Updated: 2004-01-14 16:05
West of the Forbidden City sits Beihai Park (beihai gongyuan) which was originally built for Kublai Khan before the Imperial Palace was even imagined. The scale of the park is appropriately regal and the huge lake is divided into three parts: Beihai(the North Lake), Zhonghai(the Central Lake) and Nanhai(the South Lake).
A walk around the various scenic spots in Beihai is definitely enjoyable. There are various places to take in along the way including: Jade Islet Isle, the Jade Jar of Dushan, the Painted gallery, the Nine Dragon Screen, the Liulige Tower, Yong'an Temple, the Five-Dragon Pavilion. There is also an expensive but classy restaurant, "The Fangshan" where reportedly the Empress Cixi used to dine!
Beihai is a peaceful place to wander and do some people watching. In summer, some ignore the No-swimming signs and dive into the lakes. In winter, skating is a popular pursuit.
Legend: The original design for the park originates from an ancient tale. Chinese legend has it that there were three islands across the eastern seas where fairies and immortals lived: Penglai, Yingzhou and Fangzhang. The celestial beings inhabiting these islands invented a wonderful pill that made humans immortal. (Imagine an ancient Viagra and you get the scale of the craze). Emperor Qingshihuang and Emperor Hanwudi sent messengers across the seas in search of these wonderful pills, but the messengers never returned. The Chinese emperors were forced therefore, to settle for something less. They constructed their own fairyland in the lake near their Palace as a comfort to themselves and their un-realized dreams of being immortal.
Opening time: 08:00-17:00
Ticket: 5 yuan per person