Thursday, March 23, 2006

Marco Polo Bridge

Why I have so few photos of this bridge is anybody's guess. Was it the bleak, dry, early spring landscape? How un-photogenic the place looked as the the river that flowed underneath had been diverted? 

Anyhow, at least I have these two here from the Marco Polo Bridge. The one built around the end of the 12th century. That Marco Polo highly praised on the 13th. That has endured since. And that has hundreds of lions adorning it - big ones, small ones hiding under the paws or beneath the belly of the bigger ones... Some 500 lions all in all, dating from the Jin Dynasty (which began in the 12th century) all the way to the Qing Dynasty (which ended in the 20th century).

Most definitely worth the 15km trip southwest of Beijing. And deserving of way better photos, needless to say! LOL

Thursday, March 09, 2006

spring at the Gardens of Perfect Brightness

Spring in Beijing was for me quite an event, always. That brief period between the dry, cold, drab winter and the humid, sweltering hot summer, where all of a sudden flowers bloom madly, taking advantage of the small and sadly short respite of spring.

One of the places we enjoyed the most for flower watching was the Old Summer Palace, which in Chinese translates as the Gardens of Perfect Brightness (圆明园). One of the advantages of living in Beijing, right? Being able to visit an important historic site simply for flower watching?

In case you don't know, by the way, this is an 18th century Qing Dynasty palace, where the court and emperors used to reside. Long and complex story short, during the Second Opium War the Chinese didn't bow to the French and British, tortured and killed some envoys, and the British and French retaliated by looting and destroying the palace, burning it to the ground. Ah, the beautiful love story between China and western powers...

At least something was left, as a stark reminder of a rough part of China's history. And to my delight, one of the surviving structures was a maze! I can't get enough of those things. Ever.


But I digress. Severely. Spring was the theme. Cherry blossoms, weeping willows, wisteria, magnolia trees... We enjoyed this visit incredibly.  The pictures are pretty bad, I'll be the first one to admit. But the experience of enjoying all that colour gracing this part of China's history with pleasant spring weather? Amazing.