1. Empress Dowager Cixi's decision to divert funds from China 's Navy is
blamed for a chain of events that led to China 's occupation by Japan .
Historians say a strong Chinese Navy would have better kept European and
Japanese colonial ambitions at bay. Others say her decision to use the money to
build the Marble Boat was a typical of her wit.
2. Two thirds of the tolal area of the Summer Palace is water. If the waters of the Kunming , West and Back lakes were still, it was seen as a sign that the nation was stable.
3. The odd looking creature in the courtyard near the east gate is not the work of a deranged taxidermist but a 'Xuanni' or kylin-made up of a dragon's head, deer antlers a lion's tail and the hooves of an ox. The statue of Xuanni is cast in bronze and is said to detect disloyal subjects.
4. The museum collection features a vintage Mercedes-Benz car, given to the warlord Yuan Shikai during hais bridf term as the first President of the Republic of China in 1913
5. The Chandeliers in the Hall of Joyful Longevity (Leshoutang) were installed in 1903 as China 's first electric lights, power being supplied by the palace's own generator.
AROUND 15 KILOMETRES OUTSIDE BEIJING , in the hills northwest of the city, lies the Summer Palace , the mother of all imperial retreats and China 's largest and best-preserved royal garden.
With nearly 40.000 relics in its possession, the Summer Palace collection is second in importance only to the Forbidden City Palace Museum . Over 20.000 of those relics have special protection as national treasures, the rarest a bronze tripod belonging to Prince Bai of the State of Gao, from the Western Zhou Dynasty, and a bronze wine vessel in the shape of three rhinos that dates back to the Shang Dynasty
The 290-hectare Summer Palace is divided into administrative, residential and scenic areas. To the northeast of Kuming Lake stands the Hall of Benevolence and Lon gevity(Renshoudian), the epicenter of the administrative area where Empress Dowager Cixi and Emper or Guangxu would meet officials and conduct state affairs from its red sandalwood throne.
Moving west along the northern shore of Kuming Lake is the residential area, where the Imperial family would stay. Set slightly back from the lake is the Garden of Virtue and Harmony (Deheyuan), a large theatre where the Empress Dowager Cixi used to watch opera performances.
Further west along the path is the Hall of Jade Ripples (Yulangtng). This building was where Emperor Guangxu was kept under house arrest on the orders of his aunt Cixi for over a decade. While Guangxu was safely under lock and key she assumed and abused his powers. Further along is the Hall of Joyful Logevity (Leshoutang) where the Empress Dwager lived. The reason the table in the main hall is so large is that she regularly used to ist down to 128-coures meals, a new spin on the saying a meal fit for a king.
Running nearly the entire length of Kunming Lake 's north shore is the 728-metre Long Corridor. This covered walkway is the world's longest painted corridor and leads to the Marble Boat, one of the most famous scenes of the Summer Palace . This 36-metre long jetty is shaped like a paddle steamer and has a two deck wooden structure.
Longevity Hill is dotted with buildings that exhibit a variety of architectural styles from all over China . Halfway up the hill is the Cloud Dispelling Hall (Paiyundian), in which Cixi used to throw lavish birthday parties. Further up is the Tower of Buddhist Incense (Foxiangge), that was built in 1750 and offers great views across the park from its third floor. At the summit of Longevity Hill stands the Se of Wisdom Hall (Zhihuihai). A small souvenir market at the foot of the northern side of the hill marks the point to walk along the Back Lake , through Suzhou Market St, based on the design of Southern Chinese water towns. Further south is the Garden of Harmonious Interests Inspired by the style of gardens found in Wuxi, it is here that Cixi went fishing.
Despite being a lengthy walk it is well worth making . It is easy to get to this south part of the park as the crowds don't usually bother, leaving it mostly peaceful. In the southeast of the main lake is Seventeen Arch Bridge . Which connects South Lake Island with the eastern shore. The bridge has seventeen arches. With the ninth arch having eight arches on each side . In Chinese numerology eight is lucky and nine is the number associated with the emperor. The bridge symbolizes the emperor being surrounded by good fortune.
The island is dominated by Dragon King Hall, a temple that was used to pray for rain, but its most interesting feature is the temple dedicated to Yelu Chucai, an advisor to the first Yuan Emperor in the 13th Century. After faithfully serving the Mongol conqueror until he died, Ghengis Khan built the temple for Yelu and alongside him in his tomb are his wives and concubines, slaughtered so that they could keep him warm on those long nights in the afterlife.
About the Author:
All the man-made hills, halls, pavilions and temples, including kunming Lake and Longevity Hill, blend together harmoniously in spite of their individual styles. Ingeniously conceived and elaborately designed, this garden, concentrating the features of the gardens in southern and northern China , is reputed to be the soul of Chinese gardens For more information, please visit http://www.tour-beijing.com and http://www.etours.cn