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1 Wen Jin Jie (Xicheng)
(86) 010-6403-3225 | www.beihaipark.com.cn
HOURS/TIMESApr.-May, Sept.-Oct.: Daily: 6:00am-9:00pm; Jun.-Aug.: Daily: 6:00am-10:00pm; Nov.-Mar.: Daily: 6:30am-8:00pm
PRICE (PEAK SEASON; OFF SEASON)RMB 10; RMB 5
POPULAR TIMESWeekends; summers
RESERVE IN ADVANCENo
WAIT TIME WITHOUT RESERVATIONNone
HIGHLIGHTSNine Dragon Screen; White Dagoba; Jingxinzhai; Arboretum
Dating from the Liao Dynasty in the 10th century, Beihai Park’s sumptuous scenery–a careful feng-shui inspired arrangement of temples, pavilions, and man-made landscaped hills ringing an expansive lake–was sculpted to perfection by imperial rulers over the 1,000 years that it served as their inner-city garden retreat. Originally the “backyard” of the Forbidden City, Beihai remained the preserve of China’s ultra elite for centuries, but these days it’s packed with eager crowds of tourists clambering up the hills and poking around the temples. Elderly locals take a more laidback approach than the gung-ho tour groups, congregating in the shady tiled pavilions for folk song sing-a-longs, ballroom dancing, and tai chi, while local youngsters go ice skating and boating on the lake.
GO HERE WITH
Friends; family; kids
WHY WE LIKE IT
It’s a lovely spot for a stroll. We particularly like poking around the former imperial living quarters tucked away in a rockery at the north end of the park and wandering in the shade of the willows around the shore of the lake. If you want to get a feel for local leisure culture, bring a picnic and hang out for awhile to listen to the singing in the lakeside pagoda. The views of the park and city skyline from the White Dagoba on Qionghua Island in the center of the lake are also worth taking in.
WHAT WE WOULD CHANGE
The path around the lake is a U-shape rather than a full loop, so if you want to get back to where you started, you either have to walk all the way back around the lake, rent a boat and paddle back, or leave the park, walk along the street back to where you came in, and then buy a new entry ticket.
GOOD TO KNOW
In a truly lavish example of imperial hospitality, the stunning Tibetan-style White Dagoba on Qionghua Island was built in 1679 to make a visiting lama from Lhasa “feel more at home.” There are a couple of restaurants in the park offering “authentic imperial cuisine” that are best avoided–the food is mediocre, and the prices are exorbitant. One famous pastime at Beihai that’s worth checking out is water calligraphy (where skilled calligraphers use brushes dipped in water to write poetic passages on the ground, leaving them to dry and disappear). It’s intended to be an esoteric metaphor for the fleeting nature of life’s pleasures, though rather than being brooding existentialists, the calligraphers are often a jolly, chatty bunch happy to share their brushes, teach you some characters, and let you give it a whirl.
Read more about Beihai Park in The Diary
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