Beihai Park or North Sea Park is located half kilometer to the west of the north gate of theForbidden City. Beihai Park is one of the most popular parks in the city of Beijing. The whole park covers a total area of over 68 hectares, more than half of it is taken up by the Beihai Lake. It is used to be the former palace of the emperors in successive dynasties, called the Winter Palace by Westerners. It has a history of 1000 years. Beihai has existed throughout the Liao, Jin, Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasties. Most of the buildings now standing was constructed during Emperor Qianlong’s regin in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911 A.D.). Here had been used to be the imperial garden for many dynasties, including Lion, Jin, Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasties of China.
Beihai Park is now one of the best of China’s classical gardens with artificial hills, pavilions, halls, temples and covered corridors today. In summer, Beihai Park is an ideal place to escape from heat. The view in front of the magnificent White Dagoba on top of White Dagoba Hill is of the golden tiles and red walls of the Forbidden City and Jingshan Park with its five pavilions to the east and the graceful buildings of Tuancheng (the Round City) and the green waves of Zhongnanhai to the south. One can also have a panoramic view of the Great Hall of the People, the Museum of History and many high-rise buildings in Beijing. Beihai Park is really one of the most popular scenic spots in Beijing.
Cruise in Beihai Park
History of Beihai Park
This huge imperial garden has a history of over 1,000 years. It was originally built in 938 during Liao Dynasty (916 – 1125). Then the park was repaired and rebuilt in the successive dynasties including Jin (1115-1234), Yuan (1279-1368), Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties. Eventually, it becomes the beautiful imperial garden as we see now.
The forming of Beihai Park was inspired by a legendary story. It is said that above the East Sea, there were the three fairyland mountains: Penlai, Yingzhou and Fangzhang. There lived the immortals and a miraculous potion for longevity could be found on the mountains. The first emperor of the Qin Dynasty, who reigned from 211 B.C. to 210 B.C., sent people over the sea to the mountains asked for the potion, so did Emperor Wu Di of the Han Dynasty (reigned 140-87 B.C.). However, both of them failed to find it. Longing for immortality, Emperor Wu Di ordered to dig a large lake, which was named Taiye Lake. Three islets modeled after the fairyland mountains were created in the lake from the earth that was dug out. Qionghua Island represents the Penlai fairyland mountain; Circular City and Xishan Platform represent Yingzhou and Fangzhang.
The history of Beihai Park, which has more than 1000 years, had something to do with the development of Beijing City. Emperor Yang Di of the Sui Dynasty (reigned 605-617) had a lake with a circumference of more than a dozen li (1 li equals 547 yards)built near his palace in Luoyang, Henan Province.
In the Liao Dynasty,founded by the Qidans from the North,made Yanjing(now Beijing) its secondary capital in 938. On the northeastern outskirts of the city, there was a vast lake called the “Golden Sea.” It was the lake that was to become Beihai Lake.
After the Jin Dynasty drove out the Liao and took over Beijing, Yanjing was renamed as Zhoudu. From 1163 to 1179, Emperor Shi Zong of Jin Dynasty built Qionghua Island. And the emperor ordered to construct artificial hills and caves. And he also built Daning Palace in Yaoyu Arear (Beihai Park). From then on, Beihai has become a imperial garden which we can see today. It was after the Jin Dynasty that Beihai became the nucleus of Beijing.
In Yuan Dynasty, Qiongdao was expanded three times and was renamed as Wanshou (Longevity) Hill. The khan received foreigh diplomats, held ceremonies on festive occasions and issued decrees from there.
In Ming Dynasty, Beihai was expanded and reconstructed again, but it remained the layout in Yuan Dynasty. the Emperor Xuanzhong of Ming Dynasty made large expanding to Longevity Hill and he connected the island with New additions made by the Ming Dynasty included the Daxitian (Great Western skies) Workshop for printing Buddhist sutras, Taishou (Longevity) Hall, Five-Dragon Pavilion and the Nine-Dragon Screen on the northern shore of the lake. In Qing Dynasty, Beihai was also expanded and reconstructed for many years. And a lot of temple and pavilion were built at this time. Beihai today looks much the same as it did under the rule of Emperor Qian Long.
Before Beihai was opened to the public in 1925, it had been closed for more than 10 years for the revolution of China politics.
