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Houhai—The Poetic Beauty of Old Beijing

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For those who enjoy peaceful waterside settings, no spot is better than Beijing’s Shichahai. This area was once the home to the rich and powerful of the Old Beijing elite. Since the Yuan Dynasty, Shichahai has been the right in the middle of the most important canals and lakes in Beijing. Shichahai is made up of Xihai, Houhai and Qianhai. Of all these three, Houhai has the best, most relaxed setting. Full of old courtyards and former imperial residences, in Houhai you can immerse yourself in a delightful historic atmosphere without having to deal with all the lights and glamour of Qianhai. Royalty of the Qing Dynasty used to live here.

Houhai, Beijing, Photo: Sohu

Wandering along the banks of Houhai, you will catch glimpses of its past from ancient red walls to the imposing gates standing at the entrance of expansive courtyards. From the outside, you can see trees towering high above the one-story buildings, inviting the passer-by to venture inside the gate to appreciate their beauty up-close.

Houhai, Beijing

If you are going with a large group of people, you should rent a Wupeng Boat and further explore the vast Houhai Lake. Based on the original Wupeng Boat design that Lu Xun once described in detail, you can float away a sunny afternoon on this environmentally friendly ship. Each boat can fit as many as fifteen people but because they have to fit underneath Yinding Bridge, they aren’t very tall. The unusual boat design makes viewing the scenery and ancient buildings like Wanghai Lou even easier. You can take in the beauty of the whole lake just by turning your head.

Houhai, Beijing

If you are worried that the boating trip will be too boring, you can order some food from a nearby restaurant and they’ll bring it right up to your boat. You can also hire musicians to come out with you and play delightful tunes as you dine in a truly one-of-a-kind environment. If you are coming here with your lover, on the other hand, you can hop in a small Wupeng Boat and begin to enjoy Houhai to its fullest. The oarsman of this little boat is often a charming lady who the couples all love to take photos of. To make the atmosphere even more romantic, you can have lamps put on the side of your boat and watch the light flicker off the water as you float by. The candlelight provides a perfect setting for just you and your loved one.


Shichahai Boat King—Wupeng boats have their own bathroom, so you don’t have to worry about drinking tea or alcohol. Because there’s only one 15-person Wupeng boat, it is recommended that you make reservations at least one week in advance. You can eat any type of meal on the boats, whether it’s a banquet or a small family dinner. If you run out of tea or food, Boat King also has smaller boats that can serve you fresh food and hot tea throughout your ride. You just have to pay a 15% service charge.

Hours of Operation: 8 am-Midnight
Cost: 15 person Wupeng boat, 2000 RMB/hour. 4 person Wupeng boat, 300 RMB/hour. Electric boat, 60 RMB/hour. Paddle boat, 40 RMB/hour.

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