The Forbidden City and Summer Palace

Friday, 27 October 2012 — I have an amazing cousin in Beijing.

My ride in the tin box was to go meet her husband who loaned me his car and driver for the day.

They even threw in a tour guide, just in case. And every day after that, I got a limo ride wherever I went. Thank you, Lisa and Jonathan!!!

So first, I got a drive-by tour of Tiannamen Square.

It’s the largest city center in the world, which meant it would require LOTS and LOTS of walking after flying thousands of miles, and so seeing it from the back of a limo was just fine.

Then I went to the Forbidden City.

I got pushed along by a crowd jostling for a photo of the emperor’s throne.

Did you know that the Forbidden City is said to have 9,999 rooms? Nine is considered to be a lucky number, it sounds like the Chinese word for “long” or “old” so it’s associated with long life and things that last.

But did you know that it only has 8700 actual rooms? Who knew? Think of the cleaning!

My favorite place in the Forbidden City is the garden, where you can find some very interesting “scholars’ rocks”:

You’re supposed to stare at these and see different things in them, sort of like seeing faces in the fire. When you’re a scholar (or an author), sometimes you have to stare at rocks to help you study (or write).

After that, we went to the Summer Palace, which is a drive away from the city.

It has the world’s longest art gallery, a covered walkway painted with 14,000 scenes from famous Chinese books. It was built in 1750 for the emperor’s mother so that she could enjoy the rain and snow scenery without getting wet.

The Summer Palace was the emperor’s beach house. There was only one problem. There was no beach. So they dug a lake and filled it.

After that, the empress thought it would be nice to sail it. But again, there was a problem. She had no boat. So she had one made — out of marble.

And the problem with marble boats is – well, you know the problem.

So it’s a good thing there are now dragon boats to take you across.

I met a new friend on the boat:

She’s four. She’s from Nanjing. She likes to dance.

And she loves her mom.

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