12km from Central Beijing.

Our YiHeYuan entrance tickets :

Inside the Summer Palace (YiHeYuan).

Below is Wang Jing introducing the Summer Palace to us & showing us its HUGE map covering 290 hectares!

The Summer Palace was used as a SUMMER RESIDENCE by China’s Imperial Rulers as a RETREAT from the main Imperial Palace (now known as “Palace Museum” or “Forbidden City”). It is the LARGEST & BEST PRESERVED Imperial Garden in China & it’s divided into 3 parts – Administrative, Residential and Scenic areas.

(P/S : You can enlarge the above Summer Palace Map by clicking on it)

The construction of the Summer Palace first started in 1750. The Qing Dynasty was in its heyday at that time & China was a powerful Asian country with vast territories. The Monarch in power then was Emperor Qianlong. With supreme power and large sums of money, Emperor Qianlong summoned skillful and ingenious artisans from all over the country to carry out this construction work in honor of his mother’s birthday.

After 15 years and one seventh of the Nation’s annual revenue spent, the Garden of Clear Ripples (or “QingYi Garden” – the original name of the Summer Palace) was completed. In 1860, this vast Imperial Garden was burned down by Anglo-French allied forces. In 1888, Empress Dowager Cixi embezzled Navy funds to reconstruct the Garden for her own benefit, changing its name to Summer Palace (or “Garden of Nurtured Harmony” – YiHeYuan).

in 1900, the Eight-Power Allied Forces invaded Beijing & the Summer Palace was once again severely damaged. It was rebuilt again in 1902. In 1924, the last Emperor Puyi was driven out of the Palace, after which the Imperial Garden was opened to the public.

The Summer Palace was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1990.

The very first photo of Dear & myself in Beijing – taken by Wang Jing.

The Chinese version of YiHeYuan (Summer Palace) being designated in 1961 by the State Council as a Key Cultural Relics Protection Site of China.

Below is the Gate of Benevolence & Longevity, above which there’s a Tablet with the Inscriptions “RenShouMen” meaning Door/Gate of Benevolence & Longevity in Chinese, & the same name in Manchurian characters.

We passed through the Gate of Benevolence & Longevity & entered into the Courtyard of the Hall of Benevolence & Longevity (called “RenshouDian” in Chinese from the famous Confucian saying -”the Ruler who reigns benevolently will have a long life”).

Dear & I standing infront of the Stone of the God of Longevity (Shouxing Shi in Chinese), signifying longevity. Look closely at the upper huge Stone & you will see it looks like a person’s FACE from the side view.

In the Courtyard of the Hall of Benevolence & Longevity also stands the exquisitely sculpted Bronze Statue of “Xuanni” (called “Qilin” in Chinese). Xuanni was an AUSPICIOUS animal (1 of the 9 Sons of the Dragon King) that could avoid Evil Spirits & bring Good Luck in ancient legends. Its body is covered in Fish Scales & it has the Head of Dragon, the Antlers of Deer, the Hooves of Ox & the Tail of Lion.

Below is the Hall of Benevolence & Longevity (called “RenShouDian” in Chinese) – the Epicentre of the Administrative area where the Imperial Rulers (Emperor Qianlong, Empress Dowager Cixi & Emperor Guangxu – Nephew of Empress Dowager Cixi) would attend to State Affairs when they were in the Summer Palace.

The Hall was originally known as the Hall of Industrious Government in 1970 cos Emperor Qianlong ruled that the Halls where Monarchs attended to State Affairs would be named after them. However, after the rebuilding of the Summer Palace, Empress Dowager Cixi renamed the Hall as the Hall of Benevolence & Longevity suggesting that Benevolent Rulers would enjoy LONG lives – the Empress did live a pretty long life cos she passed away at the age of 73.

Dear listening to Wang Jing talking about the History of the Hall of Benevolence & Longevity – I like the willow trees behind him – so Green & Beautiful!

To protect its Historical Cultural Relics, the Hall of Benevolence & Longevity is NOT allowed entry.

Today, the arrangement & furnishings in the Hall remain as they were in the past. In the middle of the Hall stands the red sandalwood Throne carved with nine Dragon design – the Symbol of Supreme Power.

On either side of the throne there’re two Big Fans made of Peacock feathers, two Column-shaped Incense Burners, Crane-shaped Lanterns and a Monster-shaped Incense Burner in the form of Luduan – a mythological animal which can detect truth. Behind the throne is a Red Sandalwood Screen & in the middle of this elaborate Screen is a Glass Mirror where 226 characters of the Chinese word “Longevity” or “Shou” were written in different styles symbolizing longevity in different ways.

Two side Cambers of the Hall served as the resting place of Emperor Guangxu, Empress Dowager Cixi & other Officials. And among the fine exhibits inside the Hall is a Silk Craftwork of One Hundred Bats with the Empress Dowager Cixi’s calligraph “Shou” (Longevity). In Chinese speech, the words “Happiness” and “Bat” have similar tones, therefore this craftwork was also named “One Hundred Bats Holding Longevity”.

On the verandah in the foreground of the Hall of Benevolence & Longevity are 2 pairs of Bronze Statues of Dragons and Phoenixes which served as Incense Burners to perfume the air on formal occasions. They are hollow and smoke comes through holes on their backs.

In the Old days, the Dragon & Phoenix were the symbols of the Emperor & Empress. According to ritual, the Dragons should be placed in the Center while the Phoenixes were to either side in front of the Hall. However, here, the Dragons are off to the Sides & the Phoenixes are in the Middle. This was cos after the end of Qing Dynasty, Empress Dowager Cixi (rather than Emperor Guangxu) handled the Affairs of the State.

The Dragons (representing the Emperor) lie at the Side, contrary to tradition.

Also on the veranda of the Hall of Benevolence & Longevity are Tai Ping (Peace) Bronze Water Vats made during the reign of Emperor Qianlong. As a precaution in case of fire, a fire was lit underneath the Vats in the Winters to keep the water in them from freezing.

The photos below show the beautiful Roof tops of the Hall of Benevolence & Longevity. In order to create the atmosphere for Longevity, the Glazed Tiles around the roof of the Hall were all Baked in the pattern of the word “Longevity”, altogether 412 tiles of such design.

We walked to the back of the Hall of Benevolence & Longevity, on our way to exploring more of the Summer Palace.

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8 Responses to “Visiting BEAUTIFUL Summer Palace in Beijing, China – Part 1”

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