BeiThe Beihai (North Sea) Park and the Round City are situated in Beijing downtown, to the northwest of the Forbidden City. hai Park
The present Beihai Park is one of the earliest imperial palaces extant in China. The park was first constructed in the Liao Dynasty (907-1125), having a history of over 800 years. The Liao Dynasty built Yaoyu (Jade Islet) Palace by imitating the Penglai Fairyland. The lake was enlarged in the Jin Dynasty (1115-1234), using rocks for piling on the hill and building the Guanghan Palace (Palace in the Moon). In the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), the Qionghua (Jade Flowery) Islet was enlarged three times, and the imperial residence and palaces were built with the islet in the center. Thereafter, in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1664) and the Qing Dynasty (1664-1911), people rebuilt and expanded the Beihai Park several times, and the park finally came to today's scale.
The Beihai Park is about 500 meters to the northwest of the Forbidden City and the Jingshan Hill. The park is vast in its water surface, which accounts for a half of the park's total area of 700,000 square meters. In the Ming Dynasty, Beihai (North Sea), Zhonghai (Central Sea) and Nanhai (South Sea) were collectively named as Three Seas or the Taiye Lake, which was the forbidden garden. At the beginning of the Republic of China, Zhonghai and Nanhai were merged into an integral whole called Zhongnanhai (Central and South Sea). Behai was separately built as a park.
The Qiong (Jade) Islet lies on the south of the lake and is the center of the whole park. It was called Qionghua Islet in the Jin Dynasty, and renamed the Wanshou Hill in the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368). Because of the construction of the White Dagoba on the top of the hill, the Qiong Islet is also called White Dagoba Hill. The architectures on that islet were constructed in accordance with the shape of the hill, matching with each other horizontally and vertically. With the White Dagoba as the landmark, the layout of the islet can be divided into east, south, west and north parts. On the top of the Qiong Islet, the 35.9-meter-high White Dagoba was first built in the 8th year (1651) during the reign of Emperor Shunzhi.
On the south of the White Dagoba Hill stands a main building, Yong'an (Eternal Peace) Temple. Besides the temple, there are the Falun Hall, the Zhengjue Hall, the Pu'an Hall, the Bell and Drum Towers, etc. All those buildings are covered with yellow, green, purple and other colorful glazed tiles. Seen from the top of the hill, those buildings are colorful and spectacular. To the west of the Yong'an Temple is the Yuexin (Heart-joyful) Hall where emperors used to receive their officials and deal with government affairs. Behind that hall is the Qingxiao (Night Parties) Building, which was the entertainment place for emperors and queens in winters. The Linguang (Sunshine) Hall and the Yuegu (Reading the Classics) Building sit on the west of the White Dagoba Hill. The Yuegu Building was the emperors' private place for book collections. The building takes the shape of a crescent. There are 25 front pillars on the two floors. A collection of famous calligraphic works up to the Wei Dynasty (220 -265) and the Jin Dynasty (265-420) were on stone tablets rubbings, which constitute the Model Calligraphy in the Hall of the Three Rare Treasures, and amount to 495 pieces. The Three Rare Treasures referred to the three outstanding calligraphy masterpieces by Wang Xizhi, Wang Xianzhi, and Wang Xun, three pioneers in Chinese calligraphy.
On the hill slope, there are the Mujian Chamber, the Yanyun Jint ai Pavilion, the Ganlu Hall, the Panqing Chamber, the Sheshan Pavilion and other ancient buildings, antique and tranquil. On the bank of the Taiye Lake there are two important building compounds that stand opposite to each other. One compound lies on the north of the White Dagoba Hill, including the Yilan Hall, the Daoning Room, the Bizhao Building, the Yuanfan Pavilion, the Yan Building, etc. The other lies on the north of the Taiye Lake, including the Wulong Pavilion and the Xitian Fanjing Pavilion. On the east of the hill there are flourishing woods, rocks, deep caves, stone bridge, memorial archway, the Zhizhu (Intellectual Pearl) Hall and the Jianchu (vision of spring) Pavilion, forming the Qiong Dao Chun Yin (Jade Islet's Spring Shadow), one of the eight beautiful sceneries in ancient Beijing. The tablet, with Qing Emperor Qianlong's inscription on it, is well preserved till today.
On the east of the Taiye Lake, pavilions and halls are hidden in green woods and waves. The Huafang Room is exquisite and graceful, and the Long Corridor winds its way deeply. That place can rival the wonderful gardens in Southeast China. To the north of the Huafang Room is the Haopu Mountain Stream, which faces the lake on its three sides. The stream is surrounded by artificial hills and zigzagging stone bridges, presenting a special view.
The Jingxin Study is the main building on the northern shore of the lake, covering an area of one hectare, which was the place where the princes studied. Emperor Qianlong used to play musical instrument and read books there, so the Jingxin Study is also called Qianlong's Miniature Garden. The garden chiefly consists of rockeries and a pond, with chambers and pavilions sitting inside, displaying various scenic views. Besides waterfalls, there are the Nine-Dragon Screen, Five-Dragon Pavilions, the Chanfu Temple, etc, all of which add charms to the study.
