Tuesday, June 3, 2008

China Day 04: Michael, Row the Boat Ashore

After lunch, we left the restaurant to find that the deluge had stopped!
We strolled in the garden, observing colorful plantings,
gracefully curved bridges,
and camoflage pines.
These are an oddball variety of pine tree called Pinus bungeana or Lacebark Pine whose bark spontaneously exfoliates itself to reveal a patchwork of color.

We soon beheld a very odd sight:
a marble boat appearing to float on the water.

Apparently such marble boats have a long tradition in China, but this one is special. It's a notorious contribution to the Summer Palace grounds by [cue ominous music on the soundtrack] Empress Cixi the Dragon Lady. In the 1890s, China's government had allocated funds to improve their Navy, seeing as how they were getting kicked around by every foreign power to sail into the area. Dowager Empress Cixi decided to build this instead. Well, she did build a boat with the money... It rests on a foundation that once belonged to a Buddhist monastery. The upper story is wood, and in its day it functioned as a dining hall.

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