on May 6, 2006
I was, without doubt, procrastinating when it came to visiting Beihai. I was well aware of how close it was to Tiananmen and central Beijing, and I had heard nothing but good things about it. However, I had been in China for 4 months before I eventually mustered the energy to make the journey.
Within seconds of passing through the southern gate I was ruefully asking myself why I had waited for so long. I was greeted by a delicately pretty spring view. The trees were lush and green, the lake was glistening in the sun, and the breeze was decorated by wisps of white blossom floating gently down to earth. The centre-piece of the park is the giant white dagoba that crowns the Jade Islet at the southern end of the lake. It is the first thing you see as you enter the park, and even whilst circumnavigating the massive lake, it rarely manages to escape the attention.In truth, the dagoba is a curious looking creation. It is a sort of cylindrical shape, but tapers at the centre making something of a giant hourglass and is topped by a giant spiky looking thing. The spike is painted in deep, dark colors, but the hourglass is painted the most brilliant of whites. With the sun betaing down upon it, the dagoba was intensely bright and seemed to be bouncing all around the park like some serene deity.As omnipotent as the dagoba seemed, there were plenty of other sights that make the park wonderful. On the southern bank of the lake is the round city, home to one of the few remaining relics of the Yuan dynasty. The Yuans originated from the Mongol hordes of Chinggis Khan; their most famous leader being the Khan's grandson Kublai. However, because the Mongols were transient and operated on horseback, and also perhaps because they were better at destroying than creating things, little remains from that period of Chinese history. One thing that has stood the test of time though is a giant wine goblet once used by Kublai himself. The goblet, which sits behind a glass screen, is over a meter in diameter. It reflects the Yuan's Mongol heritage with ornate horse themed carvings around its circumference.At the opposite end of the lake was one of my favorite little corners of not just the park, but maybe Beijing as a whole. Set in its own courtyard, just off the main thoroughfare, is the nine dragon screen. The name pretty much says everything—it is a giant screen, decorated with nine giant dragons. What captivated me though were the colors, an almost electric blue alongside a light and refreshing turquoise offset by rich gold edges—stunning.
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