BeiHai Park

Beijing, China

The Circular City

The Circular City entrance as seen from inside BeiHai Park.

The Circular City is just inside the main south gate and is the first stop on our suggested route through BeiHai park.


Outside the Circular City.

During much of its early history, BeiHai Park has been closely associated with its Circular City. The Circular City (TuanCheng) was at the center of the Yuan Dynasty city, then called Dadu. It was originally on one of three islands on the lake but this island was later joined to the land nearby.

From the outside, it in fact looks like a doll-house sized city surrounded by a high wall that is 276 meters long. The wall surrounds a 4.6 meter high platform that partly overlooks Beihai Lake. On this platform are not only halls and pavilions but also centuries-old pines and cypresses. The Circular City occupies an area of 4,553 square meters.

The main structural attraction is the Hall of Receiving Light (ChengGuangDian) whose architecture is extremely elaborate and unique, even in China. It has a square platform in front and a roof of several tiers of flying eaves. All beams and laths of the hall are splendidly painted, with gilded spirals. The roof is covered with yellow glazed tiles and edged with green glazed tiles.


从外面看它就像一个玩具屋型号的城堡。是一座砖筑的圆形小城,四周被高4.6米,周长276米的城台环绕,全城面积为4553平方米。站在城台上可看见湖水,台上古木扶疏, 殿堂华丽,是一座精巧别致的小园林。


During the Ming Dynasty, the emperor liked to come here to watch fireworks. It was converted into a Buddhist Hall during the Qing Dynasty.


Inside ChengGuangDian.

In a recess at the rear of ChengGuang Hall is a five foot (1.5m) tall statue of a seated Buddha sculpted from a single piece of pure white jade. Some historians claim that this lustrous relic was imported from Burma during the reign of Emperor Guang Xu, possibly a gift from Burmese monks. The crown and garment are made of gold foil inlaid with red and green gems. Its left arm bears gashes made by swords - a result of the looting by soldiers of the Eight-Power Allied Forces who invaded Beijing in 1900.

Another treasure here is an ancient jar carved from a single piece of black / dark green jade. Measuring 160 cm (4.5 feet) in diameter and 70 cm (two feet) high, and weighing 3.5 tonnes, the jar is carved with aquatic designs over its entire surface - dragons, sea horses and fish are pictured leaping and romping in rolling waves. Records say that the jar was made in 1265. It is believed that the Yuan emperor Kublai Khan (Shi Zu) stored wine in it to celebrate victories in war.

When the palace building that housed the jar collapsed, the jar disappeared and somehow fell into the hands of Taoist priests who used it as a pickling jar. Only when Emperor QianLong began his reconstruction of BeiHai Park was the jar located and returned, to be placed in a pavilion at the center of the Circular City, where it stands today.

Two pine trees in the Circular City deserve attention. One was conferred the title of 'Marquis of Shade' by Emperor QianLong for affording him shade in the heat of summer. Formerly in an umbrella shape, the tree lost two of its branches when they were weighed down by heavy snow in 1959. Props have been placed under all remaining branches.

There is also a white-bark pine that towers 25 meters into the sky. Like the 'marquis', it is about eight hundred years old. Emperor QianLong named this tree the 'White Robed General'.





The 'Marquis'.

The 'White Robed General'.

Only small parts of the original Circular City remain today. The plaque tells us of multiple destructive events, the last of which was the invasion by the 8 power european forces in 1900 as a punishment for Chinese assertiveness and emancipation - a reaction to the Boxer Rebellion.

However, the White Buddha that was damaged in that event is still inside the Circular City. Interested visitors can see it on display, together with the ancient dark green jade jar said to have been part of Kublai Khan's court belongings.



NEXT : Jade Island

Beihai Park Introduction

Beihai Park Videos All ten videos

Beihai Park Introduction
Layout and Map

South Scenic Area

The Circular City

On the Island

Jade Island
YongAn Temple
Pavilion of Benevolent Voice
The White Dagoba
The Long Corridor
FangShan Restaurant
Chamber for Reading the Classics
ZhiZhu Hall

East Scenic Area


North West Scenic Area

Peaceful Heart Garden
Heavenly King Hall
DaCi ZhenRu Hall
The 9 Dragon Screen
The 5 Dragon Pavilions
The 5 Dragon Pavilions (2)
ChanFu Temple and Garden
The Pavilion of Complete Happiness
Boating at BeiHai Park

Beijing Guide

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