Stepping off the bus into the hot 85-degree weather after a 45-minute bus ride with AC can really make you appreciate the times that we are living in. The group had just arrived at the Summer Palace after first seeing the Great Wall of China, which was a great experience. The walk from the bus to the entrance of the Summer Palace was not too far— maybe five minutes max. While on our walk, we saw about two or three guitar players playing songs for some extra cash or maybe as their income. One thing you will always seen in China, no matter where you go, is a street vendor —if you can even call them that. They have pretty much anything you could possible need at any point, at any location. After dealing with the street vendors, we began our tour of the Summer Palace.
The Summer Palace is in Beijing, China and was a summer retreat where the emperors and empresses could escape the summertime heat of Beijing. The Summer Palace has a long history, which dates back about 800 years. The palace was destroyed in 1860 by French forces and then rebuilt in 1888 by Empress Dowager Cixi and renamed the Palace Garden of Nurtured Harmony. The palace was again rebuilt in 1903 and has stayed pretty much the same since, besides some minor construction work and upkeep. In 1924 after the last Qing Emperor Puyi was driven out of the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace became a public park.
When I entered the palace, I saw the statue of two lions on either side of the entrance. One represents the male and the other represents the female. People are able to tell the difference between them because the male lion has his paw on a globe and the female lion has a baby under her paw. Once we entered into the palace, we could see a huge lake that had around 50 little paddleboats people were riding around in. This looked pretty fun, but we kept moving.
The group walked around for a bit and looked around the different buildings and gardens. I started to notice that my sandals were sliding, and the ground looked like it had just rained. I looked ahead and saw a man holding a long stick that looked like paintbrush that he was dipping in water and then writing Chinese characters on the ground. The characters stayed for 20 or so minutes before they disappeared. I was really was intrigued by this man and watched him for a little while he drew these characters on the ground with water.
After seeing a couple more buildings, I felt like I had seen them before somewhere. I figured out that the architecture looked almost identical to the buildings at the Forbidden City. I did a little research and figured out that they were actually designed after the Forbidden City.
After about an hour or so, the group met up at the south entrance and went to a duck dinner, which was amazing.
Reflecting back, I really enjoyed my time at the Summer Palace because seeing this style of Chinese architecture was a great experience. The lake, extravagant buildings, and the gardens were amazing. I really want to thank Dr. Chen and everyone else who made this trip possible. This has been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I am so glad that I was apart of it.