To the northwest lies the well-known Nine-Dragon Screen, which is the only screen having nine huge dragons on both sides among the most famous three Nine-Dragon Screens in China (the other two are respectively in the Forbidden City and Datong, Shanxi Province). Built in 1756, the Nine-Dragon Screen is about 27 meters (about 88.6 feet) long, 6.65 meters (about 21.8 feet) high and 1.42 meters (4.66 feet) thick. It is composed of 424 seven-color glazed tiles that embossing the screen. There are nine huge coiling dragons on each side of the screen and big or small dragons in different postures decorating the two ends and the eaves, making a surprising total of 635 dragons. Even after 200 years, the Nine-Dragon Screen is still bright in color and complete in appearance, showing the high techniques of Chinese arts and crafts in ancient times.
The Round City is located in the west of the south gate of the Beihai Park. It lies to the north of the east end of the Jin'aoyu (Golden Turtle Jade) Bridge, which is between the Beihai and Zhonghai. The Round City is not only a part of the Beihai Park but also an independent garden with its unique style. Together with Beihai, Zhonghai and Nanhai, it forms the most beautiful scenic area in Beijing City.
Originally, the Round City was an islet in the Taiye Lake. From the 3rd year to the 19th year (1163-1179) of the Dading reign in the Jin Dynasty (1115-1234), Emperor Shizong started to build palaces on the islet. The Round City, with the Qionghua Islet facing each other at a distance, is a part of the imperial palace. More buildings were constructed in the Ming and Qing dynasties (1368-1911), such as the Chengguang Hall, the Yuweng Pavilion, the Gulai Chamber, the Jingji Chamber, the Yuqing Chamber, and the Jinglan Pavilion, etc. Besides, the walls and crenels were built around the islet, forming the embryonic shape of the Round City.
The Round City, surrounded by 5-meter-high walls, has an area of 4,500 square meters. The Chengguan Hall stands in the middle of the city and is the main building inside. Covered with yellow glazed tiles, the square-shaped Chengguang Hall looks colorful and magnificent. The wooden dragon-carved shrine in the hall houses a sitting statue of Sakyamuni, carved from a block of lustrous jade, a present from Burma to Empress Dowager Cixi, contributed by a monk named Ming Kuan in the 22nd year (1896) during the reign of Emperor Guangxu in the Qing Dynasty. Empress Cixi even wrote an inscription to show her loyalty to Buddhism.
In 1900, the allied forces of eight powers invaded and occupied Beijing. They plundered the Round City and took away various treasures and antiques. Up to now, the knife-cut mark can still be seen on the left arm of the Jade Buddha. A huge jade urn is placed in front of the hall, weighing 3,500 kg. It was carved from a whole block of jade, and was called Ocean of Jade in the Dushan Mountain. The jade block is said to be either from the Place in the Moon, or left behind by Goddess Nüwa when she sealed the sky. In the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), Kublar Khan, Emperor Shizu, once used the urn as a wine vessel to host officials who rendered outstanding service. While in the Ming Dynasty it was lost in society and used as a food container. In the Qing Dynasty, Emperor Qianlong found the urn in a visit and bought it at a high price. It was then placed in the Round City, and preserved in a pavilion. The emperor composed the Jade Urn Song and the Jade Urn Poem, and had them engraved on the jade urn.
Jingshan Park, an former imperial garden, lies to the east of Beihai Park. It occupies an area of 23 hectares. Many palatial towers and pavilions are arranged on a 47.5-meter-high hill.
In 1179 Emperor Shi Zu of the Jin Dynasty stored here the earth removed from the construction site of Taining Palace. During the Yuan Dynasty the mount was enclosed in the wall of the palace. In 1421 the emperor of the Ming Dynasty began to rebuild Beijing as the national capital. The debris of the torn-down old palace and the earth dredged from the moat were dumped upon the earthern mount. Trees were planted and some buildings erected. The mount was named the Hill of 10,000 Years and became an imperial garden to the north of the imperial Palace. In 1644 a peasant uprising army led by Li Zicheng took Beijing. Emperor Chong Zhen fled to Jingshan and hanged himeself on a Chinese scholartree.
The name of "Jingshan" was given in 1655 during the Qing Dynasty. In 1751 five pavilions were built on the hill in a straight line. Wanchun Pavilion in the middle is on the central axis of the old Beijing city. From there one has a grand view of the former Imperial Palace.
While visiting these famous and interesting places in Beihai Park, you could have a meal and rest in Fangshan Restaurant located at the northern shore of the lake. This restaurant was started in 1925 by a cook who formerly worked in the Qing court, so the food there is said to be of delicious imperial flavor.
Jingshan Park has many ancient trees and stretches of peony flowers. It is today a favorite tourist spot.