A Tronkie Travellogue
Day 5: Yuanmingyuan (the Gardens of Perfect Brightness), Beijing and Tsinghua Universities, and Yiheyuan (the Garden of Nurtured Harmony)
Upper left: A bridge in Yuanmingyuan, 12 Jun 2006
Upper right: Beijing University, 12 Jun 2006
Lower left: Tsinghua University, 12 Jun 2006
Lower right: Yiheyuan, from Wikipedia
Click any image to enlarge.
05:45 - 07:15: I wake up extra early and spend some time chatting with weninger and looking at his preliminary designs for the Merit3 project with zurich31. I also watch a bit of the morning news, and copy my DVDs to Jen's computer.
07:30 - 08:20: I answer some e-mail and talk with students some more on IM, then get ready to go to the Imperial Garden.
08:55 - 11:50: Yuan Ming Yuan, or the Gardens of Perfect Brightness, consist of a group of Qing Dynasty buildings built c. 1750, during the reign of the Emperor Qianlong, and destroyed by the Anglo-French allied forces in 1860. Restored in the time of the Empress Dowager Ci Xi, they are one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
We spend nearly three hours instead of two in the garden, where I take just under 200 photographs. Here are some highlights:
- A stone lion at the entrance
- The lake house near the front gate
- A restored stone bridge along the willow-lined main path
- A lantern reading cha3 (tea)
- Totems in a special section of the garden reachable only by rope bridge (I kept yelling "Short Line, get the truck ready!")
- Costumes of the Qing royal house, at a little pavilion where you can get your picture taken on a replica of a palace chaise
- Two worlds: the Coca-Cola logo in Chinese and English (no, it doesn't say "bite the wax tadpole", if ever it did)
We have a little snack of egg and green onion crepes with hot chili sauce for 5 RMB ($0.40) a serving. Fifth Aunt gives us away as tourists when she pulls out a 50 pence (6.25 cent) bill instead of a 5 RMB one. Banadad, and I split two servings among the three of us, as I reflect that I can't think of any theme park in the United States where one can get such stuff at a concession stand.
Fifth Aunt and I are both Myers-Briggs ENFPs, and it shows: we told the driver that we'd be out by 11:20 at the latest, and that's around the time we both think to phone him and say we're on the way out. I cringe as we hoof it back to the minibus where Xiaotian is waiting, and I can see Banadad fretting the whole way as we take a rather meandering path.
Our next stop is the campus of Beijing University. Fifth Aunt and I spot a sign for The Night of Bel Canto a concert to be held in three days' time, featuring select performances from several famous operas by "classical music virtuosi". Tickets are 10 RMB in the bleachers and 60 RMB front row, center, so I figure "why not?".
After buying our tickets, I see a poster for Pink Floyd Ballet and another for the campus film series. This week's featured movie is The Sentinel. Fans of 24 will surely understand why seeing this on the campus of a Chinese university is amusing to me.
We go to see the lecture hall where my uncle spoke on his whirlwind university book tour for Be Your Personal Best. I go inside and have a look.
Is it just me, or does the founder of Beijing University bear a striking resemblance to Magneto?
We then go to Tsinghua University, currently the best overall university in China and home to its strongest engineering college. I take half a dozen photos of the famous gate and as many of this interesting sculpture. It rises incongruously out of the ground near the Civil Engineering building.
14:30 - 15:30: Lunch is at a restaurant serving food from Xinjiang province, home to China's largest Muslim enclave. On the wall is a woven tapestry of the Qaaba and Sura 3:160 ("If God supports you, none can defeat you") in Arabic and Chinese.
Sheep tendon kebabs
Heavy lettuce with peanut butter sauce
Red chicken curry with wide noodles
Red lamb curry
It was enough for four people with about a third of the food left over. Easily $50 in the US, this sumptuous lunch feast cost 120 RMB (about $15). Unbelievable.
16:00 - 17:30: We spend the rest of the afternoon at Yiheyuan (the Garden of Nurtured Harmony), originally the Qingyiyuan (the Garden of Clear Ripples).
This national park is another UN World Heritage List site. It was the Summer Palace of the Empress Dowager, Ci Xi, who built it by pillaging 30 million taels of silver from the coffers of the Imperial Navy. Not surprisingly, China was easily defeated by the Eight Nation Alliance (Austria-Hungary, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) in the Boxer Rebellion.