A guide to the 1,000
year history of BeiHai Park and its main elements.
History (Liao and Jin Dynasties)
The imperial court of the Liao Dynasty built a secondary palace on the site of
the present BeiHai Park in the 10th century. It was
When the Jin came to power, they renamed the capital ZhongDu
('Central Capital'). During the Jin Dynasty (1115-1234),
a lake was dug at BeiHai Park and the excavated earth was
used to create an island. Rocks used for building the
hill on the island were brought in from KaiFeng in Henan
Around the lake and on the
island, palatial halls, corridors and pavilions were
erected. In 1179, a Jin Dynasty emperor declared the
BeiHai Park to be an imperial garden.
Yuan Dynasty and Kublai Khan
The history of BeiHai Park
continues when in the 13th century the Mongols conquered
the Jin and established the Yuan
Dynasty (1279-1368). They expanded the site and made it
the center of DaDu ('Great Capital'), its capital city
(what is now Beijing).
Kublai Khan, the first
Yuan emperor, carried out large-scale reconstruction of
the gardens of BeiHai Park. One of his most magnificent
feats was the construction of GuangHanDian Palace
('Palace of the Moon') on Jade Island. This was an
imposing and splendid edifice extending 40 meters from
east to west, 20 meters from south to north, and standing
16 meters high. It was a pleasure palace of the imperial
famiIy and also the scene of grand ceremonies and
banquets. And it was where Kublai Khan lived.
A view of the white dagoba on Jade
Island from near the south (main) gate.
When Marco Polo visited
Beijing in his travels through China at the end of the
13th century, he heard much praise of this imperial
garden of the Yuan rulers. After meeting Kublai Khan
there, he wrote that BeiHai Park seemed like paradise.
Unfortunately, GuangHan Palace was badly shaken by an
earthquake and it collapsed three hundred years later.
Ming Dynasty and Emperor YongLe
When the entire city of
Beijing was reconstructed and laid down in its more or
less current plan (1406 - 1420) during the reign of 3rd Ming dynasty Emperor YongLe, Beihai Park was
restructured. The lake was expanded and turned into the
centerpiece of this magnificient and classical example of
a chinese garden.
BeiHai Park continued to
function as one of the imperial family's pleasure
gardens. The primary imperial palace - here under the
Yuan Dynasty - was from now (1420) to be the newly
created Forbidden City.
Qing Dynasty and the White Dagoba
In 1651, the White Dagoba,
a Buddhist tower in Tibetan style, was constructed on the
ruins of GuanHan Palace at the suggestion of a famous
Tibetan Lama priest by the name of NomHan. Emperor Shun
Zhi of the Qing dynasty agreed to this project as a gesture of
his devotion to the Buddhist faith - and from a desire
for unity among China's diverse nationalities.
Emperor Shun Zhi also saw
in this towering structure, which would be the highest in
the capital for many years to come, a vantage point with
military significance. In times of danger, flags could be
hoisted and lanterns lit around the White Dagoba to
summon the imperial troops into battle. An iron cannon
was actually installed for the purpose of subduing
invading forces but it was later dismantled without a
shell ever being fired.
Qing Dynasty (2) and Emperor QianLong（清朝乾隆期间）
During the reign of
Emperor QianLong (1736-1796), a large-scale project was
carried out over 30 years to make BeiHai an even grander
imperial garden. He spent a large amount of money and
mobilized enormous manpower to redecorate it entirely. It
was during this time that the five pavilions linked with
zigzaging bridges were built at the northwestern shore of
the lake. The famous double-sided Nine Dragon Screen was
also added during this period.
The project included many
other pavilions, halls, galleries and terraces, which
made the park even more harmonious in design.
A description by Emperor
QianLong of the scenery and the process of reconstruction
was inscribed on a stone stele that is mounted in a
pavilion at the foot of the hill (YinSheng Pavilion). The
inscription is in four languages - Han, Manchurian,
Mongolian and Tibetan.
The garden now includes a
variety of important imperial family shrines and emperor
QianLongs' resting and studying quarters (of which he had
The White Dagoba as we see
it today was rebuilt in 1741. The basic layout of BeiHai
now is much as it was after this reconstruction and
remains essentially as it was after Emperor QianLong's
The Legend of
the Islands in BoHai Sea
The basic layout of Beihai Park
is based on an ancient Chinese legend. According
to the legend, there were supposed to be three
islands to the east of BoHai Bay where the gods
lived. One of them was called PengLai Island
where a type of herbal medicine grew that was
supposed to extend life.
The first emperor of the Qin
Dynasty was keen to live forever so he sent
explorers to the islands to look for the
longevity medicine, but they failed.
Emperor WuDi of the Han Dynasty
also wanted to an eternal life. So he ordered
that a lake be dug at the back of his palace,
complete with three artificial hills to represent
PengLai and the other islands. These legendary
hills were also built in the eastern capital of
LuoYang during the Sui Dynasty, and in the Tang
Dynasty capital of Chang'An.
Such a traditional style of
gardening was followed during the succeeding
dynasties and Beihai Park was built in this
There were, indeed, originally
three islands in BeiHai Park lake, but over the
years two have been joined to nearby land.
北海的基本布局是根据中国一个古老的神话故事 《西王母传》中描写的仙境建造的。相传渤海东面有“蓬莱”、“瀛洲” 、“方丈”3座仙山。山上神仙居住，藏有长生不老的草药。
Beihai Park Introduction