Somewhere near the Confucius and Lama temples we wandered into a large public park. I do not remember its name. What made it enjoyable to stroll around was all the activity going on inside. There were people singing. People practising musical instruments. People doing tai chi. Elderly people taking part on exercise courses. There was even a very popular game of croquet going on. Sometimes it is the everyday sights rather than the famous ones that make a visit worthwhile.
Not many people go to the Botanical Gardens when in Beijing. I did as I am into botany somewhat and particular flowers. The spacious grounds are full or various ornamental gardens such as the Rose garden with its numerous kinds of blooms and the herbal garden. The centerpeice however is the fabulous greenhouse conservatory full of tropical plants and flowers. There is even an area devoted to desert plants and cactii. There is a seperate entrance fee in addition to the gardens proper.
The Botanical Gardens are situated north of the Summer Palace and close to the Fragrant Hills.
Because of the location (no trains), best way of getting there is by taxi or bus.
ZhongShan Park is named in honour of Dr Sun Yat-Sen (1866-1925), better known in China as Sun ZhongShan. He was a nationalist leader, founder of the KuoMinTang movement, who became the first provisional president of the Republic of China after the overthrow of the Qing dynasty in 1911. He is revered as the Father of Modern China, both in Taiwan and in mainland China. In the latter alone there are over 40 ZhongShan parks.
ZhongShan park in Beijing lies at the south-west corner of the Forbidden City. The park is best visited in spring, when the park shows a colourful display of tulips, peonies and other flowers. Our visit fell in early December, so we missed out on these. Also we could not go boating on the Forbidden City moat which borders the park in the north.
Of course the park features a statue of Dr Sun Yat-Sen, two of them to be exact. There is a museum hall full of historical photographs, unfortunately most of them with explanation in Chinese only.
Originally, that is during the Ming and Qing dynasties, the park was an imperial garden. The emperor came here in the lunar months of February and August to pray and thank for a good harvest and well-being of his people. He did this at the "Altar to the Gods of Land and Grain" (SheJiLan, also translated as Altar to the Gods of Earth and Harvest), which consists of a low square field covered with five colours of sand: blue on the east side, red in the south, white on the west. black on the north and yellow in the centre. This would indicate that all the land under the sun belongs to the emperor. The altar was built in 1421, in the 18th year of Emperor Yongle's reign. There are cypress trees in the park said to be even older than that.
Some more pictures in the Travelogue.
Directions: With subway Line 1, get off at Tian’anmen West. Instead of entering the forbidden city at the Gate of Heavenly Peace, find the gate of Zhongshan Park just west of it.
There is this park just over the road from the Tiaoqiao Acrobatics Theatre on Beiwei Lu thta is not an actual park. Its a concreted area with bronze's, fountains etc.
The locals bring their families here at night to relax, the children play, the men play cards or domino's, and the women chat or join groups.
Its kinda interesting
Beihai Park is a pleasant park which I spent all too little time in. This is a very fine urban park that lies just north of the Forbidden City. The hill at the centre of the park is the highest point in the very flat city of Beijing. This hill was built by Ming Dynasty emperors to block out the northern winds that assault the city through the year. On top of the hills is a temple which is highly popular with tourists and locals alike.
I visited Jing Shan Park in the manner that most tourists do, I toured the Forbidden City for most of the day and then headed up to the park. This is primarily to get a bird-eye view of the Forbidden City. However, this being Beijing, the view was smothered with polluted haze. Walking down the northeast side of the hill, I found several other pavilions and locals singing for their own amusement. This is common to see in parks in China.
As with all the major parks in China, you have to pay to enter the grounds. Here the cost is just Y2. The park is open daily from 6am to 10pm.
This theme is 'what the elderly get up to at 6am everyday!'
It was funny because not once did I see a young person out and about doing exercises or just walking and talking. At 6am in Beijing, the young are asleep, whilst the older generation are out in full force having a whale of a time!!! I wish I was that energetic! Well, I probably will be for the next few days until I get back into the right sleep pattern...I wonder where I should go cycling tomorrow morning?!
I just want to add how amazing it was seeing all these things this morning. I didnt capture everything on camera but the things I saw were so much fun! For example, down by the lake, there were people playing badminton, hacky sack, stretching, playing chess, jumping up and down on the spot, putting their leg above their heads almost while leaning on a tree, almost a vertical split(!), rubbing different parts of their body to correspond with the 'qi', fishing (in a lake where fish cannot possibly taste nice!), swimming (again, in a lake where you're bound to catch some disease or another!) and singing.
And to finish the day off, this last theme is 'sights around the lake'.
I cycled for two hours in this area stopping now and then to take photos. I was amazed at how many I could get without people walking in front of them which is usually the case in every photo in China. It was peaceful, serene and beautiful. If only every day in China could be like this! And the one thing i enjoyed was the fact that there was no shouting and no hassling me into bars or shops..pure heaven!
Beihai Park is already off the beaten track for many visitors to Beijing, yet it is one of central Beijing's most historic locations and is a 'warmer' place than either the Forbidden City or Tian'anmen Square.
The White Dagoba is an obvious focal point for those who do make it to the park, but there is one of Beijing's best kept secrets hidden away underneath the approach to the huge white structure.
In alcoves and a network of underground tunnels on the south side of the Dagoba (three or four levels down from the top) are the most amazing series of murals.
