Tuesday, June 3, 2008

China Day 04: In Which We Stroll Along Corridors. Again.

Today has had a "corridor" theme, hasn't it?

Our next step was to enter the Long Gallery, not to be confused with the "72 Long Corridor" from the Temple of Heaven. The Long Gallery has been here for a very long time indeed, since the Ming Dynasty at least. It is a roofed corridor almost 800 yards long, and was the place the palace ladies would stroll to take the air in bad weather.

We entered at one of the four pavilions that punctuate the corridor:
The first thing I did was look up into the rafters of the pavilion, which are covered with exquisite paintwork:
We then turned left and walked east along the lakeshore. The pavilions' floor level is raised a couple of steps above the main corridor floor, but between pavilions the way is level and smooth. This is a good thing because I didn't look at my feet at all. I did the entire walk with my head cranked back looking up at the paintings. Every beam and lintel is decorated
with a unique and individual work of art. The best ones are along the sides of the roofline, hundreds of little half-ovals showing landscapes:
flower-and-bird paintings (this one is especially good because it also includes cats):
interiors and scenes of Imperial court life:
and scenes out of legends like the story of the Monkey King:
If there had been anything to trip over I'd've been on my face in an instant!

Along the way I paused to admire the mist shrouded buildings on top of Longevity Hill:

We emerged from the corridor to admire the Hall of Joyful Longevity, the Dragon Lady's personal pavilion, accessorized with the now-familiar deer sculptures:
This time they are interspersed with cranes, signifying longevity. More cranes twine around on the surface of this gorgeous vase:
Here you can see a huge Taihu rock over Dad's shoulder:
These limestone rocks are famous and much sought after for rock gardens. They are sculpted by being submerged in Lake Taihu (hence the name) and left there for a few years. Some of them acquire fantastic shapes, but this one is just massive.

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