China, post 5 – Summer Palace

Monday morning, we woke up to a nice, smoggy day:

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We had breakfast again – which was hit or miss (Chinese strawberry yogurt was hard to open but awesome!)
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We were meeting at 10, so I had a leisurely morning, and then I walked over to the university to meet the group.

Lots of bikes:
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This bull that everyone was climbing on and taking pics of reminded me of the Nittany Lion Shrine at Penn State:
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This is the Main Building, where we met every morning. You can see our big blue buses up there.
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So, as I was walking, there was a western woman walking behind me. She caught up to me and asked if I was going on the tour, which I was. We arrived at the steps, where there were people milling around and asked me if I knew if we had to sign in anywhere. I had no idea.

There was a blond woman sitting by herself on the stairs, and the woman I was with asked her if we could sit down with her, so we did. She asked if we had to sign in anywhere, and the blond woman said she didn’t know. We all introduced ourselves. The woman I had walked up with was Judy. The blond woman was Sharon. As soon as Sharon heard my name, she asks, “Is your husband Doug??”. You see, Doug had a co-worker, Dave, who was also coming to to China, with his wife. And his wife was going to be on the tour. I’d never met either of them, and didn’t know her name either. There ended up being maybe 50 people on the tour most of the time -and we had 2 buses – and everyone stuck to the same bus all week. So it was a totally weird coincidence that practically the first person I talked to turned out to be the person I was hoping to meet! I have no idea how I would have found her otherwise – and she might have even have been on the second bus and I wouldn’t have really met her!

Judy, Sharon, and I – and then later on, a really nice young Indian woman named Namisha, hung out together all week! It was really fun!

Anyway – we randomly picked a tour bus and ended up with this really nice guy, who gave his Western name as Sean (Shawn?) – anyway, I’m not sure what his Chinese name is, but it’s probably something close to that. His English was awesome, considering he’d never even been to a Western country – very fluent! He was a great guide.

So, here we are at the Summer Palace, which was super crowded. Also, you’re supposed to go on a clear day, so you can see the view across the lake – but it was really smoggy. We only spent about an hour and a half, so there was much we missed. Doug and I ended up going back the following Sunday morning.

You can see our tourgroup in the foreground.
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These natural rocks (from a lake? quarry? can’t remember) are really big in the Imperial palaces. They’re all over.
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Some more people from our tour group in the foreground. As you can imagine it was very hard to get pictures with no people in them. I tried though!
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Again, this is lovely – but it is all starting to look the same. And we’re just beginning the week!
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Here’s a better pic of this beast, which Sean called a unicorn – even though it has antlers and lots of other random animal parts!
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This building must have been important – 6 dragon “babies”!
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A word here about the Summer Palace.

Much of Beijing was rebuilt in the 1890s by Empress Cixi (ceeshe). She held power and basically ruled China for something like 47 years. She actually started out as an ambitious concubine, who gave birth to a son was thus became a wife. Her son was very young (like 4) when he became Emperor and she appointed herself regent. She supposedly poisoned the other remaining wife of the Emperor as well. Her son died young, and she next appointed her 6 year old nephew as the next (and last) Emperor. And of course she was regent. It is his life that is depicted in the movie The Last Emperor. Cixi was not well regarded because she made a lot of perhaps bad decisions for China and she spent a great deal of money – on herself. The alternate viewpoint is that she was a scapegoat.
If you’re interested, you can read more about her here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Empress_Dowager_Cixi

Anyway – the bottom line is that most of the stuff we saw was built for her or rebuilt by her.

The Summer Palace (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Summer_palace) was rebuilt and expanded by Cixi into a private retreat. It’s on a lovely lake – it’s really very pretty – and it’s a shame we didn’t have a nicer day. Doug and I did later, at least.

Ok, back to the pics at the first building.
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A view of the hall on Longevity Hill. We didn’t get up there on this tour, though Doug and I did later.
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More lotus!
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The funny thing was, when we were there on Sunday, we saw bats all over the place in the architecture. I noticed that I took this one when I was there the first time.
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Our tourguide is in the lower left corner:
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These large pots are for putting out fires:
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These are part of the long painted corridor:
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Everyone carried umbrellas – they were such a menace – I kept almost getting poked in the eye with them!
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You can see the corridor in the background here:
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The Marble Boat:
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Dragon Boats!
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The ceiling of the boat:
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This family looked like they were having fun!
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The boat again:
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See how hazy it was?
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This painting looks older than some of the rest of it.
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And that’s it for the Summer Palace.

After we left, we hung out and waited for the bus. I liked that this billboard had the dragons on it.
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More lotus:
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For lunch they took us to this restaurant and the food there was actually pretty good! Everyone at our table was really nice and it was a really pleasant meal.

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After lunch we headed to the Olympic Park!

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