I know nothing about these murals, except that they must be fairly modern (perhaps even within the last few years) because the quality of 'construction' of the murals is not particularly good (the paint has not been fixed into the plaster so it peels away too easily and is being damaged by salt deposits.
Whatever the age, this is a beautiful series of imperial scenes hidden away in the darkness.A number of statues have been placed in the tunnels as well. It isn't as claustrophobic as it may seem as the tunnels are very short - just a few metres away from daylight so you can see around easily.
The far end of the Beijing Botanical Gardens is tranquil, and the Temple of the Sleeping Buddha is hidden among the trees as the slope rises up to the hills behind.
Not many people make it this far, preferring to stay near the glasshouses and the huge flower gardens nearer the gate.
This whole area is great for a picnic.
Close to the Summer Palace and Fragrant Hills is another well-kept Beijing secret - ther Botanical Gardens.
During SARS, parks and gardens were about the only places you could go, and this very special park has remained a favourite for our family.
China builds botanical gardens better than anything else, and the one in beijing is no exception. It is not a natural landscape, but the park is surrounded by the Western Hills and the park landscaping complements them.
Children can run free in huge expanses of meadow, can fish for tadpoles in spring and feed big fat lazy carp all year round.
Little glades, gardens and gasshouses show off the Chinese talent for making plants grow.
If you like gardens, you will not be disappointed, if you want a bit of space to leap around, then you will also enjoy this great big Beijing lung.
Fresh air, peace, a picnic, snoozing in the sunshine. Love it!
Just metres away from the crowds of Tiananmen Square lies the spacious tranquility of one of Beijing's best kept secrets, Zongshan Park.
Originally the site of an early temple, then the Temple of Earth and Grain in the Qing Dynasty, the park is best known by Beijing people for the small museum commemorating Dr Sun Yat-Sen, the father of Chinese democracy.
He was born in 1866 and died in 1925, and only visited the northern capital three times, but a special place is reserved in Chinese hearts for this thoughtful and passionate man. The simple museum (entrance RMB2) is held in the former emperor's hall (from where the emperors could oversee the religious rituals if the weather was bad). The basic outline of Sun Yat-Sen's life is explained in English panels, and the intelligent visitor will also be able to link some of the photographs (captioned only in Chinese) with the events mentioned. Note especially the autopsy report (in English). The wooden building itself is beautifully austere and a superb example of classic Chinese architecture, and dates from 1421.
The park is much larger than it looks on the map, and is divided into many different areas. The ancient cypress trees are a legacy from the earlier days as a temple, and in the north-east corner of the 'front garden' note where a scholar tree has grown up right through a cypress tree.
Other small gardens are well landscaped, and there are many pavilions, including one little octagonal one, where junior court officials would practice the elaborate and complicated court rituals.
You can get away from the Beijing crowds for hours or even a whole day in this rather special, secluded park.
The North Lake Park was originally the private pleasure gardens of the earlier Chinese royal dynasties.
The lake, and surrounding parks, allow you to get away from the noise and pollution of the city streets.
You can hire a boat for an hour or two and just cruise the lake, perhaps heading up the steep steps to the White Dagoba to watch the skillful kite flyers, their creations soaring high above the city rooftops.
On the southern edge is the old Round City - once an island in the lake, with its views over the private government compund of Zhongnanhai. Below the Dagoba the Temple of Eternal Peace descends down the hillside in steps, right to the bottom.
Jingxinzhai (The Study of the Tranquil Heart) is still the quietest spot in the park, a small network of gardens, pools, rockeries and shrubs - a garden withinh a garden - where lovers come for a little peace.
Nearby, further pavilions, temples and courtyards provide space for teahouses, for contemplation and even a small art gallery.
In the spring, the park is awash with colour and fragrance, especially the stately magnolia trees.
The finale for your afternoon should be to sit in the Five Dragons Pavilion and listen to the old men and women play their ancient instruments. As the music gets going, elderly couples get up to dance in the small pavilions. These performances are better than any you will pay to see.
The best time to visit was during SARS, when the crowds stayed at home, hiding under their beds, but Beihai Park is a pleasure at any time of the year.
Explore the many canyons in the western hills, some have been opened up as tourist attractions with gates and parking lots, but otherwise these canyons are minimally developed.
Near the western outskirts is Xiangshan, a park with imperial relics. Ouside its north gate near Jade Cloud Temple (Biyun Si) starts the Cherry Canyon (Yingtao Gou) which contains beautiful walking and a hidden villa.
Further west from the city, the Eight Great Places (Ba Da Chu) is a series of temples and monasteries in idyllic forested settings.
There are a lot more scenic canyons, such as those near the Miyun Reservoir about an hour northeast of Beijing: the White Dragon Tarns (Bailong Tan); and the Black Dragon Tarns (Heilong Tan). The former has imperial plaques, the latter is pure scenic cliffs and waterfalls.
This incense burner stands in Beihai Park, but similar ones are found in the Forbidden City as well (and probably in other historical places, too). The crane symbolised happiness and longevity in ancient China.
After a few visits around the city, it's a nice idea to relax on a duck boat, pedalling while enjoying the sceneries...
It generally costs around 20 RMB/hour to rent a pedal boat. It is extremely relaxing on a sunny day... You can do this in most of the bigger parks like Beihai, Summer Palace or even on lakes like I did, in Houhai...