With a maximum of minus 0 and below all day and a wind off the lake we walked through the Summer Palace grounds. We saw Suzhou Street which is the mock old village and port. This was rather disappointing as just one street of houses around a small port. Now turned over to souvenir shops and a tea house of course. Almost no-one was going down the very steep steps go look at the port even though most of us had paid the entrance fee. It was too cold and not interesting enough.
The Summer Palace grounds gave us lots of opportunity to shop and to be truthful, we went into them to warm up, as did most people I think. The wind off the lake being bitter. We walked the Long Corridor pretending to be the Emperor and his Court (as this was once reserved for him) and looked into the Buddhist Temple and other small buildings, follies, as is the Chinese style. The lake of course was artificial. Overall it made a very lovely landscape setting with the bridges of 17 arches and very high.
According to UNESCO it was first built in 1750, largely destroyed in the war of 1860 and restored in 1886 and is a masterpiece of Chinese landscape garden design. The landscape of hills and open water is combined with artificial features such as pavilions, halls, palaces, temples and bridges to form a harmonious ensemble.
It is justified as being so important for 3 reasons:
Criterion 1: it is an outstanding expression of the creative art of Chinese landscape garden design, incorporating the works of humankind and nature in a harmonious whole.
Criterion 2: The Summer Palace epitomizes the philosophy and practice of Chinese garden design, which played a key role in the development of this cultural form throughout the East.
Criterion3: The imperial Chinese garden, illustrated by the Summer Palace, is a potent symbol of one of the major world civilizations.
We would like to go back when the weather is much warmer and then we can really stroll around. But another bucket visit is to be considered done.
Shopping of course is essential in China. There is silk and there are pearls. And tea sets for making green tea the correct way which we learnt in a small park.
Silk Street is the old market for all serious silk buying. But no longer on the street. It is now in a 6 storey building. Each floor specialises in different items..
2 floors for jewellery one cheap and good and the other not so cheap… quotes on prices are rare and certainly more expensive than you will actually need to pay, so shop around and get to know the ‘real’ prices. The idea of 50% is a good start but always start lower than that and see what happens. . They used to say take 1/3 off but this no longer applies as they have multiplied the prices up for tourists higher than that.
There is 1 floor for silks including made to measure if you stay around long enough. Serious bargaining required here and it helps to have a Chinese friend as I did as they know the real prices that they would pay. Can do even better in this situation as they speak the language and really bargain hard. I bought some lined gowns at less than 1 fifth of the original quoted price and the store owner or salesperson claimed that she had sold the same item the previous week to an American at more than the first price she quoted me. I told her not all Westerners are rich and I was a pensioner! -mostly true as my main income is a pension- although I suspect I still earn in my part time job more than she does for a week. I eventually bought three gowns from her, 1 for me and 2 for presents. My Chinese friend thought that I had still paid more than she would have…
While I was there a coach of American and another coach of Indian tourists arrived, but as they had a limited time to shop and many stalls to visit they didn’t get very good prices. I also bought some more pearls from there. As I had bought before on the island, I had some idea of what price i should pay and thus was able to make a good deal by quoting that price at them. Multiple buys drives then price down too. Considerably. I even persuaded them to make the necklaces and earrings up as I wanted them – moving pearls and chains around etc. So mine are unique… However some stores do not bargain ( and at pence for a pair of socks who would?)- I had planned to buy lots of these socks but lost the store! Even my friend couldn’t find it again. She admitted she always gets lost at this market.