Beihai Park was built in the 11th century and has been open to the public since 1925. As with many of China’s imperial gardens, Beihai was built to imitate scenic spots and architecture from regions all around China.
It’s located just a short walk (NW) from the Forbidden City in Beijing and at 69 hectares, it’s a rather large park. It even holds a lake that covers more than half of the entire park; at its centre a little island called Jade Flower Island.
As the city wakes, people come here to workout, play games and socialise. Everywhere you look there are people taking dancing classes, singing the songs of days gone past and playing Mahjong (a typical Chinese board game). They are twirling sticks, playing badminton and writing characters on the floor with water only to see them disappear mere seconds later. But the locals don’t come here just to play games, they come here to exercise, a habit they’ve been taught from a very young age. It starts in school where every day is greeted with some form of exercise and the people keep with this routine religiously. There are 90-year-olds putting you to shame with their bendy legs and impressive moves.
Wandering around this scenic park is such a lovely way to wake up and immersing yourself in a truly wonderful part of China’s culture. There is a good chance you will be asked to join the activities but there is no doubt you will lose to one of the fanatic locals who play and practice here every day.
Beihai park is one of the best places to visit when in Beijing and you won’t regret the early wake necessary to witness all of its splendour. Make sure to get there on time and to wear comfortable shoes, trust me, you’ll need them!