Beijing Parks: Green Spaces in Beijing
Beijing Parks 北京公园
Beijing can sometimes seem a sprawling sea of gray concrete but in fact there is a suprising amount of greenery in the city to afford rest and relaxation to Beijingers and visitors to China's capital.
China's past emperors built a number of green pleasure gardens which can still be enjoyed today. Beijing's parks are a great place to relax, take the kids to play or people watch the locals flying kites or practicing their morning tai-chi.
Dating from the 10th century, Beihai Park is a classical Chinese garden and pleasure park of Emperors. Located near the Forbidden City, Beihai Park's highlights include the Nine Dragon Screen, the Five Dragon Pavilion, and the padoga, temples and pavilions of Jade Island.
Beijingers come here to row or paddle on the lake, relax and stroll and maybe enjoy a snack or meal in one of the park's cafes or restaurants.
The beautiful grounds and flowers of Jingshan Park are located across the road from the north entrance to the Forbidden City. Jingshan Park owes its existence to the moat built around the Forbidden City in 1420. Not only did the park provide somewhere to store the soil dug out of the moat, but it was planned in line with fengshui practice to protect the palace from the northern winds.
Built in the early sixteenth century, Ritan Park was originally a temple dedicated to the sun god where Chinese emperors of the Qing (1644-1911) and Ming (1368-1644) dynasties offered ritual offerings to the god of the sun. Now a green refuge for adults and children alike in Beijing's Central Business District.
The Summer Palace (Yiheyuan) grounds are a vast park 12km north west of Beijing city center. Long a royal park the Summer Palace was enlarged and in the 18th century by Emperor Qianlong, the park features the large Kunming Lake and was used as a summer retreat from Beijing's stifling heat by the Imperial court. Now the Summer Palace attracts visitors in their droves for its lovely gardens, temples, art, sculpture and pavilions.
Longtan Park, or Dragon Pool Park rarely features on lists of the "must-see" elements of Beijing, but a meander round the well-tended shores of the lake is a relaxing antidote to the hustle and jostle of some of the more crowded attractions Beijing has to offer.
The park also has a number of attractions for children including rollerskating, swings and slides.
Beijing Botanical Gardens, in the north western suburbs of Beijing, at the foot of the West Hill (Xi Shan) are a relaxing, inexpensive place to spend a day away from the hustle and bustle of big city life. The Beijing Botanical Gardens are particularly spectacular in spring, with their blossom-laden fruit trees, and in autumn, when the vivid reds, greens, browns and golds of the vegetation heralds the approach of winter. The gardens also contain a vast conservatory, historic temples and excellent picnic spots.
Taoranting Park, in the south western area of Beijing, to the west of the Temple of Heaven, is an historic area of lakes and pavilions. Frequented by revolutionaries and poets in the past, Taoranting Park is now a popular urban space visited by couples enjoying boating on the lake, skaters in winter and tai chi enthusiasts year round. The park is also well-liked by families with kids due to the numerous fun activities available for young children.
Spring is particularly stunning in Zhongshan Park. There are huge swathes of tulips planted throughout the park lining paths, or adding splashes of colour under avenues of trees. Zhongshan Park really has to be seen if visiting Beijing during the spring. In addition to the tulips Zhongshan Park offers impressive displays of wisteria, bamboo and peonies. Cherry and apple blossom can also be enjoyed in the early days of spring.