China Tour 2013
April 10th – 23rd, 2013

April 12th Our first visit this morning would be to the Summer Palace. This is the largest Imperial garden in the world, encompassing over 700 acres. A classical Chinese garden started in the year 1750 and commissioned by Emperor Qianlong as a birthday present to his mother, the Empress Dowager, Cixi. The construction took 15 years to complete. In 1860 foreign troops destroyed most of the buildings but they were renovated by the Empress who was said to have embezzled funds of the Imperial Navy to build it up again. It has a huge manmade lake with a depth of only about 4 feet . There are many buildings erected to build on the landscape of the surrounding hills to give the appearance of an even grander garden. Beautiful bridges including one with 17 arches said to resemble bells. Trees everywhere opening up for spring and the magnolias are out and stunning. Cixi means magnolias so where ever she went she had them planted. A huge stone in one of the center courts sits as a testament to the will of one man wanting to have it so much that he spent his entire wealth just trying to get it to his home – and never did. When the Emperor saw it and wanted it, it was easy – he just tore everything down in the journey here and then had it all rebuilt.

She was catered to and her every whim given. 64 appetizers every day would be served but she would only take a spoon or two of each as it was said that if she took more the chef would know she liked it and might try and poison her. The building that she greeted people had two large cloisonné dishes that were filled with fresh in season fruit every day because she enjoyed the fragrance they gave. One of the pride and joys of the garden is the very long corridor – 728 meters long and hand painted with over 15,000 scenes of life, death, heaven, flowers and birds. It is said it took over 20 years to paint.

Yuanmingyuan was our next stop, built in 1709 and reputed to be colossal in scale after being started by Emperor Kangxi and expanded by his successors Yongzheng and Qianlong. It covered 350 hectares! The surface structures covered exactly the same floor space as the former Imperial Palace while its water surface was as large as the entire Summer Palace. It is a very large site and I just cannot imagine walking around here, what it must have looked like. Thankfully there are photos to give you an idea of its grandeur. Totally manmade and seen nowhere else in the world. The Emperors held state affairs in the southern half of the gardens while the other areas were studded with over 150 scenic spots to view including halls, pavilions, chambers, kiosks, earth and rock hills, rivers and ponds and made more beautiful with the placement of exotic plants and trees from other areas of the world. It must have been something! It was a colossal botanical garden planted with over a million trees and flowering plants.
Here is the sad part now. It was sacked during the invasion of the Anglo-French Allied forces in 1860 and again during the invasion of the Eight Power Allied Force in 1900. The buildings were all burned to the ground and all the treasures looted. A world famous garden reduced to ruins…now we see what is left and preserved so that you can try to see the former glory of this imperial garden. Some of the buildings are being restored but you can see by the piles of stones they have a long way to go…thankfully these stones are still here, intricately carved with birds and animals, so that we can get a glimpse of a world that was - and what this most beautiful place once was.
After lunch we were off to the Cherry Blossom Festival. And festival it is as there are many people out walking and talking photographs of each other wearing the cherry blossom wreaths on their heads. It is a happy time….and we love the idea that so many people love seeing flowers as we do. Stalls set up selling all kinds of items and it is here that one of the group finds the perfect ‘sing’ to carry around so we can find him. There are many signs that the different guides carry so their groups can find them but nothing like what Mary Jane decided to get…a huge red hand with one finger pointed up! Now we would always know where he was…

From here we visited a fresh water pearl factory where everyone got to see how pearls grow and are graded and then made into stunning jewelry and from there into the happy hands of some of my guests.
Dinner was local Chinese food and delicious new dishes. I won’t bore you but each meal has been great so far and such variety.


  • New Eden
  • Kids Garden
  • Plant a Row Grow a Row