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Album: By Country | By Date China | July 2001 < Prev: Forbidden City | Next: The Great Wall >
Travelogue: By Country | By Date China | July 2001  

July 2001 - The Summer Palace

We were smuggled into one of the most beautiful places we have visited. Unfortunately, by the time we struck had negotiated the metro, the bus, and the smugglers' van, it was evening.

Lunch at the Muslim Chinese restaurant across from the Red House hotel This is far and away the finest sight in Beijing.  It is an immense park with buildings that presumably resemble the originals.  The originals were built starting in the 1700's by Qianlong and rehabbed in 1888 by an empress dowager.  Foreign troops torched parts of the place after the Boxer Rebellion. After being smuggled in in a van with darkened windows - it was past the time for selling tickets - this is one of the first things we saw.  Empress Dowager Cixi dominated the Chinese empire for almost half a century, ruling through a clique of conservative, corrupt officials.  SHe was one of the most powerful women in the history of China. A low-ranking concubine to the Hsien-feng emperor, Cixi bore his only son in 1856. On Hsien-feng's death, the six-year-old boy became the T'ung-chih emperor; state business was put in the hands of a regency council of eight elder officials. A few months later as a result of their clever plotting, the regency was transferred to Cixi and Hsien-feng's former senior consort. The two empress dowagers were aided in their intriguing by Prince Kung, the former emperor's brother, who then became the prince counsellor.  Under this triumviral rule, the government entered a temporary period of revitalization.  Although the regency was terminated in 1873 after the T'ung-chih emperor attained maturity, Cixi's control over state affairs continued. It was even rumoured that she hastened the demise of the young emperor by leading him into excesses and disrupting his personal life. Following his death, Cixi, with the support of the army, flagrantly violated the succession laws and had her three-year-old nephew, whom she adopted, named as the new heir. In 1889 Cixi nominally relinquished control over the government to retire to the summer palace she had by this time rebuilt. A very fancy floating something.
Rumor has it that Cixi renovated the place with money intended to give China a modern navy, and - the story goes - this is the only boat the Chinese got.  This one is marble and was fitted with mirrors.  The empress dowager used to dine here.  In 1898, a few years after the shocking defeat of the Chinese forces in the Sino-Japanese War (1894-95), the young Kuang-hsü emperor, under the influence of a group of reformers, put through a number of radical proposals designed to renovate and modernize the Chinese government and to eliminate corruption. But conservative officials collected around Cixi, who used the military to institute a coup. The new reforms were reversed, the Emperor was confined to his palace, and Cixi resumed the regency. Most historians believe that China's last chance for peaceful change thus ended. The following year Cixi began to back those officials who were encouraging the anti-foreign Boxer rebels. In 1900 the Boxer Rebellion reached its peak; some 100 foreigners were killed, and the foreign legations in Peking were surrounded. But a coalition of foreign troops soon captured the capital, and Cixi was forced to flee the city and accept the humiliating peace terms. Returning to Peking in 1902, she finally began to implement many of the innovations she had reversed in 1898, although the Kuang-hsü emperor was not allowed to participate in the government. The day before Cixi died, Kuang-hsü's death was announced, presumably from poison, in accordance with her deathbed command.. The Long Corridor is a long, colorfully painted walkway running some 700 m along the edge of the lake.  The paint may look new, because the old paintings were whitewashed during the cultural revolution. View of the lake
Painting Part of the long corridor Cool tower The corridor
It was lovely and mysterious in the evening light. The Paiyun Dian, or Cloud Dispelling Hall, escaped the torch. Nice gate.