Monday, June 2, 2008

China Day 03: Three-Bedroom Semidetatched; Good Location

Our goal was the lovely, tranquil "Palace of Gathered Elegance":
It consists of a generous open courtyard
surrounded on all sides by graceful buildings
and punctuated with ancient trees
and statuary.

All this beauty was the home of Dowager Empress Cixi, aka The Dragon Lady. (She was about the scariest lady in China: when you say her name, horses should neigh.) Lily stood in the center of the courtyard
and told us some things about her. She is famous for:

1. Ruling over China with an iron fist during the utterly corrupt declining years of the Qing dynasty

2. Holding two actual emperors, one son and one nephew, captive so she could continue to exercise their imperial power

3. Living in absurd luxury - banquets of hundreds of dishes every day - when her country was impoverished and oppressed by foreign powers

4. Standing as a resolute opponent of modernization or reform in any form.

Seems like a charming lady. However, her courtyard home is quite lovely. We couldn't go inside any of the buildings, but they have set up displays of some of her possessions that can be viewed through the windows and door openings:
Some of these objets d'art are Western items - clocks and trinkets - that were given to Cixi as gifts, while others are of Chinese origin. Sorry the two upper pictures are smudgy - they don't clean that window glass very often!

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