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Home >> Beijing Travel Attractions >> Beihai Park

Beihai Park

Beihai ParkLong ago there was a legend that to the east there existed a place that was so deep, one could not see the bottom. To this place all the rivers and oceans ran and disappeared. That area was also said to contain the three islands of Peng-lai (a mythical Taoist paradise) where fairy immortals lived. Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty, in an attempt to obtain immortality. Had a large pond constructed to the rear of his palace. Earth was heaped in the middle of the pond to represent the Isles of Peng-lai. Similar construction was accomplished by emperors of the Sui and Tang Dynasties when their palaces were built. As the years progressed historical legend became the basis for a style of garden construction which is uniquely Chinese and rich in mythology and fantasy. Beihai Park's design was based on this legend.

Beihai (North Lake) is west of Jing Shan ("Coal Hill"). The area is not only beautiful and scenic but is also closely associated with the development of the city of Beijing. During the Liao (947-1125 A.D.) and the Jin (1115-1234 A.D.) Dynasties, secondary palaces were built here. Under the Yuan Dynasty (1280-1368 A.D.) Qiong Hua (Precious Jade) Island was renovated three times. It was on this site that Kublai Khan's palace once stood which was the place where Marco Polo stayed when he visited China. With the palace as its center, more buildings were put up further out around the lake so that it became the foundation of the inner city of Beijing.

Beijing Beihai ParkThe lake and surrounding area are enclosed by walls. Before you enter through the main gate you will see Round Town, on the left, enclosed by a wall 14 ft. (5 m.) high. Originally an island, it now houses the Hall of Receiving Light. Within you will find a white jade Buddha (5 ft. or l.5 m. high) which is ethereal and lustrous, suggesting sublime and transcendent repose. In the courtyard is the great Jade Basin. Carved in 1265 A.D., this bowl measures approximately 5 ft. (1.5m.) in diameter, 2 ft. (.6 m.) in height, and over 15 ft. (4.6 m.) in circumference. The Jade Basin was originally used at ceremonial banquets from which the various ministers and dignitaries drank wine.
Beihai Lake surrounds Qiong Hua Island which is 5,166 ft. (1,912 m.) in circumference. On the Island you will find many pavilions and multi-storied buildings with colorful glazed tiles. Occupying the whole center of the Island is the White Dagoba built in 1651 A.D. on the ruins of the original palace 119 ft. (35.9 m.) high. If one climbs to the top of the hill on which it stands and gazes out, the scenery near and far spreads itself out and it is a spectacular view.

On the northern shore of Beihai is the Pavilion of the Five Dragons. Constructed in 1602 A.D. and jutting out over the water, their reflections resemble five clusters of new flowers blooming on the water's surface. Here you will also find the famous Nine Dragon Screen. This Screen, or wall, is 87 ft. (26.5 m.) long and over 15 ft. (4.6 m.) high. On both sides there are nine dragons chasing a pearl amid the waves. The wall is made entirely of colorful glazed tiles and one gets the feeling that each of the dragons is about to break forth from the wall.

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