VISIT TO THE WINTER CHINESE PALACE Drive to the Gates—Reception There—A Chinese Palace—The Architecture and Decoration—Bronzes—White Marble Lanterns—Boats on Lotus Lake—The Prison-house of the Emperor—The Dragon Screen—The Dagoba, a View of It—The Emperor's Garden.
I was glad to find I was included in the party about to visit the Winter Palace, and, engaging a ricksha, went over to the Legation. There I found all our party waiting, anxious to start to the mysterious palace from which all these threatening, then wheedling, notices and edicts issued to the crowded besieged, within the very walls of the Legation where we now stood. Now we were going as honoured guests to view the palace of that autocratic ruler the Dowager Empress.
Our party numbered from twenty to thirty ladies and gentlemen. Many were officers of the Camerons, and there were a few travellers who were staying in Peking. We went under the convoy of a member of the Legation staff. Most of us were in rickshas, a few in carriages, and some in a motor. Yes—a motor in Peking in 1908 ! There are, I think, two motors kept for hire by an enterprising foreigner. The new roads in the city and the Imperial Road to the Summer Palace make the use of the motor possible, but it is restricted to these. We entered the Imperial City by the gate on the western part of the southern wall, and our way took us along outside the wall of the Forbidden City for some distance. This inmost wall of all is of coarse red, and of con siderable height and thickness, with battlements and at intervals watch-towers. At each corner these have the appearance of pavilions, with beautiful roofs in several tiers and the Imperial yellow tiles, which are also used on the tops of the walls ; under the wall is a white fosse, or ditch, full of water. We then turned to the left ; and passing through a gate with sentries into a large open space, still outside the Forbidden City, we crossed this and went within the sacred precincts at a point between the palace building and Prospect (or Coal) Hill, which is an eminence on the north, with various yellow-tiled pavilions or temples, from which extensive views of the city may be obtained. To this hill, however, we were
not admitted. We now came to an inner gate, at which we dismounted from our various conveyances and gathered together, ready to be received by the high officials detailed by the Wai-wu-pu for that purpose. Soon they appeared from inside the gates, in full dress according to their rank ; and picturesque they looked, as they stood in this gateway in their many coloured robes, showing beautiful embroidery—to denote their rank—on their breasts and backs, their high satin boots, and plumed hats with the peacock-feather sticking out be hind. They were quite in keeping with their setting ; and it was we prosaic-looking modern-clad foreigners who were the wrong note in the picture. After we had all been presented, they led the way within. The whole place, though showing signs of age, is in fairly good order. I was told much money has been spent on repairs since 19oo. The buildings are of the same form as the temples ; indeed it is hard to tell which is temple and which is audience-hall or residential building, though perhaps the wooden lattice-work windows are more in evidence at the latter, some of which have glass, but more often thin paper, inside the lattice-work. The woodwork is very good, and in many designs.
In Europe we think of a palace as a very large and extensive building, but it is not so in China. The Chinese palace consists of numerous groups of buildings, impressive rather from their designs and places than from the size. Another feature is the vastness of the courtyards in which they are placed.
As in Rome, St. Peter's always appeared to me to be most impressive and greatest when approached from the immense square in front, so do the Chinese palaces and temples gain in the same way.