China Peony Festival Tour 2015
April 10th - 23rd, 2015


April 12

It had rained hard during the night and in the morning we were greeted with the most incredible blue sky and views…the mountains around Beijing…who would have thought they were so close. I had never seen them before! As we left we knew it was going to be a cool day, and a windy day so with that we were dressed and ready.

Our first visit today was to the Yuanmingyuan garden. This was once a most impressive Summer Palace and it was huge! Now it is history as it was burned to the ground when taken over in 1860 – it took over a week for it to burn to the ground and when you see the overall layout of what it looked like it was indeed tragic. All the precious artifacts were either looted or sold at auction and moved all over the world. It is said that the British Museum has quite a few of the artifacts from the palace. Built in 1709 – 1725 it had all kinds of architecture, not just Chinese, as you can see by some of the photos of what it did look like. Some buildings are still around, mere memories of what life was like and the whole area is now UNESCO listed. As we make our way in we see men cleaning out the lake. Armed with rope they move closer and closer to the end and the rope picks up the algae and other plant material giving the lake a beautiful reflection point for the surrounding shrubs. We head towards a man made lake with black swans in it. It is serene and many are taking photographs around the lake of the birds. We move to the building that houses the mock up of what the palace looks like and stand in awe at the size that it was, the architecture it included, the lakes, bridges and all agree that it was amazing. We leave the same way and see a man hauling plant material out of the lake, he does not smile but he waves to us.

One should see this before seeing the new Summer Palace. Thankfully this is intact. A manmade lake is also here and the soil taken out was used to build the hills around the palace. The weeping willows are moving with the breezes today and we are bundled up as the wind is quite strong in places but that does not stop us as we have much to see here. There is a walkway here that is over 700 meters long and all along the way hand painted with scenes of plants, flowers trees, landscapes…so that when the Emperor walked along this passage it would keep him dry if raining out. He came with many servants on these walks, so that if he wanted to have tea, it was prepared right there, even if he had to use a potty it was brought along on these walks. I can see what he enjoyed them so much as it is a lovely place designed to make use of the borrowed scenery surround the palace grounds. The 17 archway bridge connects to an island. It is said that in having this island is like going to heaven.

From here we went to lunch then on to a pearl factory where I might say a few of them found treasures then on to the Beijing Botanic Gardens. A lovely glasshouse filled with plants and a lot of orchids this time. Outside many pathways to take, leading to cherry blossoms to bulbs to Penjing and more..we enjoyed out time here, even if a bit chilly. The bulb beds looked wonderful under the cherry blossoms.

Our dinner this evening was a noodle dinner that is very popular here in Beijing along with some other hot dishes…filled, happy and tired we headed back to the hotel to pack as we leave the next morning for the Wall and then on to Xi’an.


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