Beihai Park located in the center of Beijing City with a long history of nearly thousand years, so far it is one of the most centuries old and completed preserved royal garden in China. It has an area of more than 70 hectares with a water surface of 39 hectares. To its north is Shishahai Lake and to its east is Jingshan Park. The Palace Museum is to its southeast, a short distance.
Beihai Park is composed of QiongHua Island, South Shore and North Shore. QiongHua Island is rich in luxuriant trees; several palaces are built in harmonious order, the White Tower high up to the mountaintop that be regarded as the symbol of Beihai Park. There painting room, relieved room, TianWang Palace, KuaiXue Tang, Nine-dragon Screen, Five-dragon pavilion etc. are all dimly on the shadow of the willow on the lake bank.
Beihai Park has absorbed both the magnificent of the palace in north China and the graceful and restrained decoration south. Besides, it heritages the excellent majesty as a royal palace and possesses solemnity atmosphere of religion temples. Different building styles are all founded here; in short, it is indeed a Chinese garden art treasure.
Legend About Beihai Park
The legend is that once upon a time there were three magic mountains called Penglai, Yingzhou and Fangzhang located to the east of Bohai Bay (to the east of China). Gods in those mountains had a kind of herbal medicine that would help humans gain immortality.
Therefore, many emperors in the feudal time of China unremittingly sought those mountains. For instance, Emperor Qin Shihuang, the first emperor of the Qin Dynasty (221 - 206 B.C.), wanted to live an eternal life and had sent people to look for the magic mountains but they failed. Then at his palace, he dug a large pool and piled up three earth hills in it, aimed to imitate the circumstances described in the legend. Emperor Wudi, the fifth emperor of the Western Han Dynasty (202 B.C. - 8 A.D.) did similar things as well.
It was thought that different mountain-water combinations in ancient Chinese architecture led to totally different effects. So from then on, almost every emperor during the following dynasties would build a royal garden with one-pool-with-three-hills layout as a fairyland near his palace. Beihai Park was surely built after this traditional style: the water of Beihai with Zhong Nan Hai is the Taiye Pool; the Qionghua Island, the island of the Circular City and the Xishantai Island represent the three magic mountains.
The original time of building up the Beihai Park could be traced back to Liao Dynasty, early in the 10th century. But it was just a temporary palace on the site of present site. On the basis of it, Jin Dynasty dug a lake-Jionghua Islet and the excavated earth was piled to make a hill. Around the lake and on the hill palatial halls, corridors and pavilions were erected, where set up a tremendous TaiNing Palace in 1179 that was strictly follow the royal principle of one pool of three mountains.
In Ming Dynasty, the capital had officially moved to Beijing, the WanShou Mountain and TaiYe Lake used as the royal garden on the west. And later to enlarge the water area, the three seas pattern formed. The Ming Dynasty made more construction and renovation: the Five Dragon Pavilions and the Nine-Dragon Screen on the north bank of the lake and many pavilions and galleries were erected during that period. From the White Dagoba, visitors can have an excellent view of the Five Dragon Pavilions standing on the opposite bank of the lake, with colourful ferryboats traveling back and forth between the shores.
Then in the Qing Dynasty, the Beihai was rebuilt a lot that settle the mainly pattern today. The large-scale rebuilding in the reign of Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty generally established the present scale and pattern of Beihai Park, which was took up to 30years to accomplish. In 1925, the park was first opened to the public, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors from all over the world every year. The project included many other pavilions, halls and terraces that made the park even more harmonious in design.