The back of the Wisdom Sea Temple at Longevity Hill, The Summer Palace.

Once upon a time.

I spent a lot of time traveling in Asia. I live for a year in Shanghai, China. Between my comings and goings, I spent six years in Hong Kong. Long enough for me to have resident visa. I worked on a lot of big projects. Often, one project would take two months to complete. And, that was with very long and odd hours.

On my free time, I photographed wherever I was. Hong Kong. Singapore. Japan. All over Southeast Asia. And, China.

I became a kind of “Old China Hand.” Between my year in Shanghai and my travel, I’ve probably spent two years in China. For a while when the photography industry was good, that made me a go to photographer when it came to working there. At least for my clients.


When Hurricane Katrina forced me to evacuate, I begged one of my editors for a foreign assignment to anywhere. He came up with a trip to Beijing. Perfect. I worked there for about two weeks. I made all the pictures that he needed. In between, I’d wander around the sites that he asked me to photograph and make a few of “my pictures.”

I made this picture at the back of the Wisdom Sea Temple at Longevity Hill at The Summer Palace. This isn’t what you think it is. It is not a building made of some kind of brick. Well, it is. But, the bricks are made of colored glass. Red colored.

A few facts. The Summer Palace was built during the Jin Dynasty in 1153.  It was expanded over time. Various dynasties added more and more buildings with final additions being built, and the entire area being restored in 1888. It fell into disrepair until it was restored again in 1953 and 2006. It was designated a World Heritage Site in 1998.

There’s a lot more to the story. But…

The picture. I worked at the site for an entire day. It’s about an hour bus ride from Beijing. I didn’t want to leave without photographing what I came to see. I wanted to have enough time to just poke around. Since I was there in September, at the very end of the travel season in China, I had a lot of it to myself. It also meant that construction and restoration projects where beginning for the off-season. I had to work around them, which wasn’t a big deal.

When I turned the corner of the Wisdom Sea Temple, I saw the scene you are seeing and just knew there was a picture there. One of “my pictures.” I didn’t think my editor would care about it when he saw it. Wrong. This picture was a two page crossover picture in the book I was working on. I guess my vision and intuition was pretty good.



9 Replies to “Summer Palace”

  1. Wonderful stories too….I’ve been to Beijing once an Olympic year….I didn’t photograph with intention then…I’d love to return and see more…met interesting people and went to amazing spaces…wonderful cover Ray 🤓 smiles


    1. China used to be kind of home. There are days when I miss being there. But, China has really changed. The first time I was in Shanghai, there were almost no cars. The city still was dark. If you were late to the market there was no food. I’m a little traveled-out right now. But…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you. The difference between me and a writer is that hopefully a writer has something to say. I really don’t. Often, people suggest that I write a book. I think, that’s nice but about what? 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Nice thought, but I barely remember some of this stuff. I’ve been at this for so long that most of it is a blur. Besides, way better writers — Pico Iyer, Paul Theroux — have written about this stuff better than I could ever do.


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