Beijing Trip Part 2: Through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered, I have fought my way here to the palace beyond the Not-So-Forbidden City

17 Mar

The above shot is from the Summer Palace–the emperor’s version of a lake house, this estate stretches across a huge park with various waterways. Specifically, I took it from “Suzhou Street,” an imitation of a town in Jiangsu Province famous for canals. You know, because it’s not enough to be in Beijing, at the UNESCO World Heritage-listed garden palace of the Qing Dynasty. You’ve gotta go to the Disneyland-ified version of Chinese Venice transplanted into that park. Go tacky or go home.

A restored historical corridor, by the lake. It wasn’t inside a house, mind you, or obviously connecting two buildings. It’s just an ornately decorated corridor, in the middle of the bank of the lake. Those Qing courtiers didn’t want to muss their lace robes on the way to lunch, I suppose.

Completely randomly, I wandered into an area of the Summer Palace that seemed to be devoted to period culture reenactments, a la Colonial Williamsburg (or for you fellow Californians: like the Renaissance Faire. ;). This fine group of ladies performed a musical piece on traditional instruments. They weren’t this blurry in person, but it does make them look like an old-timey painting, doesn’t it?

Next stop: the Lama Temple. See that writing? It’s in Chinese, yes, but also Tibetan (makes sense, since it’s the largest Buddhist temple in Beijing), and more unusually–Mongolian. Are they multicultural enough for you yet?!
(And we always say China is a homogeneous society…ha! Only according to their government…)

She’s spinning a prayer wheel, also in Tibetan, I believe. I think the idea with prayer wheels is it’s another way of sending a message to heaven–instead of orally saying your prayers, you just write them down and spin. Which is cool because it’s like combining the mystical power often ascribed to the written word and the power of circles. Makes me think about whirling Dervishes.

Plus, it looked super fun to spin. (I did not play with the prayer wheel, come on you guys I am more mature than that. Plus there were people around.)

Next post: I had tea with a street vendor, visited Temple of Heaven Park, and SAW THE GREAT WALL!


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