The Summer Palace - 9/18/12

 

By Henry Doenlen

 

The  Summer Palace was the most beautiful and magical city park that I have seen. A hill and a lake were made into an Imperial Garden, adorned with colorful traditional architecture and art in a green park setting. I understand that since 1957, there have been numerous projects to restore and renovate the Summer Palace.

 

(1) Northern Palace Gate

We arrived at the Northern Palace Gate, an open area surrounded by some buildings which were surrounded by trees. The first decision was what kind of tickets we would buy, as there was a "Chinese menu" of options. We went for the full combo, as we had traveled across the Pacific to see this. We paid 60, about $9, each for the combination ticket. There were no high-tech guide pads here. We were given a paper map with descriptions of what was inside.

 

(2) Suzhou Street  苏州街 (the waterway) & (3) Hall of Buddha Confirming His Doctrine  四大部洲

Immediately after entering the park, we found a "street' that was actually a waterway. There appeared to be shops on the shores of this waterway street. We skipped the shops and walked up the steps to the foot of Longevity Hill.  Two 100 step staircases in the style of Tibet led to the Four Great Regions group of buildings. There was a sign that those who climbed these steps would live 100 years. We definitely were "up" for that.  We visited an open Buddhist temple, then up more steps.

 

(4) Temple of Sea of Wisdom  智慧海

At the top of Longevity Hill, the walkway became interesting as it weaved through boulders. We visited the Sea of Wisdom Temple with outside walls of colorful Buddha tiles. Inside was a statue of Guanyin (the Goddess of Mercy) sitting. At this point, I was a bad tourist, taking a picture of the Buddha after seeing the sign saying no pictures. I did not use the flash.

 

(5) Tower of Buddhist Incense 佛香阁

As we began our descent on the other side of Longevity Hill, we saw the fabulous Tower of Buddhist Incense. It was in a courtyard surrounded by colorful covered walkways. Inside was a large Guanyin Buddha statute. I snuck a photo.

Liz took a photo of a sign said which said in Chinese and English,  "Thousand-Hand Guanyin Buddha (Qianshou Guanyin). Cast in 1574, this statue was originally named the "Statue of Guanyin Bodhisafva". The five-meter high bronze figure was gilded with a head of four tiers each with three faces--a total of twelve faces, and twenty-four arms. The statue sits on a lotus seat of nine layers of 999 petals. Cast with superb workmanship, the grand, solemn statue is of great historic and cultural value."

 

(6) Hall of Dispelling Clouds 排云殿

Going down the steps from the Tower of Buddhist Incense, we could see a large group of buildings that the paper said were living quarters for visiting dignitaries during the days of the emperors.

Liz took a photo of a sign said which said in Chinese and English, "Hall of Dispelling Clouds (Paiyun Dian). The original construction here was the Hall of the Great Buddha of the Temple of Immense Gratitude and Longevity in the Garden of Clear Ripples. It was burned down by the Anglo-French Allied Forces in 1860 and reconstructed on its original site in 1886 as a place to celebrate Empress Dowager Cixi's Birthdays. On display inside the hall are some of the birthday presents offered by princes, dukes, and high-ranking officials."

 

(7) Long Corridor 长廊

There was a long walk around the edge of Kumming Lake under the colorful covered Long Corridor. At each cross beam, there was a painting depicting Chinese life. The photo of the cross beam photo above is the Peach Bottom Spring Story. We walked about a quarter of the way around the lake and out to the Spring Heralding Pavilion. It would have been nice to see more of the lake if we had more time.

 

(8) Gallery of Literary Prosperity (Wenchang Courtyard)

We entered a courtyard that had buildings containing galleries.

 

(9) Hall of Benevolence and Longevity 仁寿殿 (Renshou Dian) & East Palace Gate 东宫门

Next, we entered the courtyard between the Hall of Benevolence and Longevity and the East Palace Gate. There we found an interesting bronze quilin. We wanted to exit near the subway stop, so we did not leave thought this gate.  We started following the pathway back around Longevity Hill.

 

(10) Danning Hall (Danningmen/Danningfing)

Along the path, we came to the Danning Hall compound. It did not seem to be a newer construction, not a reconstruction of original summer palace. It contained additional art and artifacts. We found ourselves lost inside, and tried to ask a cleaning lady, chūkǒu, meaning exit. My pronunciation was apparently no where close to Mandarin or even Beijing dialect. Panicking, I tried looking up the symbol,  出口, in Google Translate, but it was talking too long. The cleaning lady saw a man who understood English and pointed us to the way out.

We walked the path, crossed the bridge over Suzhou Street, and out the Northern Gate, to continue our adventures in Beijing.