The Summer Palace

On Tuesday morning, we got up and headed to the Summer Palace (颐和园) in Beijing. This imperial garden is world-known, and has been incredibly well preserved over the centuries. It was first built in 1750, and in the early 20th century, the grounds became a public park, where people could buy entrance tickets and roam throughout the palace. Toward the end of the 20th century, the Summer Palace was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List, and is now visited by millions of people from all over the world. The main attractions of the Summer Palace include Longevity Hill (万寿山) and Kunming Lake. Our guide William also took us over to see the Marble Boat, which sits on the lake. It was destroyed in the mid-19th century during the Second Opium War, but later rebuilt in marble under the reign of Empress Dowager Cixi.

         

Many of us have studied abroad in China before, so we’d had the opportunity to visit the Summer Palace in the past, but never have I been on such a beautiful and sunny day. The weather was practically perfect every day of our trip, which was pretty remarkable for this time of year.

The air quality was at its absolute best and the weather was phenomenal; in the pictures above, it is possible to see the mountains in the background, something that is often impossible to see when the pollution is particularly bad. The colors of the buildings were incredibly vibrant, the lake was glimmering, and the gardens were spectacular. Even the trees had changed colors, making everything very colorful.

      

Our guide took us through the palace, and allowed us to wander about on our own. At the end of our visit, we ended up at Kunming Lake. The enormous lake had many boats, and lots of tourists and visitors were sitting near the lake’s edge, and strolling through The Long Corridor. We took a boat back to the entrance of the park, and were able to admire the palace from the water. The lake takes up nearly ¾ of the entire Summer Palace, and thus it seemed only fitting that we take a boat ride during our visit!

 

                   

I thought that it was incredibly beneficial to go visit the Summer Palace with a guide. The beauty of the palace is definitely remarkable, but what makes it even more interesting is to know about the history and life within the Palace. This was one of the best days we had in Beijing!

      

 

 

Cui Hu Park: A Jade in Kunming

As we approached the end of our trip, we came full circle and spent our final night in Kunming, in the very same place we stayed our first night. Upon landing at the airport, we split into groups and found our way to the hotel; it was a familiar route and I was feeling more comfortable using my Chinese and getting around than I had when we’d first arrived the week before. The area surrounding the hotel was vibrant and full of people; we hadn’t had much time to explore our neighborhood the first time, but we got time to walk around and see the stores, restaurants, and of course, all the bubble tea shops in the area. We split up for dinner: some people went to have the traditional ‘over-the-bridge noodles’ and some people went in search of other types of cuisine. We walked through the Cui Hu Park in our search for dinner, and it was so pretty to see the lake at night. The walkways next to the water were full of people: couples strolling, people walking their dogs, and kids chasing one another. The bridges that connected the various parts of the lake were lit up, and the lights illuminated the lilies floating on the water surface; it was quite a sight.

The next morning, we had time before our flight to walk through the Cui Hu Park, the Green Lake Park conveniently located right across the street from our hotel. After breakfast, Dr. Bullock, Caroline, and I strolled through the park and saw a great deal of different activities taking place. We saw people of all ages participating in Taichi (and Dr. Bullock joined in for a bit!), women dancing in large groups, kids playing badminton, and many joggers running through the park… it was quite an active area.

In addition to all the physical activity, there were food stalls and small shops scattered around the park. It was quickly evident why the park was called the “Green Park”: the area was covered in enormous trees with branches that sagged so low that they brushed the top of the water. The water itself was also an emerald color, as a result of the many lilies and the green moss that covered the entire surface of the lake… it looked like you could stand right on top of it! Caroline stuck her hand in, but when she removed it, the green moss clumped back together, blocking any view of the water.

Although our trip was only one week, it felt as though our group had come a long way since the first day. We came to Kunming (the first time) after only having been in China for a few days: some of us knew one another but many of us were still getting to know each other. Additionally, speaking from personal experience, I was tentative to speak Chinese because I hadn’t practiced in so long. But upon our return to Kunming at the end, I felt as though we had grown as a group, and I felt more at ease to practice my Chinese. I thought that our return to Kunming helped center us after all the incredible places and sites we’d seen over the week: the trip was an incredible experience, and I felt lucky that we should end on such a high note in such a beautiful city.

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