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Beijing's Top 10 : Outdoor Activities - Top 10 Parks

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Outdoor drummers

  1. Kite flying

    A major hobby among gents of all ages, especially popular on public holidays when the skies above the city’s parks and squares are crowded with fluttering birds, dragons, lions, and laughing Buddhas.

    Kite flying
  2. Mahjong

    Like gin rummy it’s all about collecting sets or runs to score points, only mahjong uses tiles, not playing cards. A visit to any Beijing park will invariably be soundtracked by the rat-a-tat of slammed pieces.

  3. Street dancing

    Ballroom dancing is hugely popular with the elderly, but in Beijing it doesn’t take place in ballrooms but out on the street. On warm evenings, car parks and sidewalks are filled with dancers congregated around a boombox. At the Workers’ Stadium you can get up to four different groups on the forecourt in front of the north gate – choose your style: waltz, polka, foxtrot, or gavotte.

    Ballroom dancing Beijing style
  4. Jianzi

    Western kids play it with a football, passing the ball around with head, knees, and feet, the idea being not to let it touch the ground; the Chinese have their own version playing with what resembles a large plastic shuttlecock. It’s called jianzi and it is something of a national obsession, played by young and old alike, male and female.

  5. Tai chi

    Looking to improve the flow of qi (life force) through their bodies, early each morning crowds of mostly elderly people gather in Beijing’s parks to indulge in mass movements of tai chi, or tai ji quan as it’s better known in China. Although the discipline has its origins in martial arts, for most folks it’s more about making sure that the joints don’t seize up.

  6. Yang Ge

    Dancing accessorized with brightly-colored, silk fans (an art known as yang ge) is popular with middle-aged ladies. It incorporates stylized movements derived from folk dancing.

  7. Table tennis

    More than just a game, table tennis, or ping pong, is the national pastime. It is the most widely practised sport by people of all ages. It is affordable to all and played in parks and on squares, with bricks often standing in for a missing net.

  8. Water calligraphy

    Using a mop-like brush and a bowl of plain water, characters are painted on the sidewalk. Once dry, the characters disappear. It is supposed to exercise the mind and body. Tossing coins into the bowl will not be appreciated.

    Water calligraphy
  9. Opera singing

    The Chinese are rarely inhibited by self-consciousness and behave in public as they would at home. Hence, parks are for singing. They gather in groups, taking it in turns to perform for each other; favored places for this are on the north shore of the lake at Bei Hai and in the Temple of Heaven park.

    Singing opera down at the park
  10. Chinese chess

    Walk along any Beijing alley, and you’ll likely pass at least one group of old men playing Chinese chess, with bystanders usually far outnumbering the players. Chinese chess is played with flat round pieces that are placed on the intersections of lines on an uncheckered board.

Top 10 Parks

  1. Bei Hai Park

    Classic ornamental gardens with a large lake for boating .

  2. Chaoyang Park

    The largest afforested park in Beijing, with well-maintained flower and grass areas.

    • Subway: Liangmaqiao

  3. Di Tan Park

    Large green spaces and cypress trees, and the striking Temple of Earth .

  4. Xiang Shan Park

    An hour’s drive northwest of the center but worth it for thickly wooded slopes dotted with pavilions.

  5. Olympic Green

    A 1,680-acre (680-hectare) green space, Beijing’s largest park is home to three Olympic venues .

    • Subway: Forest Park

  6. Jing Shan Park

    A hilly park with a pavilion providing views of the roofscape of the Forbidden City to the south .

  7. Long Tan Park

    Lots of lakes, a kid’s amusement park, and an enchanting water-screen show.

    • Subway: Tian Tan Dong Men

  8. Ri Tan Park

    One of Beijing’s oldest parks,featuring an altar for imperial sacrifice.

  9. Temple of Heaven Park

    This park houses several historic structures and a vast expanse of well-tended gardens, including a rose garden .

  10. Zhong Shan Park

    Just outside the walls of the Forbidden City, Zhong Shan offers a respite from the crowds .

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