National Geographic : 1920 Nov
351 PEKING, THE CITY OF THE UNEXPECTED Photograph by Edgar K. Frank THE MARBLE BOAT ON TiHE LAKE AT TIll SUMMER PALACE, NEAR PEKING "It was all so pleasant and sunny and spacious and peaceful, so like a garden in wonder land, that I could forgive even that most absurd of all architectural absurdities, the notorious marble boat, built by the late Empress Dowager as a pleasure-house." It was all so pleasant and sunny and spacious and peaceful, so like a garden in wonderland, that I could forgive even that most absurd of all architectural ab surdities, the notorious marble boat, built by the late Empress Dowager as a pleas ure-house upon the lake. CLASSIC LEGEND OF TIIE BEACON TOWERS We took to our rickshaws again in the afternoon and away we trotted toward the hills for seven miles more, past the Jade Fountain Pagoda. past leisurely camel trains, beyond the high road and the dust of tourist autos, under the shadow of somber, square, beacon towers, marching in single file. at half-mile in tervals, out over the hill crests. The Chinese have a classic legend about these beacon towers. It is the Oriental counterpart of AEsop's "Wolf! Wolf !" Once upon a time the emperor, so runs the story, was deeply in love with a melancholy beauty who would not smile. In vain he tried to banish her ennui until he hit upon the scheme of lighting the beacons. Flames leaped up from tower after tower, rousing the country-side; the host assembled. Horsemen on shaggy ponies from the northern plains, crossbowmen in jointed bamboo armor, scimitared war riors with grim painted faces, poured into the capital. The imperial lady was delighted with the pageant, and when she saw the dis gust upon the faces of the clansmen as they learned they had been summoned to make a Dulcinea's holiday, she even smiled. Not long after this the Tatars broke over the wall. Again the beacon towers lifted their fires against the hills; but no host responded. The city was taken, the emperor slain, and the melancholy beauty carried off by the wild men of the north. IN TIIE TEMPLE OF T'IIIE SLEEPING BUDDHA We crossed the line of beacon towers, ran along a rough, pebbly lane to the foot of the brown hills; then up a short, broad avenue of ancient cedars, under a magnificent pailou of red, green, and yellow, into the courtyard of the Sleep ing Buddha.