In the hope that someday I will be able to condense my thoughts and finish posting about Beijing, I have labored to narrow the images to what I remember best from the trip, like this visit to the Summer Palace. The weather cooperated beautifully, with only a few fat clouds high overhead being pushed along by a strong, warm breeze that occasionally ruffled the (man-made) lake into swells of white lace. The palace sits in the largest and best-preserved royal park in China and although construction began and was mostly completed in the eighteenth century, what you see today is a reconstruction due to the destruction of most of the palace by the Anglo-French allied forces during the Opium War in the 1860’s and the burning of large portions of the gardens during China’s Boxer rebellion of the early twentieth century.
It was easy to see why this palace would have been a favorite of many rulers; the gardens, even as they exist now, are hailed as a masterpiece of classic Chinese landscape design and I felt a great sense of peace – despite the crowds. The constant, welcome breeze off Kunming lake as you stroll along the stone promenades was refreshing and carried a little feel of the sea, even in April and in inland Beijing. At about ten miles from the city center, accessible using the subway, there is no reason to miss this if you visit Beijing.