A RIDE ROUND THE SUMMER PALACE FIVE PAGODA TEMPLE THE JADE FOUNTAIN My Restive Steed—Five-Pagoda Temple—Traffic on the Road—The Jade Fountain —The Porcelain Pagoda—Peking from the Drum Tower—Police Supervision.
So far I had seen only Peking, and was anxious to see the country round ; the one way to see the latter satisfactorily is by riding. A good friend and fellow-guest at the hotel suggested I should go with him one day, and that he should mount me. So one morning we arranged to go round the Summer Palace. My friend suggested that, as one of his ponies was rather given to stumbling, I had better ride another which he had lately got. I mounted all right ; but, mediately this pony felt my weight, he seemed to object. Round and round he twisted, up and down he jumped, and when at last I got him to move off, he wanted the whole width of the street. His owner remarked that he would be all right presently. Then I found there was an uncomfortable kink in the saddle, and I had to abstain from posting. I felt I was in for a day's ment. On we went away round the Imperial City walls, leaving the Tartar Wall by the Se-chih Men Gate. Here begins the Imperial Road ; but we turned off on a more shady and pleasant way by the Canal, and soon saw that strange building, the Five-Pagoda Temple. We only saw it from the outside, by a grove of trees. It is rectangular, and on the top are the five pagodas that give it a name. It is not wholly Chinese in form ; I should say it is rather of mid-Asiatic style. The pagodas have many tiers of ledges, smaller and smaller towards the apex. Near by is an immense marble tortoise, with the pillar of which once it was the base, lying on one side. This probably marks the grave of some one long dead.
We cantered along, enjoying the sunshine and the exercise—my mount apparently happier going fast than slow—and soon came in sight of the distant roofs and pagodas where the stern Empress Dowager and the weakly Emperor were lodged. The villages through which we passed were busy with the great traffic always caused by the Court in residence.
Reaching the large open space in front of the main entrance to the palace, we found an animated scene. The general appearance was somewhat like that of a big country fair at home. There were booths and stalls, at which were sold every imaginable thing a Chinaman could want. Jugglers, acrobats, pedlars and small huck
sters, soldiers on guard, cripples, the halt, the lame, and the blind—all gathered, I suppose, to get what they could out of the greater ones. Peking carts were hurrying to and fro from the gates, and carriages of European design carrying higher officials were coming and going.
The brougham is the carriage now most affected by the Chinese gentleman. To see a smart new rubber tyred brougham, with two parti-coloured rough Mongolian ponies drawing it and driven by a Chinese mafoo, with another servant standing behind, the owner in full mandarin costume inside, made my thoughts go back to Kensington and fancy-dress balls. We rode through this motley crowd, and, turning to the right, went round to the north of the hill the palace stands on. As we went along we could see many of the buildings still remaining on this side ; but they were sadly damaged in 1900, and have not all been repaired yet.
All round the outsides of the wall were guards. We passed through a picturesque village with a fine bridge, which looked very well with the animated foreground, and up behind it the hill with its temples and pavilions, and on the top The Many Thousand Buddha Temple. As we cleared this village we found, on our left, flat land intersected with water and evidently highly cultivated ; on our right the ground was hilly. In front of us rose the hill out of which comes the Jade Fountain ; on its top is a high pagoda ; before reaching this, we left our ponies and mafoo and went on foot up the hill, on our way visiting the Jade Fountain. I tried to find out why it was named so, as there is no jade and no fountain. The spring of beautifully clear water comes out at this point, and it is mainly from this source that the lake in front of the palace is supplied. On up the hill we went, and at last on a ridge we turned and got our reward. Some way off we could see the Summer Palace, and the lake spread out in front of us, looking very beautiful. I longed to penetrate the boundaries of some of those palaces, with the right to use a colour box. To see them was most interesting, but not enough for me. I wanted more, but I was continually being told I would not get it.