Beijing Attractions: Beihai Park
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Beihai Park 北海公园
Beihai Park, situated northwest of the Forbidden City dates from the 10th century and was built as a pleasure garden for China's court. The park was once part of the Forbidden City and was opened to the public in 1925.
Qiongdao (Jade) Island is set at the southern end of the large lake and can be reached by bridge from the East and South Gates or by pleasure boats from the edges of the lake. Qiongdao Island contains the 36m-tall brick and stone White Dagoba (Pagoda) Temple (Bai Ta). The pagoda has been destroyed and rebuilt in a number of earthquakes over time and the latest building dates from 1976, though the original was first built in 1651. The pagoda supposedly holds the relics and ashes of Buddhist monks.
The island makes for a pleasant walk and there are often impromptu sessions of traditional Chinese music being performed under the tiled pavilions.
The two-storey Painted Gallery walkway and the Fangshan Restaurant, where the Empress Cixi is reputed to have dined are two other attractions on the islet.
The Nine Dragon Screen on the northern shore of the lake dates from 1756 and is a 27m-long, glazed tile wall with nine dragons featured on both sides. It is one of three such walls in China. The wall served as a form of protection to scare away evil spirits.
South of the Nine Dragon Screen is the Five Dragon Pavilion, built in 1651 during the Ming Dynasty, where the Emperor, his concubines and courtiers would fish in the lake or hold moon-viewing parties.
On the east side of the lake are small "gardens within gardens" which contain more pavilions with such evocative names as the "Studio of Mental Calmness".
South of Jade Island are the Circular Wall and the Hall of Received Light, a double-eaved building made of glazed yellow and green tiles. Inside is a 1.6m-tall statue of the Buddha, carved from a single slab of white jade and inlaid with precious stones. The statue was presented to Emperor Guangxu (1871-1908) by a Cambodian monarch.
Beihai Park Access
Behai Park is not far from the Drum and Bell Towers and northwest of the Forbidden City. The nearest Subway Station is Zhangzizhonglu on Line 5 or Xisi on Line 4.
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