The history of Beihai Park
Beihai Park, one of the oldest and best-preserved imperial gardens, is located in the center of Beijing, and is very close to the famous Forbidden City. Beihai Park boasts a history dating back more than a millenium and existed throughout the dynasties of Liao, Jin, Yuan, Ming and Qing. It was first opened to the public as a park in 1925.
Beihai Park covers an area of more than 68 hectares, more than half of which is covered by its lake. It is composed of Beihai Lake and Qionghua Island, and the White Dagoba was built on the top of Qionghua Island, the principle landmark of Beihai Park. In addition, Beihai Park is considered an ancient Chinese art form, with different features, such as artificial hills, bridges, pavilions, halls, temples and lakes.
An ancient legend concerning Beihai Park states that there were three magic mountains called “ Penglai”, “Yingzhou” and “Fangzhang” in the east of Bohai Bay, and that supernatural beings resided in those mountains and possessed a kind of medicine that would help human beings attain immortality. As a result, many emperors attempted to locate the three magic mountains-alas, without success. Qinshihuang, the first emperor of the Qin Dynasty also failed to find out the magic mountains, so he asked his soldiers to dig a large pool and piled up three hills in the pool, thus imitating the description of the magic mountains in the legend. From then on, almost every emperor during the succeeding dynasties would build a royal garden with “one pool and three hills” near his palace. So Beihai Park was built with traditional style: the water of Beihai and Zhong Nan Hai is the Taiye Pool; Qionghua Island, the Island of the Circular City and Xishantai Island represent the three magic mountains.
After the foundation of People’s Republic of China, the government has paid great attention to restoring the old buildings, arranging the lakes and paving the roads. Beihai Park provides visitors with a unique insight into Chinese culture and legend close to the heart of Beijing.