The Summer Palace (Yihe Yuan) was slowly constructed and reconstructed over many centuries, but it is best known as the summer retreat of Empress Dowager Cixi. It’s amazing that a sanctuary like this exists in the heart of Beijing–I felt immediately transported to a different time and place. Kind of like the Central Park experience, except taken to a whole new level. It’s very tempting to get lost within the park’s many temples, pavilions, bridges, and walkways–looking at the map, we were only able to get through 1/10 of the Palace. My mother used to spend her summers in Beijing as a child exploring the Palace everyday. She still knows her way around by heart, and it was nice to imagine her as a 8-year old, bouncing over the same stone steps that we now revisit together as a family.

Tower of the Essence of the Buddha

Tower of the Essence of the Buddha

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Lion sculpture on Bridge

summer paddle boats, now sequestered by ice

summer paddle boats, now sequestered by ice

Seventeen Arch Bridge, from a distance

Seventeen Arch Bridge, from a distance

On the bridge

On the bridge

Seventeen Arch Bridge, another view.

Seventeen Arch Bridge, another view.

Water brush calligraphy

Water brush calligraphy

Long Corridor

Long Corridor

Next time, I would like to go to the less visited YuanMing Yuan. It’s the counterpart to the Summer Palace (Now called the Old Summer Palace) that was built in Western style architecture, and was largely destroyed during the Second Opium War in the 19th Century.  It was never rebuilt however, and now serves as a reminder to the Chinese as what the West once did to China. Apparently, lots of Chinese history classes go there on field trips.

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