Sanctuary in the City: West Beijing parks

Sanctuary in the City: West Beijing parks
By Mark Turner ,

Beijing’s parks are the perfect place to catch a slice of Chinese culture; be it the elderly practicing their elegant calligraphy on the paving stones, or middle aged urban denizens strutting a fox trot while young children scoot by on all kinds of wheeled contraptions. Beijing’s parks are the best place to see its residents at their most relaxed and cheerful, and these wonderful environs allow you to be part of the fun. The intention of this series is to give the reader an inside view to some of the overlooked treats to be enjoyed in Beijing’s leisure spots, from district to district, beginning with Haidian and Xi Cheng in the west..

Xiang Shan Park (Fragrant Hill) 香山公园

Xiang Shan Park is located 10km west of the city in the West Hills. It was founded in the Jin dynasty and was previously a home and getaway for Emperors and even Chairman Mao himself. Xiang Shan is widely known for the vivid reds of the deciduous trees in the autumn, some of its hidden corners are the best kept secrets in all of Beijing. In season, though, thousands of people swarm up the steps that lead to Xiang Lu peak, quite a spectacle in itself

Xiangshan Park, Beijing

Meander around the gardens and paths lacing the feet of the hills, as well as the lesser used tracks ascending the hills and punctuated with gazebos and pagodas, you will find some real gems. Most noteworthy of the structures to be discovered in the thickly wooded hillsides is Jian Xin temple. Located near the north gate of the park, Jian Xin is an understated, high-walled building of simple beauty, best visited in the late afternoon or early evening when visitor numbers are down. It’s often almost empty during off peak seasons.

Jian Xin temple’s grounds could be described as a garden within a garden, and this, in combination with its secluded position, make it a small part of the elusive ‘mythical’ China that so many travelers and residents yearn for, but so often fail to find. The Temple’s semicircular coy pond, although rather murky, is unforgettable.

Entry ticket: 10 RMB
Transport: Buses 360, 318, 714, 733, 737, 833 and 904
Alternatively the park can be accessed by a 30/40 RMB taxi journey from Su Zhou Jie subway station on line 10

Click here for more information about Xiang Shan

Yu Yuan Tan Park 玉渊潭公园View In Map

Yu Yuan Tan Park is one of Beijing’s main eleven parks and is situated near to the former CCTV tower on the West Third Ring Road, south of Bei Wai (Foreign Studies University) The park covers a long stretch of the Ring Road and is easily spotted. A large amount of the park is taken up by a lake; because of the low level of the land it’s a natural confluence point for rivers and since the Yuan dynasty has been a rich habitat for birds. The large body of water provides park-goers with a particularly impressive view completed by the iconic CCTV tower.

Yu Yuan Tan Park, Beijing

Yu Yuan Tan is a great park all year round but has one particular seasonal draw: that of the flowering cherry trees. In Spring time, from the end of March onwards, the most beautiful blossoms can be seen at various locations in the park. The trees were planted – all 180 of them – in 1973, and were introduced from Japan to symbolize the healing of relations with China, and are quite stunning when in full bloom.

Address: Sanlihe Lu, Xicheng District, Beijing 北京西城区三里河路
Entry ticket: 2 RMB and 10 RMB during the Cherry Blossom Festival
Transport: South gate: Buses 1, 4, 52, 337, 728 or 827, or take subway line 1 to the military station. North gate: Buses 121, 846, 37, 335 or 336 to Baiduizi stop
West gate: Buses 300, 323, 374 or 394 to Bayihu stop
Tel: 010 - 8865 3800
Website: (Chinese)

Haidian Park 海淀公园 View In Map

Haidian Park is a park located in the northwestern Haidian District of Beijing outside of the north west corner of the 4th ring road. The park is a great recreational area and served as the venue for the Midi festival in 2007, 2008 as well as the Modern Sky festival. Being in close proximity of Bei Wai foreign studies university and the west gate of Peoples University it is a popular spot for students.

Haidian Park, Beijing

The main draw of the park is its abundance of space, it is the perfect place to have a game of soccer or play Frisbee, it is possible to set up camp anywhere in the park and play to your hearts content without any fear of being disturbed or disturbing anyone else. The fields within the park are a perfect place to cloud gaze on a warm summer’s day and great to visit when needing the therapeutic value of a little time in a wide open space. On a windy day the park is a favorite of kite flyers and a vast array can be seen over head, completing the scene.

Address: Northwest corner of Wanquanhe Intersection, Northwest 4th circle highway, Haidian District, Beijing北京海淀区西北四环万泉河立交桥的西北角
Transport: Take Bus T5, 302, 708, 725, 817, 904, 933, 968, 973 and take off at Furngli Stop. The park can also easily be reached by 10 minute taxi ride from Suzhou Jie Subway station on line 10.
Entry ticket: Free
Tel: 010 - 6285 0282
Website: (English)

Purple Bamboo Park 紫竹院公园

The serene Purple Bamboo Park belies its hectic surroundings. Situated near a busy section of the West Third Ring Road, as well as by Beijing Zoo and the bus station of the same name, it is a true sanctuary for city dwellers in the West. Super modern office buildings and high rise apartment blocks serve as a backdrop to quiet paths and tranquil water.

Purple Bamboo Park, Beijing

As suggested by its name (Zi Zhu, in Chinese), a significant feature of the park is its thick growth of Bamboo. At the height of summer it’s a truly classic Chinese scene. The park is best enjoyed in its most peaceful time – early mornings and mid afternoon – avoiding the office workers on their lunch break and the multitudes of evening crowds. The view across the largest of the three lakes is quite spectacular at any time. The most enchanting area of the park is near the north gate, a rabbit warren of steps and paths broken up with numerous secret gazebos and carefully placed rock features; where people, mostly Haidian’s elderly, can be found practicing traditional Chinese musical instruments or peacefully going through a series of Tai Chi exercises in their own bamboo-vaulted, private worlds..

Entry ticket: Free
Transport: Buses 114, 300, 323, 334, 374, 811, 814, 817, 334, 347, 360, 320 or 904. The park can also easily be reached with a twenty minute walk or 5 minute taxi ride from Xizhimen Subway, heading westward down the dual carriageway past Beijing Zoo and then the China World Expo centre.

Click here for more information about Purple Bamboo Park

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