One of the most famous and beautiful parks in Beijing, Beihai is also one of the earliest examples of Asian-style gardening in the world.
The park served as an imperial garden during the Liao Dynasty, over 800 years ago. After rounds of rebuilding and restoration, including a large scale refurbishment during the reign of Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty, the park took on its present look.
Until the eve of the Xinhai Revolution and the founding the Republic of China in 1911, it had been an imperial garden exclusively for the royal family. About 39 hectares out of the 69 hectares park area is water, the landmark of the park being the "Baita" or "White Pagoda" that stands on Qinghua Island.
The White Pogoda was first built in the eighth year of emperor Shunzhi in 1651 AD at the request of the Tibetan Lama Naomuhan. It has long been known for its white color, elegant shape, and typical Tibetan style. It is commonly recognized as the most famous Lama pagoda in Beijing. Seen from afar the pagoda looks like a huge white vase.
The White Pogoda in Beihai Park
Emperor Qianlong showed great passion for building the royal garden after his journey to Suzhou and Hangzhou, two beautiful cities in southern China known for outstanding private gardens. He ordered a large-scale construction of gardens within the Beihai Park. The garden once held a large amount of national treasure, which was all looted by the Eight-Power Allied Force as they invaded Beijing and completely destroyed the garden in 1900.
Since 1925 the garden, formerly used exclusively by the emperor and their family, has been open to ordinary visitors as a public park. The preservation efforts for the beautiful garden have never ceased over past decades.
The whole park is divided into five scenic zones: Qiong Isle, Tuancheng or Tuan City, Dongan, or East Bank, and the Beihai Arboretum, each of these five parts having its own enchanting features. The most important attractions in the park include the Hua Fang Zai, or Chamber of Paining Boat, Jin Xin Zai, or the Chamber of Tranquil Heart the Hall of the Heavenly King, The Hall of Fast Snow, the Screen of Nine Dragons, and the Xiao Xi Tian. The greenness and large variety of architectural styles in the park display the features of gardens in both northern and southern Imperial China.
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