Day two: Summer Palace and Forbidden City

After a long day of climbing the Great Wall yesterday, we slept in an extra hour this morning. Today we walked just over nine miles exploring the Summer Palace and the Forbidden City.

We took the subway to the area where the Summer Palace is located, but then decided to take a ride from a man

The Summer Palace was used during the Qing dynasty as an imperial retreat from the summer confines of the Forbidden City. It is most associated with Cixi, empress for more than 40 years during the Qing dynasty. She had the Summer Palace rebuilt twice: once after being destroyed by French and English troops in 1860, and again in 1902 after the Boxer Rebellion.

One of the pathways had this circular opening. Others led to caves.

The Summer Palace is a huge area, it covers 716 acres of land. We were only able to see 1/4 of it. There are so many pathways that lead to buildings and halls, it was hard to keep track of where we were. We bought a map before entering, and it was really helpful when we were making our way back.

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The architecture of the Summer Palace is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. There are details everywhere that you have to look very closely to see. The walls and ceilings were often painted with bright blues and greens, and the windows had brilliant red and green coverings. There were even statues on the top corners of the roves.


More breath taking was the view of the lake. Even though the fog was strong, I could still make out the sad shadows of the weeping willows that lined the walkway.

In the summer, Jonathan said, the lake is full of boats rented out to tourists. With them you see the Summer Palace, the long corridor and the marble boat.

Unfortunately, we were there during the low season so we were not able to rent the boats.

After hours of exploring the Summer Palace we made our way to the Forbidden City.

A view from one gate into the next courtyard.

At the entrance to the Forbidden City the most noticeable element is the large photo of Mao Zedong, the founder of the communist party.


I saw many Chinese residents using their selfie sticks to get their own picture with Mao.

After we passed through the Merideian Gate, or the first entryway you get a view of the entire courtyard.


Most astonishing to me was the seemingly random river that passes across the forbidden city called the Golden Water. It has five bridges that symbolize the five virtues of Confucianism.


Not only were the bridges carved out of marble, but so were the stairways. I was impressed by the marble carriage way, which had dragons chasing pearls through clouds carved into the marble.

Overall, it was a long and rainy day with so much to see. But it was an amazing experience to see something from so long ago with my own eyes.

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