I was in Beijing for work, but we were fortunate to get some time during the week we were there to see some of the amazing sites around the city. My favorite by far was the Summer Palace, Yihe Yuan. This massive park and historic area sits in the far northwestern corner of the city. It is a great place to get away from the hectic atmosphere of Beijing itself and just relax by the lake, or one of the historic buildings, or in the many gardens or woods. It was a remarkably peaceful place, and the grounds are so huge, you can easily find a place all to yourself.
Painting on the ceiling of one of the old buildings...the hilly grounds are sprinkled with old pagodas, temples, and palaces.
A woman practicing her flute. The locals definitely appreciate the beautiful and tranquil surroundings here.
The Summer Palace was started in 1750 by Emperor Qianlong. His artisans took the garden and archtectural styles from various regions throughout the Chinese Empire.
These walkways wind throughout the grounds...which are absolutely massive. We gave up on trying to figure out where we were...we just wandered and enjoyed everything we stumbled upon. Guides will try and intimidate you with numbers when you enter. They say the place is 3.0 sq kilometers, which is true, and that it is easy to get lost, which is also true. However, the reality is that while the property itself is around 3 sq km, 3/4 of that is covered by the lake, so the grounds you can actually wander are much smaller. A map is included with your entrance fee, and overall, the place is small enough that you can just walk in relatively one direction and find something major pretty quickly...finding the way out isn't hard.
This massive complex overlooked the main lake...it was enormous...once again, pictures do no justice.
There were many statues of dragons, lions, and phoenixes scattered throughout the grounds. Dragons represent the Emperor, while the phoenix represents the Emperess. Lions were to protect people from evil spirits.
The newly restored Qianmen area, due south of Tiananmen Square. Unfortunately, not many of the stores and restaurants along this main street were open yet, but renovations are nearly complete and they will be open soon enough. This was a great area to come at night since all the buildings are lit up. There is also a cool night market just off of this main strip.
This was the little side street where the night market runs...though don't let the name fool you...most places are also open for business all day as well. One of the most famous tea shops in Beijing is down here.
Inside the Forbidden City. This place is old...and massive. It was built in the early 1400's, and these main courtyards were supposed to be large enough for the entire imperial court, which was comprised of around 300,000 people!
This place is enormous...impossible to translate by photos. There were throngs of tourists here too...mostly Chinese, but fortunately they stuck primarily to the main North-South axis through the City...so going off-axis a bit is a huge relief!
The Emperor had thousands of concubines and servants. They supposedly had a code system using the color of the roof tiles to let them know which buildings they were allowed to enter.
Lots of people crowding around trying to get a glimpse and picture of one of the thrones. The complex is set up along the North-South axis, with a series of large palaces separated by massive courtyards and gateways. To the flanks lie a maze of smaller passages and buildings. I didn't like it here nearly as much as the Summer Palace. There is a severe lack of living things other than a few small gardens scattered here and there (ignoring the throngs of tourists that is). The massive, paved courtyards give a very dead feeling to the whole place.
I couldn't get enough of these tiled roofs with the various protective statues on them. As you can tell...I love historic architecture.