Zhongshan Park is one of the key historic sites under national protection. It lies to the west of Tiananmen. It used to be the Altar to the Gods of Land and Grain (Shejitan) where the Ming and Qing emperors offered sacrifices to the God of Land in the 2nd lunar month and the God of Grain in the 8th. In 1913, on the suggestion of minister of communications Zhu Qijin, funds were raised for simple renovation and transformation of the ancient shrine. It was officially opened to the public on Oct. 10 the next year, when it was called the Central Park. When Dr. Sun Yat-sen died in 1925, his coffin was placed in a shrine (now called Zhongshan Hall) in the park. In 1928, the park's name was changed to Zhongshan Park to commemorate the great leader.
In the Tang Dynasty, a Buddhist temple stood where the park is. During the Liao and Jin dynasties, a temple called Xingguo Temple was built here, whose name was changed to Wanshou Xinguo Temple in Yuan Dynasty. In 1420, or the 18th year of Emperor Yongle's reign in the Ming Dynasty, at the same time the Forbidden City was being built, Emperor Zhu Di had the altar to the Gods of Land and Grain built here, in accordance with the principle of Zhou Ritual "ancestors on the left and Sheji on the right". The altar covered nearly 240,000 square meters. Today cypresses planted in the Liao and Jin dynasties are still growing well, and the Ming relics - the altar, its wall and gates, the Worship Hall, the Divine Kitchen, the Divine Warehouse, and the Slaughter Pavilion - are mostly well preserved.
The Altar to the Gods of Land and Grain is the only surviving one of its kind. It is divided into an inner section and an outer section. The center of the inner section is a platform covered with five colors of soil, with yellow in the middle, blue in the east, red in the south, white in the west, and black in the north. In the center of the platform is buried a stone known as the Jiangshan (the national territory or the throne) Stone. The low walls surrounding the altar, with Lingxing Gates in each direction, are covered with glazed tiles, whose colors correspond to the colors of soil on the platform.
Since the altar was converted into a park, it has been substantially transformed without destroying its original style. Some attractions have been moved here, such as the Protocol-Practicing Pavilion in the Ming and Qing Dynasties, the pavilion housing the Lanting tablet from Yuanmingyuan Garden, the stone lions made in Han and Tang dynasties from Daming Temple in Hebei, and the stone Ketteler Arch (whose name was first changed to The Victory of Justice and the Peace-Defending Arch) from Dongdan. Some famous stones that used to be in the imperial palace, such as Qingyunpian (green cloud) and Qinglianduo (green lotus), have also been moved here. Tanghuawu (Waterside Greenhouse) has been renovated; a music hall has been built.
Many rare species of orchids have been introduced from Zhejiang, Fujian, Jiangxi, Guangdong, Guangxi, Yunnan, Guizhou, Sichuan, and Tibet. In 1964, Chief Commissioner Zhu De offered his own orchids as a gift to the park. Now the park has nearly 3,000 pots of orchids of over 100 valuable species, a rare collection in north China.
The park is home to many trees. Of the 602 ancient cypresses, seven date back to the Liao Dynasty, that is, over a millennium ago. They are still growing very well. To the southeast of the inner section of the shrine is a Chinese scholartree wonderfully entwined with a cypress. Behind Tanghuawu is a grove of age-old peonies of valuable species, which send off a rich fragrance when blossoming.
In recent years, Jinyuxuan Restaurant in the park has developed a special attraction - the Red Mansion cuisine, which consists of dozens of dishes.
Apart from serving for leisure and sightseeing, the park also plays its part in the political arena of the capital by helping to bring about the reunification of China. Since the founding of the People's Republic, on anniversaries of Sun Yat-sen's birth or death, renowned people from all walks of life are gathered here for commemorative activities. In the 1950s to 1960s, leaders of the Party and the country had come here many times to celebrate Labor Day and National Day with the common people.
Address: west of Tiananmen, Dongcheng District, Beijing
Bus: No.1, 4, 52
Admission: 3 RMB