So we’re almost 6 weeks behind in our blog, but by a fortunate quirk that Red Queen fans will appreciate, jumping ahead leaves us right where we left off— adventuring with Calley!
This time we took the show on the road and went to visit China.
Visiting Beijing in March meant stepping back in time a little (more than just the one hour). Tokyo is starting to warm up and bloom, but Beijing snowed on us. Fortunately, we got just enough snow to clean out the air and give us relatively clear views and artistically outlined roof tiles without the mess of slush. (We actually started our escapades in southern Guilin which was warmer, but since that destination was a particular request of a certain shutterbug, I’ll leave those photos to the expert!)
The Summer Palace is a must-see in Beijing– a former imperial compound that hugs a man-made lake whose dirt built the hillside that the buildings sprawl up. The audio guide kept drawing our attention to the wonderful artistry of the “Hall of Benevolence and Longevity” etc, but I kept getting distracted by the warren of little buildings and courtyards packed with pine trees and rock collections.
I can’t help wondering how long would it take, trapped in this relatively tiny world with dozens of scheming rivals and a dizzying web of protocol to drive any normal person round the bend? Perhaps a slightly grim turn of thought, but luckily there were plenty of captivating little details nestled about the place to distract from the ghosts of palace intrigue.
There are paintings are lurking in every nook of woodwork that would hold still. Apparently, unpainted wood was particularly susceptible to mold, so they began a tradition of painting that eventually blossomed into an all-out war on blank walls. The Long Corridor is the epitome of this– an 18th century equivalent of a digital photo frame. It’s a huge walkway covered in thousands of paintings of the emperor’s favorite landscapes from his travels, scholars debating over tea, scenes from poems, flowers, birds, veggies, and even insects.
Clambering up the hill from the Corridor– we came face to face with an army of roof tile guardians. These little fellows are partly holding down the corner tiles, but naturally there is more to them than that. The really fancy ones– and at a palace there is little else to be found– march along in small parades of fantastical animals, led by what Tara called “men riding chickens”. The more men, the higher the rank of the building– up to 11 I think.
All in all it was a gorgeous day– beautiful clear weather. I’d been up to the top of the hill several times when I lived in Beijing before, but this was the first time I’d seen this much of the city. Go snow!