[See the entry on the Silver Pagodas for more information]
It is possible - desirable even - to walk right up to the summit of the Silver Mountain, and there are stone steps the whole way up. It takes about 60 minutes to climb the 350 or so metres to the 762 metre peak, where a stone platform has been constructed on the very peak, complete with Chinese flag. The mountain is right under the flight path of incoming aircraft from Europe just five minutes before landing, and it can be clearly seen (from the left hand side). Be warned that on the climb, the last 75 metres has almost no shade at all.
It is possible to disappear on your own walks in any direction off the beaten track in this area. The book "Hiking Around Beijing" has a walk that includes Haizi and Wangbaochuan villages as well as the pagodas and the mountain.
One of Beijing's least known historical structures - or group of structures - are the Silver Pagodas near Haizi village. Five complete closed-eaves pagodas and two more smaller Lamaist dagobas lie in a narrow valley beneath the massive brooding bulk of the Silver Mountain above. In the morning, the harsh light paints the pagodas and the mountain silver; in the afternoon, the lowering sun creates a golden glow from both. It is a unique and special setting, and although there are still some who come to cast prayers and light incense, these structures feel more archaeological than religious now.
The pagodas were constructed in the 12th Century during the Jin Dynasty, each by the donations of specific courtiers. At that time, the Dayansheng temple was built around 1145. Some 280 years later, Wu Liang, a Qing eunuch provided the funds for restoring and rebuilding the temple, and Emperoro Yingzong renamed it the Fahuasi in 1437. It was restored again in 1484 during the Ming Dynasty. The front left pagoda is the Old and Ancient [sic] Good Morality Great Master Pagoda. It is one of the finest 'closed eaves' pagoda existing in China today. To the right, the 13 tier pagoda has the full name of The Repentance Room Country Blessing Buddha Great Chan Master Pagoda. Indeed. In the middle, the tallest - on the left, is the SheLi pagoda, of the state military counsellor Hua Hui Chan. The smaller hexagonal pagodas at the rear are, on the left, that of Yuan Tong, an eminent philanthropist monk of the time, and on the right, that of Xujing Chan.
The temples have long since disappeared, but the traces can be found all around in the stone. Some thirty metres higher up, to the north-west is the site of the former nunnery, with more temple and pavilion foundations higher still, on the way up to the Silver Mountain summit.