Beijing's Top 10 : Bei Hai Park

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An imperial garden for more than a thousand years, Bei Hai was opened to the public in 1925. Filled with artificial hills, pavilions, and temples, it is associated with Kublai Khan, who redesigned it during the Mongol Yuan dynasty. These days, it is a fine place for a leisurely afternoon stroll, and perhaps a bit of boating on the lake.

  • 1 Wenjin Jie, Xicheng

  • 6403 3225

  • Buses: 5, 101, 103, 107, 109, 111, and others

  • Open: Apr–Oct 6am–10pm daily. Nov–Mar 6:30am–9pm. All buildings close at 5pm Apr–Oct, 4pm Nov–Mar

  • Admission: Apr–Oct ¥20. Nov–Mar ¥10


Park play

Beijing’s parks double as recreation centers, particularly for the city’s elderly citizens. As soon as the parks open in the morning they gather to perform communal tai ji quan (tai chi) exercises. Many then spend the rest of the day in the park playing cards, dominos or mahjong, engaging in yang ge (fan dancing) or ballroom dancing, or simply reading the newspaper and talking with friends.

Park gate

Aside from the famous Fangshan Restaurant, there are also small snack kiosks in the park.

There are four gates to the park: the most convenient is the south gate, close to the northwest corner of the Forbidden City; the north gate exits across the road from Hou Hai, where there are good eating and drinking options.

Top 10 Features
  1. Round City

    Bei Hai was the site of Beijing’s earliest imperial palace, although nothing remains other than a small pavilion on a site known as the Round City, and a large jade wine vessel said to have belonged to Kublai Khan.

  2. Jade Island

    Accessed by bridge from the south gate or by boat from the north gate, Bei Hai’s willow-lined island was created from the earth excavated to form the lake.

  3. White Dagoba

    Topping Jade Island, the 118-ft (36-m) high White Dagoba is a Tibetan-style stupa built to honor the visit of the fifth Dalai Lama in 1651. It has been rebuilt twice since.

  4. Yongan Temple

    Beneath the Dagoba, the temple comprises a series of ascending halls, including the Hall of the Wheel of Law with its central effigy of the Buddha Sakyamuni.

  5. Fangshan Restaurant

    Founded in 1926 by chefs of the imperial household, the restaurant bases its menus on court cuisine. Standards have slipped but the lakeside setting still has great appeal.

  6. Pavilion of Calligraphy

    A crescent-shaped hall on Jade Island contains nearly 500 stone tablets engraved with the work of famous Chinese calligraphers. If the exhibits are less than enthralling the walkways that lead to the pavilion are enchanting.

  7. The Place of Serenity

    In the northwest corner of the park is this beautiful garden, created in the mid-18th century by the Qianlong emperor, with rockeries, pavilions, and ornate bridges over goldfish-filled pools.

  8. Xiao Xitian Temple

    Near the Place of Serenity is a trio of small temple buildings – the Pavilion of 10,000 Buddhas, the Glazed Pavilion, which is covered with green and yellow ceramic Buddhas, and the Xiao Xitian (Small Western Sky) Temple filled with fearsome-looking idols.

  9. Nine Dragon Screen

    Bei Hai’s most striking sight is an 89-ft (27-m) long, free-standing wall made of colorful glazed ceramic tiles and depicting nine intertwined dragons. The Chinese dragon is a beneficent beast offering protection and good luck. The wall was designed to obstruct the passage of evil spirits, who are only able to travel in straight lines.

  10. Zhong Nan Hai

    Bei Hai means North Lake; the Middle (Zhong) and South (Nan) Lakes are part of an area occupied by China’s political leaders and are off- limits to all except government officials. Zhong Nan Hai is regarded as the new Forbidden City.

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