Formerly an imperial garden, this public park is a great place to escape the bustle of Beijing. It was first built in the 11th century, and has undergone a slew of changes over the years but now is one of Beijing’s gems. The designs in the garden are renowned, making this both a historic and beautiful park to explore. If you’re visiting Beijing and want to spend some time relaxing in the sun, here’s what you need to know.
Interesting Facts About Beihai Park
- This park is one of the largest and oldest ancient imperial parks in the country.
- The park was built up to its current condition over the course of five dynasties.
- The park stretches for 171 acres.
- Half of the park is covered by water.
- The park is filled with historic temples, manicured gardens, and intriguing statues.
- It costs 10 CNY to enter the park between April and October. It costs 5 CNY from November through March.
- The park has an island in the center. The island’s highest point is 105 feet.
- The name of the park means ‘Northern Sea.’
- The gardens are meant to imitate various famous structures and gardens around China.
- It has a history of more than 1,000 years.
- The park used to be exclusively used by members of imperial families before opening to the public.
- The park was originally built under the Liao dynasty.
- One emperor built Beihai Park in order to realize his dream of finding a magic potion in a place with a lake and three mountains.
- The white pagoda is one of the park’s most renowned features.
- The park is divided into five zones.
History Of Beihai Park
The history of Beihai Park is seeped in legend. According to the ancient story, there were three magical mountains situated near Bohai Bay.
Legend said that the gods who resided in those mountains had access to an herbal medicine that would help humans live forever. During the feudal age, emperors sought after these mountains and the elixir that was said to come with them.
With this magical landscape in mind, Beihai Park was built. It was constructed in the Liao dynasty from 916-1125.
Over the years, the park was built and fixed over the Yuan, Jin, and Qing dynasties. While it was the stomping ground of imperial families and important visitors, it was open to the public in 1925. It eventually attracted hundreds of visitors from all over the world.
Culture Of Beihai Park
The culture of Beihai Park stems from royal roots. However, over the years, the park has become a significant place of history and natural beauty. If you’re visiting the park, here’s what you should check out:
Five-Dragon Pavillion: These five pavilions are all connected, making them look like a dragon from far away. They were built in the 1600s and went under various reconstructions throughout the Qing dynasty. Found on the north end of the lake, they are half situated above the water. Surrounded by natural beauty, and constructed with ornate carvings and intricate paintings, this was a favorite spot for Chinese royals.
Nine-Dragon Screen: There are three famous dragon screens in China, and this is one of them. It is 27 meters long, 1.42 meters thick, and 6.65 meters high. Altogether, the screen is made up of 424 colorfully glazed tiles. While it’s known for its nine, giant dragons, the screen has smaller dragons, totalling in more than 600 of the creatures. Despite being exposed to the elements, the screen has kept its color and vibrancy over the years.
Circular City: This part of the park is said to be a small city within the city of Beijing. Chengguang Hall can be found in the center of the city and is the main focal point. It was during the Ming dynasty that the emperor would spend time here, watching fireworks and admiring the natural surroundings. Check out the shrine in the main hall, as well as the trees that surround it. They are said to be the oldest in Beijing.
Qiongdao Island: Covered in cyprus and pine trees, this island was built to reflect the shape of the mountains. Located in Taiye Pool, visitors can find Yongan Temple, stone bridges, and ancient buildings.
Kuaixuetang Calligraphy Museum: Built in the 1700s, this museum has a courtyard with two beautiful halls. The structure is connected by verandas that are painted and signed by more than 20 famous calligraphers from the fourth to the fourteenth centuries.
Iron Screen Wall: Made from a volcanic block, this wall was carved back in the Yuan dynasty. It’s 1.89 meters in height, and 3.56 meters in length. It has been moved around to various places in Beijing, however, its permanent residence is now Beihai Park.
Xi Tian Fan Jing: This is one of the most popular areas in the park. It’s the part of the park where the Great Yuanjingzhi Hall and Jingxin Study can be found. Years ago, it was burned down in a fire. However, it was reconstructed and opened to the public in the 1980s.
Jingxin Study: This building was a common room for people in the park to come and go. However, in the 1700s, the emperor turned it into a study for the crown prince. Visitors here will find a pavilion, stone bridge, a room for tea leaf drying, and a painting room.
Tips For Visiting Beihai Park
- There are guides available in English so make sure to use one so you’ll learn more about the park.
- Taking the bus is one of the easiest ways to reach the park. There are multiple bus lines that run there.
- Add Beihai Park onto a visit to the Forbidden City. It is close and can be done together.
- Make sure to grab something to eat at the Fangshan restaurant. It’s a top spot for food in the park.
- Spring and Autumn offer the best weather and scenery. However, summertime has great weather. If you visit during the winter, the park transforms into an ice skating rink that is quite popular.