1. May 2010. I’ve always considered The Summer Palace to be Beijing’s crowning achievement! For me you can keep the organised chaos of The Forbidden City and the understated expanse of Tiananmen Square. While these places are definitely worth seeing, China’s largest royal park has way more charm, with breathtaking temples, gardens, pavilions, bridges, a huge lake and dazzling hilltop views. This shot was taken on Kunming Lake, where a boat ride provides great views across Longevity Hill and its Hall of Benevolence and Longevity.
2. May 2010. This shot is basically a reverse view of the opening photo, looking out over Kunming Lake from the Hall of Benevolence and Longevity
3. May 2010. While you’re in and around the lake keep an eye open for the marble Boat of Purity and Ease, a lakeside pavilion erected in 1755 during the reign of the Qianlong Emperor. The boat isn’t actually marble but a structure of painted wood, while each deck features a giant mirror for impressive reflections of the lake.
4. January 2015. When an old friend came to visit me some years later during my second Beijing stint, I found myself elevating The Summer Palace to the top of our to-do list. It was a biting cold January afternoon and the complex was largely deserted . If there’s one thing you count on with the Chinese it’s that a spot of rain or chilly temperatures will keep people away in droves.
5. January 2015. Probably my favorite Summer Palace shot, the lake really is a joy when it’s like this. There were fathers and sons skidding across the ice in their sledges and pairs of elderly women sipping from flasks of piping hot tea. And then there was my friend and I gazing out over the lake from our private balcony back up on Longevity Hill. Just a couple of foreigners trying to make sense of our places in this fascinating, often bewildering country.
For more on my time in the Chinese capital, check out my other 5s on Beijing.
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