The Fragrant Hill, which was also named as Garden of Congenial Tranquility, JingYi Park in Chinese, located at the foot of the Western Mountains in the Haidian District, 20 kilometers the northwest of the Beijing City not far from the Summer Palace, is well known for the beautiful maple leaf that dyes the hills all red during autumn days. The park covers an area of about 160 hectares, built and terraces, pavilions and pagodas were added by the subsequent dynasties, and its highest point reaches 557 meters. The Park consists of a natural pine and cypress forest, hills with maple trees, smoke trees and persimmon trees, as well as landscaped areas with traditional architecture and cultural relics.
Of the four seasons, summer is the best time for a touring. The name of the park not derives from the fresh air or aroma in this field, but in the shape of the hills themselves. There still another saying: it got its name for the groves of apricot blossom scent.
Due to its high elevation and dense cover of trees, spring arrives late in the area and summer days are always pleasantly cool. The best time to visit the park is late fall, when the smoke tree leaves turn red. The trees make the grandest display of all. There are also groves of apricots, pears, peaches and lilacs adding their fragrance, and the more solemn evergreens, whose contribution to the local beauty is unrestricted by seasonal changes. Among all the natural scenic spots, the most spectacular natural scenery in the Fragrant Hills Park is the red smoke tree leaves over the mountains. When autumn arrives, fiery red leaves blanket the entire mountain. Every year, thousands of tourists come to the park. The cable cars are a great way to take in the beautiful scenes.
The hills and woods were a favorite country retreat of the emperors. The building of Temples began here in the Jin Dynasty (1186 AD) and by the Qing Dynasty, (1745 AD) 28 had been erected in the Garden of Congenial Tranquility.
Unfortunately, in 1860 and 1900 after the Summer Palace and the Yuanming Yuan (the Old Summer Palace) were set on fire, lots of relics in the Fragrant Hills were damaged by foreign troops. The destruction was so serious that the reconstruction efforts made in the later years were never able to restore its original scale and splendor. After 1949, large-scale restoration took place and now the Fragrant Hills Park is a popular place in late autumn for holidaymakers when the maple leaves redden. The brilliant foliage is the main attraction. No one is sure where the sumac trees originated. Legend has it that a south wind carried the seeds of the red-leaf trees to Beijing. Then the seeds survived, and as years passed they grew into a lovely forest. Another story goes that the sumacs were transplanted to the area by Emperor Qianlong (l736-l795) of the Qing Dynasty.
Since 1949, with a half-century's restoration and development by Chinese government, it has been renamed as Fragrant Hills Park and recognized as one of the ten most famous parks in Beijing. Today, only some of the buildings have been restored. When the Central Committee of the Communist Party moved to Beijing from Hubei, Mao made Double Purity Villa his residence here. Inside the Villa are various displays and cultural relics. However, it's the views of the countryside, which are the most attractive thing about the Park. From Ghost Fear peak on a fine day, (Ghosts apparently fear heights!) one can see the Yongding River, Luding Bridge, Prospect Hills, Summer Palace, Yuquan Hill and the outskirts of the city.In November, the frosted leaves of these trees, along with the persimmons and maples, spread over the Fragrant Hills like a thick red blanket. For two centuries, it has been a resort for the residents in Beijing.
Major Scenic Spots
Xiangshan Park is a mountain park, with the use of the natural environment, and the mixture of artificial decorations, kiosks everywhere. The garden hill is adapting to the demands of the natural landscape. The beautiful natural environment, with the level of the mountain to build the structures reflect each other at every level, it is very harmonious appearance.
Jianxin Zhai - Study of Reading Heart
Built first in the Jiajing period of the Ming Dynasty, this complex of buildings stands to the west of Eyeglasses Lake. The study contains a semi-circular pond and an adjacent pavilion, surrounded on three sides by covered galleries. Beyond the pavilion are rockery hill and a grove of trees concealing a gazebo.
Zhaomiao - Luminous Temple
Constructed in 1780 in the Qianlong period, this Lamaist temple is said to have been built especially for the Panchen Lama. In its center, a Red Terrace rises 10 meters above the ground. On its eastern side is a memorial the archway of white marble and glazed tile, while on the slope to the west is a seven-story glazed pagoda, the eaves of which are hung with tiny bells, which tinkle with even the slightest breeze.
The Tree-Covered Imperial Audience Tablet
Located to the southwest of the Chaoyang Caves, this group of steep cliffs with numerous trees resembles a giant hu - the rectangular tablet officials held before themselves in the presence of the emperor.
Guijianchou--Worried Ghost Peak
The main peak of Xiangshan Park, Worried Ghost Peak had an elevation of 557 meters. Clouds and mist often engulf its precipitously angled cliffs, which give the two large stone excrescences of the peak a resemblance to incense burners. It is from this that the name Xiangshan or Incense Mountains (and not Fragrant Hills, as the area had been mistakenly called for generations) is derived.
Yanjing Lake--Spectacles Lake
Built in l745, the Spectacles Lake actually consists of two ponds separated and spanned by a stone bridge. When the water reflects the sunlight, the twin lakes resemble a pair of spectacles, hence the name. On the shore is a small stone cave with a spring above it. The water drips down over the entrance of the cave, forming a water screen that freezes into icicles in winter.
Fragrant Hills Park is recognized as one of the major tourist attractions in Beijing. When autumn arrives, the natural scenery in the park turns spectacular, with fiery red smoke tree leaves covering the mountainside. Every year, thousands of tourists ride the cable cars through the park in order see the hills in autumn colors. The grand opening of the annual Red Leaf Festival of Beijing takes place there.
Two main routes would turn to the travelers to go through the park. One route goes through the north area, with Spectacles Lake (Yanjing Lake) and the bridge, Study of Reading Heart (Jianxin Zhai) and Luminous Temple (Zhao Miao). Study of Reading Heart was built in the Ming Dynasty (1368 to 1644) and is a landscaped park inside Fragrant Hills Park. Bright Temple is a large Tibetan style lamasery complex built in 1780 as the residence for the sixth Panchen Lama during his visits to Emperor Qianlong. Buildings in the complex have partially been burned down. Among the surviving treasures are a majestic glazed-tiled archway in front of the complex, a Tibetan style terrace and a glazed-tiled pagoda. Bells hung on the eaves of the pagoda chime in breeze.
The second route leads through the south area of the park. Main attractions along the route include Tranqulity Green Lake (Jingcui Lake), Shuangqing Villa, Fragrant Temple, and Incense Burner Peak. This route is a little harder because it leads across the highest peak, Incense Burner Peak etc. This route is a little hard for the highest peak, Incense Burner Peak. However it is worthwhile to try. One of the 'must see' points of interest is the Shuangqing Villa, which is attractive not for its natural beauty but more for its place in Chinese history - it was once the residence of Chairman Mao Zedong as well as an early sight for the headquarters of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party.
Once you up to the mountaintop, it would be a life-long memory that never faded. From the peak, the winding Yongding River like a white silk belt fluttering among the western valleys, the Marco Polo Bridge on the river, Shijing Mountain, the Summer Palace and Jade Spring Mountain can all be seen from here, and on a clear day one can even make out the skyline of Beijing.