That China Girl

{May 22, 2011}   Summer palace and more….

Just dragged to the Summer Palace today.  I was so not wanting to go, particularly when CC and a group, which included Skule  ( pronounced Schooler, and more on him later), were heading over to Hou Hai to bike and hang.

But no-ho!  Forget it that I’ve finally made some friends and have a reason to leave the house.   Dad insisted that I had to remember our being here was once in a lifetime, yada yada… and we needed to take advantage of the cultural sites blah, blah, blah.  Like I won’t be going on a field trip or have another chance to visit the SP when I don’t have anything better to do.  I mean we LIVE in Beijing, fgs!  Not to mention we’ve already done the Forbidden City and the Great Wall and the Temple of Heaven.  How many empty palaces and dragon statues do I have to look at anyway?

Not that what I think matters.   So off we went, me texting in the back with Mom, while Dad tried to talk in Chinese to the driver Lao Zhou (who was definitely not as friendly as our regular guy, Mr. Wang  who was sick).  When we got there it was pretty crowded.  I wanted to get back in the car, but as soon as we’d walked onto the grounds, I sorta changed my mind.

It was actually kind of cool.  Apparently, the Summer Palace was where the royalty went to get away from Beijing.  And have to say, I can see why.  Instead of all this concrete, there’s actually tons of trees and flowers,  a lake and dragon boats you can ride on (yes, it’s queer, but I had to do it, though I could have done without the fat little Chinese boy sitting across from me who was catching dragon flies and squishing them on his leg. ) There’s also a huge tower that we climbed up to see.    I guess the whole place was burned down a couple of times by those big-nosed Westerners. Brits and French first, maybe we had a part in it later.  But Empress Cixi (which sounds surprisingly like CC — similarities much?) rebuilt it, not to mention diverted tons of money that was supposed to go to the Chinese Navy to make it bigger.  No wonder the Qing Dynasty fell if those were the priorities.

My favorite part was this long covered walkway; the Long Corridor, they call it.   It was built so some Emperor’s mom could walk in the gardens protected from rain, etc.

As you can see, all the panels are decorated with paintings.   A lot of these pictures are scenes from famous Chinese stories.    In school we’ve been studying the four Classical Chinese Novels.  They’re the one’s Pearl Buck, who I wrote about before, found so inspiring:

  1. Romance of the Three Kingdoms    — historical romance with lots of battles.
  2. The Dream of the Red Chamber  — sort of a star-crossed romance about a family.
  3. Outlaws of the Marsh  — kind of a kung fu epic (it translates into 4 books) about a Robin Hood-ish group of bandits who fought corruption.  It’s also called the Water Margin, but what the heck does that mean?
  4. Journey to the West  — a fantasy story about the Monkey King

Geoff tells me there’s a fifth novel that’s sometimes on the list, but apparently it’s so sexually graphic  (he says, “Hot, but kind of weird) that the folks who make these lists don’t always like to include it.   It’s called the Plum in the Golden Vase and has been banned in China for most of its existence.  (Or so says Wikipedia… yeah, I had to look it up) .

The reason you just got this little Chinese lit lesson is because the paintings from the novels that are in the Long Corridor were kind of cool.  It was fun to look for them. Here’s one from Romance of the Three Kingdoms:

It’s a picture of a battle between a couple of generals of the Kingdom of  Shu.  What do you think?  I’ve always been a fan of blues, (the colors, not the music so much).  That’s probably the first thing that appealed to me.


Katy M says:

What did you think about Cixi’s Stone Boat? Using money for that instead of the Chinese Navy – crazy!

Our driver (age 50) told us that he went swimming in that big lake all the time as a kid! No one would do that anymore…

Did you go down into the Ethnic Villages around the small lake? Like a historic reproduction, with little shops and people in traditional costume.

Lucky for you it isn’t high summer yet – Summer Palace (and any park near water) gets so crowded with people escaping from their apartments that you can only walk at about half-speed…


[…]   Why oh why Hou Hai Some of you wrote asking what the big deal was about Hou Hai after I mentioned it in yesterday’s post.  What the heck is a Hou Hai, […]

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