Introduction to Beihai Park
in central Beijing close to the Forbidden City, is one of the most carefully preserved imperial gardens in
China. The park has its origin in the Liao dynasty (907 - 1125), although what we see today dates mostly from the Qing dynasty (1644 - 1911). In particular, with the reign of emperor QianLong (1736 - 1795) who commissioned a number of the landmarks in the park. However, the White Dagoba was constructed earlier, in 1651.
BeiHai Park covers a total area of over 68
hectares, of which about one half is a beautiful lake. With
many places of interest, the park is a favorite place
to relax or explore - for both locals and tourists alike.
BeiHai Park is an
excellent living example of the ancient Chinese art of
landscaped gardens, with artificial hills, pavilions, halls, temples and
covered corridors blended with trees, hills and a lake in a harmony of man and nature.
Indeed, it is like a mini Summer Palace in the heart of Beijing.
In this guide to BeiHai
Park, we will take a tour of all the main sites,
accompanied by many beautiful photographs. We also
discuss the history of the park and present a useful map.
of BeiHai Park
Early in the 10th century,
the Liao dynasty created a secondary imperial palace at
the site of the present Beihai Park. The lake was added
during the Jin Dynasty. The earth removed to construct
the lake was used to create three islands. Two have become
joined to nearby land over time but the main one remains
in the present park.
In the 13th century the
Mongols conquered the Jin and established the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368). The first Yuan emperor, Kublai Khan,
expanded the site and made it the center
of DaDu ('Great Capital'), the Yuan capital city (what is
now Beijing). Kublai Khan lived in what is now referred to as the 'Round
When the city of Beijing
was laid out in its current plan (1406 - 1420 AD) during
the reign of Ming Emperor YongLe, Beihai Park was restructured.
It continued to function as the imperial family's
pleasure garden. The lake was expanded and turned into
the centerpiece of this magnificient and classical
example of a chinese garden. However, the primary
imperial palace - here under the Yuan Dynasty - was from
then on to be the newly created Forbidden City.
Most of the buildings now
standing were constructed during Emperor
QianLong's reign (1736-1796) during the Qing Dynasty
(1644 - 1911). It was Emperor QianLong who added the Five
Dragon Pavilions and the Nine Dragon Screen.
In 1651, the White Dagoba,
a Buddhist tower in Tibetan style (and the famous
landmark of both Beihai Park and Beijing), was erected at
the suggestion of a famous Tibetan Lama priest by the
name of NaomuHan. Qing Emperor Shun Zhi agreed to this
project as a gesture of devotion to the Buddhist faith -
and from a desire for unity among China's various
nationalities. It stands on top of the hill on Jade Island (JiongHua).
Beihai Park Today
BeiHai Park was first
opened to the public in 1925 and in 1961 it was one of
the first important cultural sites to be placed under
BeiHai Park is a popular
retreat for many local citizens. It is a place to cool
down and relax in summer, and in winter it becomes one of
the biggest skating rinks in the city. There are a great many places to explore within the park, especially along the east and north sides - pavilions, temples, ponds and much more.
The gardens of BeiHai Park
are partly modelled on the style of gardens in south China,
so, fittingly, south China style paper umbrellas are on
sale for protection from the heat
of the sun in summer. There are a variety of restaurants and cafes to take a break.
BeiHai Park is open
daily from 6:00 - 21:00. Admission is 10 yuan (20 yuan during holidays).
Videos of Beihai Park