Běihǎi Park

sights / Parks & gardens

Běihǎi Park information

Location
Běijīng , China
Telephone
+86 6403 1102
Getting there
Subway: Xisi or Nanluogu Xiang
Prices
admission high/low season ¥10/5, through ticket high/low season ¥20/15
Opening hours
park 6am-9pm, sights until 5pm
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Běihǎi Park, northwest of the Forbidden City , is largely occupied by the North Sea (běihǎi), a huge lake that freezes in winter and blooms with lotuses in summer. Old folk dance together outside temple halls and come twilight, young couples cuddle on benches. It’s a restful place to stroll around, rent a rowing boat in summer and watch calligraphers practising characters on paving slabs with fat brushes and water.

The site is associated with Kublai Khan’s palace, Běijīng’s navel before the arrival of the Forbidden City. All that survives of the Khan’s court is a large jar made of green jade in the Round City (团城; Tuánchéng), near the southern entrance. Also within the Round City is the Chengguang Hall (Chéngguāng Diàn), where a white jade statue of Sakyamuni from Myanmar (Burma) can be found, its arm wounded by the allied forces that swarmed through Běijīng in 1900 to quash the Boxer Rebellion. At the time of writing, the Round City was closed to visitors.

Attached to the North Sea, the South (Nánhǎi) and Middle (Zhōnghǎi) Seas to the south lend their name to Zhōngnánhǎi (literally ‘Middle and South Seas’), the heavily-guarded compound less than a mile south of the park where the Chinese Communist Party’s top leadership live.

Topping Jade Islet (琼岛; Qióngdǎo) on the lake, the 36m-high Tibetan-style White Dagoba (白塔; Báitǎ) was built in 1651 for a visit by the Dalai Lama, and was rebuilt in 1741. Climb up to the dagoba via the Yǒng’ān Temple (永安寺; Yǒng’ān Sì).

Xītiān Fánjìng (西天梵境; Western Paradise), situated on the northern shore of the lake, is a lovely temple (admission to which is included in the park ticket). The nearby Nine Dragon Screen (九龙壁; Jiǔlóng Bì), a 5m-high and 27m-long spirit wall, is a glimmering stretch of coloured glazed tiles depicting coiling dragons, similar to its counterpart in the Forbidden City. West, along the shore, is the pleasant Little Western Heaven (小西天; Xiǎo Xītiān), a further shrine.