Autumn in Jingshan Park

Nicholas Quirke was feeling indecisive on 4 November 2020 as he could not judge in which season he preferred seeing Jingshan Park. He had visited the park in winter, spring and summer and now, seeing it ablaze with autumn colour he was unable to choose which looked better. Though the temperature did little to climb above 10 degrees it was once again a glorious day. Brilliant blue skies against which to see the reds, browns, yellows and golds of this stunning imperial garden. The history of the park dates back almost a 1000 years to the Liao and Jin dynasties. The artificial hill was constructed in the Ming dynasty entirely from the soil excavated in building the moats of the Imperial Palace and nearby canals. All of this material wasmoved by manual labor. The park consists of five individual peaks, and on the top of each peak there lies an pavilion. These peaks also draw the approximate historical axis of central Beijing. The park is also notable as the location of the last ruler of the Ming Dynasty, Emperor Chongzhen’s suicide by hanging from a scholar tree in 1644., the spot is marked by two marble pillars on one of which, is inscribe the last poem of the defeated ruler. As well as climbing to the highest peak to the elaborate Wanchun Pavilion (All Time Spring Pavilion) and seeing the Forbidden City spectacularly laid out below him he discovered that the regal buildings that lay at the rear of the gardens, the residence of the Emperor’s brothers, were accessible to visitors. As he had never explored this part of the park before he went inside and saw more of the beautiful architecture beloved by the Ming and Qing royal families. The visit was also notable as the first time he had actually seen a Persimmon tree and seen the fruit growing and ready to drop from the leafless trees. He had once again spent hours enjoying the atmosphere of the majestic gardens and as he left he realised it was exactly ten months to the day, 4th of February, since he had visited thepark at the peak of China’s epidemic and had virtually had the space to himself. It had been another magnificent sunny day though the moats of the palace had been frozen. He was astonished that 10 months later he was in the park again and was as familiar with the city and its environs as he was with his home town in the UK. He had promised Peng that he would collect some newly issued cakes from Starbucks on his way home and once again, taking to a bike he sped to the Xuwhuman branch and collected the order. He had some difficulty getting in as the doors were locked and he thought they were closed until he discovered with aide of a local who took pity on him that the entrance was through the revolving doors of the neighbouring building. There was a sense of Deja Vu as he scuttled in an grabbed the coffee and cake. There was no bike available and so he walked back through the Hutong only to find when he arrived home that they had only given him one cake and Peng had bought two. It meant a jog for Peng to the store to get the 2nd cake as it proved to difficult to arrange a refund. Another evening was wiled away in front of the television, catching up with the scandalous goings on of Nurse Ratched. All the walking and cycling had tired him and he was ready for sleep when the moment came.

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