You are in a park. You hear some music. You walk to where the sounds are coming from. You notice that there are several groups of people playing different kinds of music and they are all sitting close to each other. The result is an interesting (dis-harmonic) symphony of Er-Hus (traditional Chinese instrument), old ladies singing opera songs, men drumming and some playing violin. But it is very cute to watch that they like to stay with other people to share their music and to not be alone. So they prefer a mixture of sounds. It is incredible how much joy is radiating out of many peoples eyes - despite the rollercoaster Chinese history many of them have gone through. If you find skilled players, an Er-Hu concert can really be a treat. For these music "performances" on the week-ends, I found the park at the "Temple of Heaven" south of Tian an men a good place.
Another interesting activity you will find in parks and gardens like the ones mentioned above but also around the summer palace or within tiny local greens in residential areas are some "Outdoor Fitness Studios". They are a mixture of playgrounds for kids and muscle training machines for adults and they are commonly frequented by guys and ladies of all ages. Usually people dont wear sports clothes and just practise a little bit in their every day wear. The funny thing is that mostly faces look quite unmotivated and you are not sure if the person is doing these activities for fun, for muscles, for boredom or just because he she happened to pass by.
However, I found that sports is a good activity to start a conversation with people. When you watch two people in a park playing Badminton or another ball game, it might happen easily that they ask you to join or try it for a few minutes. Also in these muscle-playgrounds it is easy to get to know some local persons.
The garden is built according to a famous Chinese classic novel -- A Dream of Red Mansions. It's about a tragic love story between Jia Baoyu and Lin Daiyu in Qing Dynasty. It also has a reputation as the eastern version of Romio and Juliet.
Please see more photos in my photo album.
Ba Da Chu park have a long history which is a Buddha temple park. It locate at the west mountain in Beijing. There are eight antiqued architectures what make the park famous. In addition, "twelve landscapes" are nature view what give the park beautiful environment. The temples in the park were first built in Sui dynasty. One of the temples called Lingguang sacrifice Buddhist relics of Sakyamuni. However, the temples was destroyed in 1900 by invaders. Today, Ba Da Chu Park is one of the most popular parks in Beijing. Especially in fall, it is the most beautiful season where worth while visiting.
Just southeast of the Forbidden City lies Changpu River Park.
This park is an absolute lifesaver with it's water and beautiful landsacape and trees. It provides shade and rest on hot days as well as a welcome escape from the city streets.
It is a small narrow park, but it is really beautiful and very quiet and there is not many people considering it's central position.
According to Frommer's -"There is quite simply no finer place to walk in Beijing". The Back Lakes area (Shicha Hai) is composed of three idyllic lakes - Qian Hai (Front Lake), Hou Hai (Back Lake), and Xi Hai (West Lake) - and the tree-shaded neighborhoods that surround them. Combined with other man-made pools to the south, these lakes were once part of a system used to transport grain by barge from the Grand Canal to the Forbidden City. Prior to 1911 this was an exclusive area, and only people with connections to the imperial family were permitted to maintain houses here. Lots of bars and cafes has sprung up around the lakes, providing ample opportunities to take breaks from your walk and enjoy the beautiful scenery. But at weekend can get very crowded and not easy to find a table.
This place is not as famous as greatwall or forbidden city, however, I still suggest visiting if you have time. It is a garden built in modern time, however, it is based on one of the most famous novels from Qing dynasty. (Sorry I can't remember the name of the novel now but I will edit this when I remember). TV that is based on this novel was also made in this garden.
Yu Yuan Tan park located between west 2nd ring road and 3rd ring road, near Diao Yu Tai. People always boating on Ba Yi lake or swimming in the river. You'd better visit there in April for cherry blossom festival.
It is a sad fact that children in Beijing rarely feel grass under their feet.
Although there are numerous parks, squares and public gathering places around Beijing, walking on the grass is mostly forbidden. Grass areas are mostly always roped off and signs tell a familiar story, keep off the grass.
All of the squares and parks have families and friends gathering to fly kites, play mahjong, play cards, walk their dogs or simply play with their children something I feel is lost to a lot of western societies now.)
Having said that, these parks are often filled with the most magnificent sculptures and statues depicting scenes of entertainment which is what the parks should be about.
Sue is right on the money. The only suggestions I have is to try to visit Beihai Park early in the morning. (Before 7am) It's not only great for people watching, but it leaves more time during the day to visit other places. I'm not usually one to push "day trips", but I strongly suggest you book a 1/2 day bike rickshaw through the hutongs. Not only will you have an exciting (and perilous) ride, you will also have an opportunity to visit a resident of the hutong.
Happy travels, Irv
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