Beihai park and the nine dragons screen (Beijing)

Beijing really is an amazing city, deeply entrenched with history and tradition. First built in the 10th century, Beihai Park is part of that historical background. Since 1925, the park has been open to the public.

Note that I could only show a very small selection of the numerous beautiful gardens, structures, palaces and temples of Beihai Park.

Be sure to visit them all on your next trip to Beijing!

Do not visit Beihai park to escape the noise of the bustling city: you will be very surprised to learn that this large park (69 hectares, of which about more than half is a lake) is not a haven of tranquility, but filled by groups of Chinese citizens playing or enjoying music and dance. 

A visit to this park will certainly bring a smile to your face and warmth in your heart, even in the freezing cold winds of November.

It is a delight to see people enjoying them-selves and be not afraid to join them. You might even get an invitation for a dance.

Hall of Spiritual Peace

The hall of Spiritual Peace, originally named Jingqing Hall (Mirror-Clear Hall), is the entrance of one of the most exquisite gardens inside Beihai Park.

In the Ming Dynasty it was an ordinary house for officials. From 1756 (Qianlong 21st year of the Qing Dynasty) to 1756 (Qianlong 23rd year of the Qing Dynasty), it was build for Emperor Qianlong during the expansion of the Western Elysium.

In 1885 Empress Dowager Cixi rebuilt the garden.

From an official inscription in the park: “The whole garden not only displays the majestic splendour of  the northern gardens but also excels in its elegant refinement in the vein of the southern gardens, thus making it a diamond shining in Chinese Horticultural art.”

After reading this text, one can only remain silent and admire the wonderful gardens.

Hall of Great Bliss and Anticipation

This hall was founded during the Ming Dynasty during the Wanli period. It is entirely made of NanMu wood.

Worshipped here are the Buddha of the Three Worlds (Worlds of Past, Present and Future) and the eighteen Arhats. An Arhat is a spiritual practitioner who realized the Buddhist doctrine.

The two copper towers (each 6.59 meters high and inlaid with 712 bronze Long-live-Buddhas) where restored in 2008.

Heavenly King Temple

Nearby the hall of Great Bliss and Anticipation is another hall with  sculptures of the Kings of the East, West, North and South.

The temple consists of several halls and beautiful courtyards.

Nine Dragon Screen

The beautiful two-sided Nine Dragon Screen was erected in 1756 (Qianlong 21st year of the Qing Dynasty). It is about 25.52 meters long, 5.96 meters high and 1.60 meters thick.

From the information at the park: “On the greenish white marble base, is erected the Chinese – hipped – roofed screen, composed of bricks with 424 seven-colour glazed tiles embossing the main body. 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”.

This screen is the only one having nine dragons on both sides. Here are some of my pictures! First the Front side:

Here the back panel (sorry, some difficult lighting conditions).

Jade (Qiónghuá 琼华) Island

At the centre of the Park is the island Qiónghuá (琼华) and this is certainly worthwhile of a visit. Do take the boat that brings you there.

If you are hungry (and you will be), visit the famous Beihai Fangshan Imperial Restaurant in the Yilangtang Hall where Empress Dowager Cixi (1835 – 1908) used to take her meals after sightseeing in the park.

Prices go up to RMB 8.888,- for the lucky ones, but more affordable and highly enjoyable dishes are certainly available.

##Stele of the Jade Islet in Spring Shade

The ‘Jade Islet in Spring Shade” scene used to be one of the Eight Great Sights of Beijing in the Jin Dynasty. The stele is erected in 1751 (Qianlong 16th year of the Qing Dynasty).

On the front-side the inscription “Qiong dao Chun Yin” (Jade Islet in Spring Shade) is written by Emperor Qianlong, and on the other three side are poems composed by the emperor. 

The White Pagoda (Bai Ta)

The White Pagoda, erected in 1651 (8th year of Emperor Shun Zhi of the Qing) stands 35.90 meters high.

In front of the pagoda is the Hall of Beneficent Causation, build in 1751. The Hall’s walls are covered by 455 glazed tiles. In earlier days a bronze statue of an immortal king was worshiped.

From the top of the Bai Ta you will enjoy a nice view on the Forbidden City.

Ancient Caves on Jade Islet

The description in the park of the Ancient Caves left me speechless and the climb down the Caves breathless.

I just quote the full text here for reference (and I needed a lot of text to present pictures of the many statues in the Caves).

“Located in the northern part of Jade Islet, the scene is composed of a zigzagging line of deep caves in the manmade rockery built of Taihu stones.”

“First built in 1166 (Dading 6th year of the Jin Dynasty). It starts in the west from Gangu Hall (Hall of Sweetness and bitterness) to the Panlanjingshe Hall (Hall of Rising Mist) in the east and Xiemiaoshi Hall (Hall of Fine Stone) and Yannanxyn Hall (Hall of Holy Basil) in the north, covering a length of over 200 meters.”

“The harmonious combination of subtle elegance and magnificent grotesqueness tops it as a masterpiece of manmade rockery in Chinese horticultural art. Shan Shiyuan, a celebrated expert on cultural relics, once composed a poem to praise the unique beauty of this scene, deeming its refinement superior to that of the islands of Penglai and Fangzhang where the immortals reside.”

“The construction of the Jade Islet is inspired by the mysterious Kunlun myths in traditional Chinese culture, the Jade Islet symbolizes the Penglai Island, a part of the divine “One-Pond-Three-Hills” pattern in ancient myth, the ancient caves are designed according to people’s imagination of the immortals’ residence on the diving islands.”

“Inside the ancient caves there are carved the Eight Diagrams, the twelve animals ruling people’s year of birth, the sixty dragons and so on. Also you can enjoy the unique beauty of those caves such as the Lygong Cave (Cav of Master Ly), Zhenru Cave (Cave of Origin), Xianku Cave (Cave of Divinity) and ShanMian Pavilion (Fan-shaped Pavilion) which was built according to the shape of Emperor Qianlong’s fan as it is said that the emperor used to practice Chinese kung fu with his fan in Yannanxun Hall.”

“These interesting anecdotes add a mysterieus hue to the craggy caves. The original well-balanced pattern of the temples here is changed by these caves as the pavilions, temples and halls are now seemed scattered among the steep rockery and deep caves. A pleasant feeling is naturally aroused by the mysterious splendor.”

“Climbing up the rockery or traversing through the caves, you will enjoy not only the enticing overview of the islet but also a refreshing experience of entering an idyllic scene. Looking up at the rugged stones inside the caves, you will feel as if you were in a fairyland.“

After all this prose, you are no doubt completely ready to pay a few more RMB to visit the caves.

Be warned that there is no exit downstairs, you have to climbed all stairs up again.

Other information

A visit to the park will keep you busy for a full day. The ticket-price is RMB 5,- for an adult (please check here for the latest prices). A brochure with a nice map can be bought on-site.

Be reminded that some attractions need to be paid separately (.e.g. visit to the island, ..). All in all, an additional RMB 15,- should be sufficient to cover everything you really want to see.

Open hours are

  • 06:00 am to 8:30 pm in April, May, September, and October
  • 6:00 am to 10:00 pm in June, July, and August
  • 6:00 am to 8:00 pm in January,February, March, November and December