Wednesday morning, October 15, 2008
Because of our tight academic schedule, squeezing in the must-see sights has been a challenge. So today was a marathon, starting with the Summer Palace at 7:00 am so that Deb Feltz and I could be back in time to give our lectures at 10:00 am.
The Summer Palace was built by an emperor in the 18th century as a gift for his mother and served as a refuge during the hot summer months from the usual digs in The Forbidden City (see blog #8). According to Li Li, resources poured into creating this haven seriously weakened the naval army leading to defeat at the hands of the Japanese. The sheer magnitude of the palace grounds is staggering—it exceeds the size of the University of Wisconsin. The ornate sculptures, detailed inlays, and gilded roofs contrasted with the emperor’s underlings and millions of impoverished citizens in towns spreading out from this capital. The emperor rode in his chariot down the middle of the paved sidewalks while his servants were forced to walk alongside in a special corridor. The splendor of the many pagodas served to further distance the rich from the poor—a theme that seems to play out on many stages in the world.