Behai Park, Beijing, China
It is one of the oldest and largest gardens to have survived from the Chinese Empire and is located north of the Zhongnanhai government district in the heart of Beijing. The Behai Park (in German: North Sea Park), once the pleasure garden of the imperial court, looks back on more than 1000 years of history and impresses with its grandiose ensemble of palaces and religious buildings. The entire park extends over an area of 70 hectares, half of which is taken up by the lake.
First laid out at the beginning of the 12th century during the Liao Dynasty, the area was part of the imperial residence and thus belonged to the Forbidden City. China’s Emperor Qianlong carried out extensive expansions in the 18th century and built, among other things, the “White Pagoda”, which is still the park’s dominant landmark today. The Beihai and the surrounding park area have only been accessible to the public since 1925.
In the middle of the lake is the Jade Flower Island with the 37 meter high White Pagoda, which is visible from afar and offers a wonderful view over the entire park area. Inside it hides Buddhist scriptures and relics, in the associated temple there are valuable works of art to marvel at. One of China’s famous nine dragon walls can also be found in Behai Park. The attentive observer will find a proud 635 copies of the mythical animals on the walls, which are decorated on both sides. The arrangement of the five-dragon pavilions made of artistically carved wood also resembles a dragon. Here the visitor can sit in peace and enjoy the fantastic view of the Jade Flower Island. In the south-western part of the area is the so-called Round City with its imposing, white shining Buddha statue and an urn made of black jade, which according to legend, Kublai Khan is said to have served as a wine vessel. A special pleasure is offered in the cold Beijing winter when you can slide on ice skates over the frozen lake instead of boat trips.
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Ennobled by UNESCO – the Fanjingshan in China
A summit in China is one of the youngest members of the family of UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Fanjingshan in Guizhou. The Middle Kingdom thus has 13 striking landscapes that have received the seal of the world organization. The Fanjingshan reaches a height of 2,572 meters and towers over the nature reserve of the same name. The remote region in the Wuling Mountains was declared a national park back in 1978. Also because numerous animals threatened with extinction found a refuge there and because there are a number of rare plants.
The sacred mountain of the Buddha
Since the Ming Dynasty, which ruled China between 1368 and 1644, the Fanjingshan has been one of the most important shrines of Buddhism. Well over a hundred thousand pilgrims visit the several hundred temples that are spread over the entire mountain every year. The Sakyamuni Temple is located on the so-called “New Golden Summit” at an altitude of 2,336 meters. It is dedicated to Shakya Buddha and connected to Maitreya Temple on the north side of Fanjingshan by a “sky bridge”. Other important pilgrimage destinations on the holy mountain of Buddha are the Old Golden Summit and the Chengen-Si temple complex, which dates from the Ming Dynasty and is one of the so-called imperial temples of Fanjingshan. After the destruction during the turmoil of the war, it was rebuilt in 1988.
Temples, waterfalls and ruins
The Fanjingshan region is not only a destination for Chinese pilgrims, but also a popular summer resort. Many hiking trails lead to the numerous temples in a harmonious landscape. There are some caves there that have never been thoroughly explored and impressive waterfalls and ancient ruins. The altitude favors the development of vegetation types whose roots go back to the Tertiary Age of 65 million years. This is also the home of the Guizhou snub nose, Chinese giant salamander, musk deer, and the king pheasant. These resources are strictly protected in the national park.
Enchanted mountains in China
Mount Wutai, also known by its Chinese name Wutaishan, is a holy Buddhist site at the headwaters of the Qingshui in Shanxi Province in China. Its central area is surrounded by a cluster of flat peaks that roughly correspond to the cardinal points. The northern summit is the highest at 3,061 m and is also the highest point in northern China. Hosting more than 53 holy monasteries, Mount Wutai is home to many of China’s most important monasteries and temples. The area, which resembles an enchanted mountain world, was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2009 and a tourist attraction by the China Tourism Authority in 2007.
Mount Wutai is home to some of the oldest wooden buildings in China that have survived since the Tang Dynasty. These include the main hall of the Nanchan Temple and the East Hall of Foguang Temple, which were built in 782 and 857. They were discovered in 1937 and 1938 by a team of architectural historians, including prominent historian Liang Sicheng. The architectural designs of these buildings have since been studied by leading sinologists and experts in traditional Chinese architecture.
Various small restaurants offer tourists and pilgrims cheap offers. Delicious stews, pasta and rice dishes with mushrooms are a local delicacy in this area. In theory there is also free food in the various monasteries in the area, but here it is appropriate to leave a small donation.