North Lake Park Beihai Gongyuan
The North Lake Park lies to the northwest of the Imperial Palace. It is one of the oldest imperial gardens in Beijing. The park was laid out at the beginning of the 10th C. Its name is taken from Lake Beihai (north lake) which is situated here. The name north lake was adopted because it joins the lakes Zhonghai (middle lake), and Nanhai (south lake), in the south.
Opening hours: 6:30am-8:30pm
North Lake Park Highlights
The Round Fort dates from the Yuan period (1271-1368), and is situated near the south gate. It is surrounded by a 5m/16.5ft wall built in the 15th C. Many of the present buildings were erected by Emperor Qianlong (1735-96).
Hall of Enlightenment
The main attraction of the park is the Hall of Enlightenment (Chengguang Dian) (1690). A niche in the rear section of the palace conceals a splendid Buddha, standing 1.5m/5ft high, and carved from one single block of white jade. It was apparently brought from Burma to Beijing in the reign of Emperor Guangxu (1875-1908); the left arm was damaged by the allied troops in 1900.At the front of the hall is a pavilion, which houses and protects a large black jade vase from the early 12th C. It stands 60cm/24in above the ground, measures 1.5m/5ft in diameter, weighs 3500kg/7717lb and is decorated with representations of dragons and sea creatures. It was discovered in 1745 and four years later the Emperor Qianglong had the pavilion built for its safe keeping. According to archaeologists it is the largest jade vessel ever to be found in China.
Residence of Prince Gong
Residence of Prince Gong (Gongwangfu) West of the central north lake (Shicha Hai) is the important old residence of the Prince, named after its former proprietor the Manchu Prince Gong (1833-1898), one of the most important politicians of the 19th C. Only the garden remains. With its pavilions, artificial rocks, ornamental stones and walkways as well as pond, it is the most important example of Chinese horticulture in Beijing's old town. A special jewel is the Prince's private theater which is today used again for opera performances.
Residence of Song Qingling
On the eastern banks of the central North Lake, behind a high wall, is the opulent residence of Song Qingling (1893-1981) in which the widow of the founder of the republic, Sun Yat-sen, lived for 18 years until her death. After 1949 Song Qingling had an important political position, and the residential rooms and offices were reconstructed in the 1960s. Today they are a museum of the life and work of this important symbol of modern China.
Living Quarters of Mei Lanfang
Living Quarters of Mei Lanfang (Mei Lanfang Guju) Mei Lanfang (1894-1961), famous star of the Peking Opera, specialized in playing the role of the woman. He spent the last ten years of his life in this classic Beijing mansion house and court, to the west of the residence of Prince Gong. Exhibits inform of the artist's life and work. Part of the original furnishings is preserved.
Residence of Guo Moruo
The residence of Guo Moruo, where the famous writer and historian lived from 1963 until his death in 1978, is built in the traditional Chinese courtyard house style. It is situated not far from the north gate of North Lake Park. The medium-sized complex has two inner courtyards and is well kept. The residential rooms have part Chinese and part traditional furnishings.
Island of Exquist Jade
Over the Bridge of Eternal Peace (Yong'an Qiao) which dates from the Yuan period (1271-1368), is the Island of Exquisite Jade (Qionghua Dao), on which once stood the Palace of Guanghan Gong, built under the Mongol ruler Kublai Khan.
Temple of Eternal Peace
In 1651 the Temple of Eternal Peace (Yong'an Si) was built on the palace ruins, the buildings extending across the hill. On the way up is the Shanyin Dian Hall with its yellow and green glazed tiles and 455 niches housing Buddhas.
Behind the Temple of Eternal Peace on the Island of Exquisite Jade rises the Tibetan style White Pagoda (Baita), also built in 1651, on the occasion of the visit of the Dalai to Beijing. The pagoda was destroyed by an earthquake in 1651, was rebuilt a few years later and restored under the Emperor Qianlong. On its south side is a niche bearing a red emblem, which apparently served as a storing place for sacred objects.Covered steps lead down the north slope to the covered Yilan Tang path which is richly decorated with paintings.Also situated here is the Fangshan restaurant which serves specialties of Imperial cuisine.In the southwest of the island it is worth visiting the Yuan Lou pavilion which houses a collection of manuscripts.
The north bank of North Lake can be reached by ferry. Here can be seen the Five-Dragon Pavilions (Wulong Ting) (1602), connected by stone bridges.
To the north of the Five-Dragons Pavilion is the Zhenguan Hall with the Iron Wall (Tieying Bi) which dates back to the Yuan period. It is made from volcanic stone and stands almost 2m/6ft high and 3.5m/11ft long. Further to the west is the Pavilion of the Little Western Heaven (Xiaoxitian) of the Qianglon period and to the north of this the Botanical Gardens and the Tower of Ten-thousand Buddhas (Wanfo Lou).
Nine Dragon Wall
The Nine Dragon Wall (1417) in the north is 5m/16ft high and 27m/29ft long. It is decorated in seven colors with the representation of nine dragons.In the northern corner of North Lake is the Silkworm Altar (Can Tan). Further south are the studio on a painted boat (Huafang Zhai) and the pavilion between the rivers Hao and Pu (Haopu Ting), both from the Qianlong period.