What to See in Beihai Park
Beihai Park Scenic Area is composed of Qiongdao Island, East Shore Area, North Shore Area, Dotanical Garden and Circular City. The main scenery of Beihai Park includes Beihai Lake, Jade Islet, Jinxinhai, Nine Dragon Screen, Round City, White Pagoda, Suhavati Garden, Yong’an Temple and many other interesting sites.
White Pagoda Temple in Beihai Park
In the garden, pavilions and towers nestle amid the beautiful scenery of lakes and hills,grass and trees. Carrying on the traditions of garden landscaping of ancient China Beihai is a gem of garden art.
(Jade Island) is located in Taiye Pool inside Beihai. The layout of the buildings on the island is in accordance with the shape of the mountain. The layout is well-proportioned in height, nestled in the pines and cypresses. In the south of this island stands Yongan Temple, which was formerly known as White Pagoda Temple and consists of Fa Hall, Zhengjue Hall and other buildings. This temple was originally built in the beginning of 1651 and is 35.9 meters high. The base of it is a masonry Xumizuo with three round tables. There is a stone bridge connected with the shore in the southeast of the island, such as picturesque Jingshan Mountain.
【Five Dragon Pavilions】
Five Dragon Pavilions were built in 1602 during the Ming Dynasty. In old days the emperor and his consorts came here to fish, watch fireworks or admire the moon. The five waterborne pavilions are connected by zigzagging bridges. The one in the middles is the largest.
Circular City is sited in the west of South Gate of Beihai Park. Circular City is said to be “a small city in Beijing city”. Mission City is between the Forbidden City, Jingshan Mountain, Zhongnanhai and the North Sea, surrounded by picturesque scenery, pines and cypresses. Chengguang Hall stands in the center of the city. It is the main structure in the Circular City and has a square platform in front and a roof of several tiers of flying eaves. The roof is covered with yellow glazed tiles and edged with green glazed. During the Ming Dynasty the emperor liked to come here to watch fireworks. There is a shrine in the hall, dedicated to a white jade Buddha statute made from a single piece of jade, 1.5 meters high. The head and clothes of it are decorated with red and green jewels. There are pine trees in it. planted in Jin Dynasty, which has some 800 years of history. They are the oldest trees in Beijing.
【Nine Dragon Screen】
Nine Dragon Screen in Beihai Park was made in 1756. The wall is five meters high, 1.2 meters thick and 27 meters long. The whole wall is built with glazed color bricks. On either side of it there are nine dragons, also made of glazed bricks. Each dragon plays with a pearl amidst waves of clouds.
Featured Activities in Beihai Park
Except for the beautiful scenery inside the park, there are also a couple of featured and interesting activities in Beihai Park for visitors to explore. In the following, some activities are listed for your reference.
【Lotus Flower Festival】
Since Liao Dynasty of China, Beihai area has been a lake. And lotuses are planted in the lake. When the summer comes, lotuses flowers bloom, which becomes beautiful scenery in Beijing City. Beihai Park is the best place to protect yourself from hotness. From the middle of July to the late August is the best time to appreciate lotuses.
Chrysanthemum in Beijing has a long history of cultivation. In Yuan and Ming dynasties, folk mainly growed chrysanthemum flowers. Beijinger love chrysanthemum, for they think that chrysanthemum as the same personality with Beijingers. So Beijing selected chrysanthemum as the city flower. In every November of a year, Chrysanthemum Exhibition was held in the park. At that time, a variety of and all rare kinds of chrysanthemum will be exhibited here. It is feast for those who love chrysanthemum.
【Blessing Culture Festival】
Since 2004, from the 26th day of the twelfth lunar month to the seventh day of the first month every year, Blessing Culture Festival was held in Beihai to give best wishes to the New Year. The festival was held in Chanfu Temple, which is a traditional historical and cultural sited in Beijing. Imperial blessing ceremony is presented to the majority of tourists, giving prosperity and peaceful to the coming year. During the festival, the park will be very crowded. It is what the New Year looks like.
How to Get to Beihai Park
• To get to the South Gateof the park, you should take Buses No.101, 103, 109, 812, 814, 846, Kangen Special Bus Line to get there;
• To get to the North Gate of the park, you should take Buses No. 107、111、118、701、823 to get there;
• Or you can take Bus No.5 to get the to East Gate of the park
Tips: From the middle of July to the late August is the best time to appreciate lotuses