Beihai and Jingshan Park

Old and New

Old and New by Ho John Lee. Sourced via Flickr under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License.

The two parks of Beihai and Jingshan site beside the Forbidden City in the centre of Beijing. They were once for the exclusive use of the Emperors of China. Beihai Park is to the northwest of the Imperial Palace and Jingshan Park is due north of the palace with the park's mountain peak directly on the central axis of the palace and Beijing city. Originally, both parks were accessible only through the Forbidden City. Walls extended around all other sides of the parks and there were no roads or other divisions between the parks and the palace compound. However, since abolition of the Qing Dynasty, the palaces have been turned into museums. Public roads now cut between the parks and the palace, making the parks a distinct tourist attraction form the Forbidden City.

Jingshan park is at the north end of the Forbidden city. It is on New Jinghshan St opposite The Gate of Divine Might (神武門 Shénwǔmén). The park covers some 230,000 square metres. It is built on the central axis of Beijing city. District borders between Xicheng and Dongcheng bisect the park. It was originally an imperial garden but is now a public park popular with many Beijing residents. In the centre of the park is a hill, 45.7 metres in height. The hill was constructed artificially during the reign of Emperor Yongle, the third emperor of the Ming Dynasty. It is entirely formed from soil excavated when digging the moats that surround the Forbidden City and nearby canals. The hill has five peaks, each topped by a pavilion. In the year 1644, the last emperor of Ming Dynasty committed suicide by hanging himself on Jingshan hill.

Beihai Park is older than Jingshan, dating back as far as the 10th Century. It is a very large garden by Chinese standards and contains many historic buildings, palaces and temples. It was once a private grounds of the emperors but since 1925 it became a public park covering an area of 69 hectares. More than half the park is taken up by a large lake. Within the lake is an island that stands to a height of 32 metres. Another two pools lie south of the main lake connected by a waterway know as Taive Pool. These three lakes are thus called Beihai (North Sea), Zhonghai (Middle Sea) and Nanhai (South Sea). The south and middle sea areas are collectively called Zhongnanhai. Many buildings around Zhongnanhai belonged to prominent leaders and government officials in imperial times.

Map showing location of Beihai and Jingshan Park

Above: Location of Beihai and Jingshan Park in Beijing, Beijing, China