THE SUMMER PALACE THE GREAT TEMPLE THE MYRIAD BUDDHA My Reception—My Quarters and Attendants—My First Walk Round—General Impressions—The Lake—The Great Temple—The Myriad Buddha—The Bronze Pavilion—The Grand Pailau—The Marble Junk—The Bronze Ox —The Residential Pavilions—My Procession to Work—Intense Cold.
My bag was packed, my working things all ready, even my camp-bed tied up. My boy had got a warm coat, as I knew any day now might bring very cold weather. I went to bed wondering what next day, after all my anxious waiting, had in store for me. I was to paint a place I had never seen, except at a distance, and I did not even know if it would make a picture. I had been told I should only have a few days, which did not trouble me much ; I could trust to my wit in this matter. Of the few who, I knew, had seen the palace, one said it was nothing much and very new, another that it was very beautiful.
After the message from the Legation I was up early and breakfasting before seven, when my boy came to tell me that a Chinese gentleman wished to see me. Going to my room I found him, and was thankful that he spoke English. By order of the Wai-wu-pu he had come to escort me to the palace ; he told me I was to be lodged there, and that rooms were allotted to me in a building used for foreign visitors when there was an audience.
I was distinctly relieved that I was not obliged to go to the inn I had inspected the day before, and that I was to be really on the spot. Baggage being put beside the driver, and the boy also in that elevated position, my courteous guide and I entered the carriage and, preceded by an outrider, drove off.
The sharp morning air made me think of the cold that was to come. We soon passed through the city, out at the western side, and over the canal which is the old waterway from the Winter to the Summer Palace. The western hills loomed up in the distance, and all the country looked beautiful. Autumn colouring was showing everywhere. Several villages were passed, the last and chief being that in which was the inn I had dreaded. On we went, seeing the palace roofs gleaming against the hillside. Passing through the pailau, which is placed where the road joins the open ground in front of the palace gates, we drove up to a gate. Here I was most courteously received by several mandarins and officials, escorted inside, and shown my rooms. I was
told that a cook who understood foreign food had been sent out with other servants from Peking, and two boys as personal attendants ; in fact, I felt rather overwhelmed by the attention lavished on me. If it had been hard to persuade tho,e in authority to allow me to come, certainly—once they gave that permission—they gave it fully, doing all that was possible to make me feel not only comfortable, but an honoured guest. When my things were got inside, my attendants courteously sug gested that perhaps I would like to have a walk round the palace grounds. This was exactly what I wanted, to enable me to settle what I would paint. Orders were sent forward, and when we were ready to leave my quarters I found that I was at the head of quite a procession—I in front, my friendly mandarins following, then my boy, and the other boys and servants and coolies, &c.—for even in a state procession a lot of coolies are always joining in.
I had noted that a sentry was placed at the outer door of my quarters which opened on to the courtyard in front of the chief gates ; he presented arms as I passed out to find a double line of fine looking soldiers, drawn up near my door across to one of the side gates. The centre gate is only used by the Imperial family. Between these lines I and my procession passed along, to be received at the gateway by the officer of the guard and various palace officials. Once I was inside, there was a little less formality. The mandarins ranged up to me, and kindly told me the names, &c., of all the different buildings we came to. The first was a large hall—used, I believe, at times of audience as a sort of first reception chamber. Passing by and going round this we quickly came in sight of a large and beautiful sheet of very clear water, with several islands dotted about ; it was surrounded by low walls with fine-wrought white marble balustrading. On one of the islands can be seen the Dragon Temple ; and from this island to the mainland on the southern side is the long and beauti ful marble bridge of seventeen arches. At intervals other bridges are to be seen, including the famous camel-backed one of white marble. Also there are ornamental pavilions with red-pillared walls.