Through my eyes

living my life without regrets

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

45. Beijing, China Day 6 - Summer Palace -

Day 6 in Beijing
Trip to the Summer Palace.
Entrance to the Summer Palace and
Crowds of People

The subway in Beijing is amazing. It works great and covers huge distances. We took it long distance this time to visit the ‘ancient’ Summer Palace, another Imperial show piece from years gone by. Well, almost ancient!

Everything within the gardens and palaces is rebuilt; fixed up or "new". If there are ancient

The Main Building
buildings I did not see them. The park is huge. When we arrived, we just followed the crowds. It being a Sunday, the crowd was quite impressive. As soon as we entered the gate, crowds moved towards a hill filled with temple buildings and small to medium sized castles. The whole compound is set on the hill side with stairs, stairs, and stairs. I made it to the top but it was not worth it, on the top was a
More and More Stairs and Crowds
wall. I walked up the wrong side of the hill. I could not figure out a way to circumvent the wall.

So down the hill we went and took a winding path through the woods that meanders around the hill. (That sounds romantic but it was way too busy with people everywhere to be romantic). We were not alone mind you. Families with baby carriages or toddlers in their arms were our companions. The path was filled with folks.
Part of the Main Building

Beautiful Art Work on the
Roof Lines

Intricate Carvings and Decorations
View From One of the Balconies

More Exquisite Architecture

Inside the Main Temple

More Stairs

It Was a Family Outing for Many


I noticed that Chinese talk loudly, especially while being on a cell phone. And with the one child policy each child is an Emperor or Empress to their parents. They dote over their offspring as if this child will save their life in the future. It was a family outing for most, just walking in the park. Like always in China, there is a crowd. It is hard to get away from people. No matter where you go, there is
Another Crooked Bridge to Prevent the
Evil Spirits From Crossing
somebody there. I don’t think the Chinese are even aware of it, but for a Westerner this is obvious but maybe not so consciously obvious. I found it disturbing, the people got on my nerves; their behavior, their pushiness, their spitting on the ground, and their loudness simply got to me. I think I have been in China too long already. I am not used to being in close contact with other bodies, with noise all the time.
Stone Bridge

The actual park you want me to talk about? It was a retreat for the royals for the hot summer months that can be very hot in Beijing. The Park and Palace were started in 1750 and destroyed many times; mostly by the 2 Anglo/French Opium wars. Even the restorations done by Empress Cixi of the Qing Dynasty in 1888, on which she spent the whole Navy Budget for the year (and ultimately lost to the Japanese because if it), were again destroyed by the 8 Powers of the Colonial forces in 1900.
Map Shows Proximity of
Mongolia to Beijing
The park has about 3000 structures, and a hand dug, huge lake on which the Empress watched ‘war’ displays arranged for her by the Navy, while she sat on her marble Steam Ship Replica on the shore line sipping tea. The whole 742 acre park was set up for the pleasures of Cixi, the notorious Empress who ruled from behind a screen and wielded the true powers of China. 
Empress Cixi's Marble Steamboat Replica
on the Hand Dug Lake at the Summer Palace

She was the last breath of true power in China. She was a capable, but mired in tradition, ruler. Here is an account of her life in a very condensed form: The Summer Palace was actually her Palace.

She was born on November 28th of 1835, surnamed Yehe Nala. 
In 1851, she was selected as a beauty into the Palace. Due to the favor of Emperor Xianfeng, she was honored as a high-ranked Imperial Concubine, with the title of Yipin.
Stained Glass In the Marble Ship Casts
Coloured Shadows on the Floor
In 1854, she was given a higher rank, with the title changed to Yi Guifei.
In 1856, she gave birth to Zaichun who later became Emperor Tongzhi.

Empress Cixi


Dragon Boats on the Hand Dug Lake

Dragon Boat Tied to the Dock

In 1861, the Second Opium War broke out. After Emperor Xianfeng died in August, her son ascended the throne as Emperor Tongzhi, who honored his mother as 'Holy Mother Empress Dowager'. In November, along with Prince Gong (brother-in-law of Cixi), she launched a coup in which the eight chancellors were dismissed or killed. As a result, she became the real power by keeping court from behind a screen.
Tail of the Dragon?
(Oh Oh, Bad Pun)
In 1862, she was given the title of Empress Dowager Cixi by Emperor Tongzhi (Actually, she gave the title to herself through Emperor Tongzhi's prescript).
In 1873, as Emperor Tongzhi had grown up, she appeared to turn the power over to him but she still held power behind the scenes.
In 1874, Emperor Tongzhi- (her son) - died. (Rumor has it the Empress had her hand in his death). She chose another grandson of Emperor Daoguang as the heir - Emperor Guangxu. Because she was the aunt of Emperor Guangxu, she could continue ruling from behind the screen.
Empress's Throne and the Screen Which Was
Placed in Front to Shield Her From Public View
In 1889, Emperor Guangxu married. She announced that she would relinquish her power and retire to live in the Summer Palace. However, all the court officials still listened to her, leaving Emperor Guangxu as a puppet Emperor.
In 1894, Japan launched the Sino-Japanese War while Cixi was busy preparing the celebration of her 60th birthday. What's worse, while the Chinese navy fought fiercely with the Japanese, she strongly insisted on appropriating the military fund to restore the Summer Palace, ignoring the advice of chancellors.
Creating Beautiful Designs on Ceramic Urns
In 1895, the Qing Navy was defeated by the Japanese due to the compromise of Cixi. Taiwan Island ceded.
In 1898, she launched a coup against Emperor Guangxu's Wu Hsu Reform. After that, she executed the main reform party members and from then on she put Emperor Guangxu under house arrest.
In 1900, the Eight-Power Allied Forces captured capital Beijing. She took Emperor Guangxu with her and fled to Xian. In September, another humiliating treaty - Peace Treaty of1901 was signed.
Hand Painted Urns for Sale
 On November 15th of 1908, the day after the death of Emperor Guangxu, Empress Dowager Cixi died in the afternoon.

Yes, she was the last flamboyant figure of China. Ruthless and opinionated, prejudiced and I bet lonely. Power was her goal in life, maybe a misguided life, who knows. The Summer Palace was her playground, where parties were held and formal dinners given for dignitaries from around the world. What we see today though, is just a replica of years gone by. The buildings had a strange taste in color and d├ęcor for a Westerner like me. I visited, but I would not want to live there, I can think of nicer places. The park is too big, also. I would not need that much space to be alone.


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