The present-day Summer Palace is China’s largest royal park and was once called the Garden of Cultivated Harmony. It took its current name when Empress Dowager Cixi, in a controversial action, used some money earmarked for the navy and rebuilt the park, which had been destroyed during the second Opium War in the mid-19th century. It was damaged again during the Boxer Rebellion in 1900. Imperial rule in China ended in 1901, and in 1924 the Summer Palace opened to the public. The grounds are covered in traditional Chinese pavilions, halls, and temples. A nice way to take a load off after touring the palace’s extensive grounds and buildings is to tool around the placid lake in a pedal boat or rowboat.
Mastering the Stroke
For the Chinese, calligraphy is not only a practical way of writing characters but it is also a revered art form. As art, the way the calligrapher holds the brush, how he presents and stylizes the character conveys his culture, emotional being and artistic esthetic. Although there are thousands of Chinese characters, no more than eight basic strokes are used to construct any one character. To learn the art of calligraphy, you have to first master these eight strokes and that takes a lot of practice. Everywhere that I went in China, wherever there was a flat piece of concrete, I would see calligraphers practicing their strokes using oversized brushes and water. And as with many art forms, students learn from masters. I came across this teacher and his student at the Summer Palace in Beijing. It seems that for this young boy, mastering the stroke begins with drawing the simple outline of a rabbit.
Ruins of a Mighty Palace
The history of the Old Summer Palace is tragic—and perhaps uncomfortable for Western tourists. It was looted and burned down by a combined army of British and French soldiers. Only the stark marble columns of the Western-style section remain, as the wooden portions were burned down by the Anglo-French forces. What wasn’t grabbed by the soldiers ended up burned along with the rest of the palace. Pick your way through the scattered stones, and walk through the (reconstructed) marble labyrinth.
Talking about impermanence?
In China they have their way to practice the way of impermanence. Calligraph practice their art wiht water on the ground. The time it’s done it already started to dry. bettre catch it up while it’s done and by the bit because you hardly can get a whole view of it. The counterpart of the tibetan sand mandala.
Arches of Summer
The 17 arch bridge is a sight to behold in Beijing‘s massive Summer Palace. Three tips: 1) buy the tourist map - useful and pretty, 2) Go early in the morning before the hordes, and 3) Take the ferries between the sides of the lake unless you really really like walking for hours...
A majestically serene experience
The summer palace was one of the most beautiful places that has touched my heart. The vast expanse offered a far-reaching view that stretches as far as the eyes can see. Yet, not far away, lies the imperial accommodations and a place where the Qing emperors grant audience to their subjects. Everything in this royal compound has its special meaning and place in Chinese history and culture. Take the Phoenix which is located outside the throne chamber where the emperor once sat for example. It is symbolically significant for it represent the overriding status of the Empress Dowager over the emperor who is also her son. What happened next might be hard for any westerners to comprehend. The emperor GuangXui was murdered by his natural mother, the Empress Dowager just before she died. There are many many stories in this palace that will transport you back to the days long forgotten.