Shichahai is a scenic area of history and culture in Beijing and one of its historical and cultural protection zones. It lies in Xicheng District, the center of the city, and is close to its central axis. With a 336,000-square-meter water-covered area connected with Zhongnanhai, it is the only open scenic area with a wide expanse of water in the city. It is an important witness of the history of Beijing's planning and construction, having the largest and best preserved age-old block in the city. In the Yuan Dynasty it was the capital's center for commerce and grain transport. In the Ming and Qing dynasties, it was home to manyhigh officials and men of letters. After the Manchu takeover, the emperor-led Pure Yellow Banner troops were stationed here. In 1992, the Standing Conference of the Beijing Government named it a scenic area of history and culture (hereafter referred to as Shichahai).
Each year, the cultural tourism festival is held in Shichahai. 'Hutong Tour by rickshaw' and its updated version 'Shichahai-in-depth tour of old Beijing' have become well-known tourism brands of Beijing. Tourists may experience genuine Beijing culture by joining tours of princes' mansions, old streets, ancient temples, former residences, city gate towers, Hutongs, homely feasts, boating, bars, and accommodation in Quadrangle Dwellings. As a window to 'humanistic Olympics' of Beijing, Shichahai is playing an important role in welcoming the 2008 Olympic Games.