31 December 2008

Beihai Park

Aaaannnddd...we're still in Beijing. We took advantage of some warmer weather one day to head to Beihai (North Sea) Park. The trip there was an adventure in itself. There were no metros near the park and from the bad map in Frommer's bad China guide (don't buy it) the park didn't look to be too far from the Forbidden City so we thought to walk.

Well we walked, and walked, and walked a lot more. We stopped a few times for directions and were told that it was at the end of the block and to the right. The "block" though was a couple miles long. We kept trying to see the White Dagoba which was so visible from the Forbidden City hoping it would help us find the park but no luck, until we reached the end of the two mile block, turned right, then took our lives in our hands and crossed the road without the benefit of a light or crosswalk. Then, there was the park.

Initially built in the 10th century, it is amongst the largest of Chinese gardens, and contains numerous historically important structures, palaces and temples. Unfortunately we were too tired from our walk to explore more than the front of the park! I imagine the waters are probably full of blossoming water lillies in the spring/summer but not so much in the fall. Despite being denied the beauty of flowering lillies and trees the park was still a treat.

Climbing up to the White Dagoba was not nearly as horrifying as was the Great Wall and was well worth the small effort for the view of the park. A reliquary, secreted inside the structure are Buddhist Scriptures, monk's mantles and alms bowl, and the bones of monks (their remains after cremation). Standing at 40 meters tall on the highest spot in the park, the Dagoba's body is made of white stone and sun, moon and flame engravings decorate the surface of the tower.

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