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“…In my solitude you taunt me with memories that never die…” - from Billie Holiday’s Solitude
Every little child has his own dream castle. Growing up, I also had a fantasy castle of my own ever since seeing a postcard of the Summer Palace perched over the Kunming Lake in China. To remind you, it was not the Sleeping Beauty castle from Disney. Holding on to this sweet dramatic fantasy, I finally had an opportunity to visit the palace while I was in Beijing. Despite the hot and humid late summer, I was determined not to pass this rare opportunity to visit my dream castle.
Along with other hundreds of locals on a hot Sunday, I decided to relive the late summer days in the Orient of my childhood: what one would do on Sundays with family, picnic out at the public parks. This picnic was little more than a typical mom and pop outing, self prepared and guided to a historical site, The Summer Palace, “Gardens of Nurtured Harmony.”
The Palace started out as a garden for the mother queen, dedicated by the emperor Qianlong in 1750. The Kunming Lake was created to imitate the West Lake in Hangzhou. Kunming Lake and the Longevity Hill are two major elements at the palace along with a variety of palaces, gardens, and other classical-style architectures. Continuously the palace endured its legacies through celebrations and desperations of the destructive wars. The palace lastly served as a summer resort for Empress Dowager Cixi who at last renovated to enlarge the Summer Palace. In 1998 the Palace was declared as a World Heritage site. It has been dedicated “a masterpiece of Chinese landscape garden design. The natural landscape of hills and open water is combined with artificial features such as pavilions, halls, palaces, temples and bridges to form artificial features such as pavilions, halls, palaces, temples and bridges to form a harmonious ensemble of outstanding aesthetic value.”
I agree precisely as the palace was described above. Additionally, I felt a beautiful solitary moment when I was not enacting a family outing like the other local visitors around me.