Saturday, September 6, 2008

Beihai Park

Saturday September 6, 2008.

We reached the half way point of our 4 month stay. 2 more months to go. Today we went to Beihai Park. If we were in NYC visiting Beihai park would be akin to visiting Central Park.
Here is some background from wikipedia:
Beihai Park (Chinese: 北海公园; pinyin: Běihǎi Gōngyuán) is an imperial garden northwest of the Forbidden City in Beijing. Initially built in the 10th century, it is typical of Chinese gardens. Prior to the end of the Qing Dynasty in 1911 this area was connected to the Forbidden City, but since 1925 it has been open to the public.

The Park has an area of more than 700,000 m², with a lake that covers more than half of the entire Park. At the center of the Park is an island called Qióng-huá (琼华) Island with a highest point of 32 m. In the north of the park there is a large pool called the Taiye Pool connecting the two other pools, which are called the Middle Sea and the South Sea respectively. Therefore the Taiye Pool is also called the Beihai.

Beihai literally means "Northern Sea". There are also corresponding "Central" and "Southern Seas" (Zhongnanhai). The complex of buildings around Zhongnanhai houses China's paramount leaders.

We asked Raul and his girlfriend to join us. He is one of the associates on my team here. When I asked Raul if wanted to join us he said that he hasn't visited Beihai yet. He moved to Beijing from a smaller city (Xian) back in January when we first opened the office here. He is very nice guy. Sandy and I both are fond of him. We met them at the front gate of our community and took the subway part way and then grabbed a bus. We arrived at the north gate bought our tickets (20 Yuan or about $3.50 US)and entered the park. Raul was our official photographer for the day and took pictures for us including this one.

The park like many of the attractions in Beijing has elaborate flower displays for the Olympics. This is a picture of one of the displays.

One of the lakes was filled with lotus plants. The lotus season is near its end and there were only a few blooms left. Here we are in front of the lotus lake.

A lotus blossom.

The first attraction we visited was the round city. Beihai was the site of Beijing's earliest imperial palace and small pavilion is all that remains inside the round city. Inside the pavilion there is a beautiful white jade Buddha presented to the Chinese emperor over 100 years ago. The head is encrusted with rubies and emeralds.

Here is a picture of me and Raul outside of the pavilion.

Another piece is history housed in the Round City is a giant wine vessel which is said to have belonged to Kublai Khan pictured here.

From what I can tell Beihai is a center for Buddhism given the many temples with the different idols housed in them. We crossed over a bridge to the Jade Island. The lakes in Beihai were all dug by hand and the excavated dirt was used to make the island. We explored the island and its many temples along the way. The first idols we saw were in the Xiao Xitian temple which housed these fearsome looking guys. Were were told by Min(Raul's GF) that these idols were used to scare away ghosts and evil spirits.

We ventured on and found more Buddha temples. This is Sandy in font of an incense burner. Notice the red diamond shaped things hanging from it. There are prayer offerings. You could purchase them for 10 Yuan.

In this same complex there was a bell tower building where you could ring the bell for a small fee of 2 yuan. We all paid and rang the bell 3 times as legend has it that you will be safe all year.

Raul was nice and took a turn carrying Olivia. Here he is with his girlfriend Min.

We continued our climb to the next level where we found a beautiful garden that had landscaping made with Taihu rocks from the Henan province. The gardens also had built in grottoes and tunnels that had Buddha statues.
Me and Sandy on the Taihu rocks.

Sandy and Min

One of the tunnels.

Buddha (like the one most familiar in the west).

Another Buddha.

I'm not sure if this is Buddha. I don't think it is because there was no where for offerings. But a cool looking statue never the less.

A small gazebo in the garden.

One of the Buddha Temples.

Behind this particular temple lied the stair way to the White Dagoba. The stairs were steep as you can see in this picture.

The view from the top of the stairs.

The White Dagoba.

This building is very unique and is covered on each side with 455 small Buddha tiles.

The views of Beijing from here great. Unfortunately the humidity haze was hanging over the city but you could still see the Forbidden City.

A picture of us on top of the Dagoba hill.

A view of the lake and all the boats.

We made it to the bottom of the hill and stopped for a rest. Olivia drew a crowd when she started playing with the souvenir stand girls and their bubble makers.

Here she is being cute.

Olivia and a friend on the Emperor's throne.

After lunch we rented a boat and took a cruise on the lake. Olivia fell asleep for the hour we were out on the lake. We took some nice picture from the lake.

Sandy enjoying the cruise.

The south side of the Jade Island. There is a famous restaurant here that was started by a former chef of the imperial house. You can also rent the swan boats seen here.

These are the lakeside pavilions. Folks gather here to play music, sing and dance. It was quite lively when rode by.

We returned the boat and then went to see the 9 dragon screen. We had to take another boat across the lake. This is the boat that we rode in.

Here is Olivia getting sleepy on the boat ride.

We arrived on the other side of the lake and went searching for the 9 dragon wall. We found a group of people doing Tai Chi.

Along the way we saw many stray cats around the park. This one was nice enough to pose for us. Looks like he has a mustache.

We found the 9 dragon wall. This is one of 3 that exist in Beijing. Another one is in the Forbidden City and the other I'm not sure where it is.
Here we are with the 9 dragon wall.

Raul Min and Olivia.

A wide shot of the wall.

Some close ups.

That was the last of the things that we wanted to check out in Beihai so we decided to call it day and headed towards a gate. We walked along the paved paths and saw some beautiful sights.

We took one last shot of the Dagoba before we exited the park.

We hopped in a taxi and took it to th esubway and headed back to our home in Wudaokou. We will more than likely visit somewhere next weekend as its a long holiday weekend. The Autumn Moon Festival is next weekend and we're looking forward to the festivities.

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