A Riot of Colour in Au­tumn

Trans­lated by Pan Zhong­ming Edited by David Ball Pho­tos by Bu Xiang­dong, Qi Guiy­ing, Wang Xibao, Wei Zheng and cour­tesy of Chang­ping Dis­trict Com­mis­sion of Tourism De­vel­op­ment, Beigong For­est Park

Beijing (English) - - CONTENTS -

The soft au­tumn wind blows, bring­ing the new sea­son with it. Now is the best time to ap­pre­ci­ate the short au­tumn in Bei­jing, where the air is clear and the sea­son’s colours com­ple­ment the an­cient charm of the city.

The soft au­tumn wind is blow­ing, bring­ing the new sea­son with it. Now is the best time to ap­pre­ci­ate the short au­tumn be­fore Frost’s De­scent— the 18th so­lar term in the Chi­nese lu­niso­lar cal­en­dar—mak­ing it the favourite time of the year for Bei­jingers. In au­tumn, the air in Bei­jing is clear and the sea­son’s colours com­ple­ment the an­cient charm of the city; the pic­turesque scenes mak­ing peo­ple stop in their tracks and al­most for­get to go home. The leaves, fallen or on the trees, form a beau­ti­ful sight. The bright smoke trees and golden maples in­ter­weave to make a colour­ful au­tumn scene, whilst the red maples and green pines clash, form­ing a shock­ing and amaz­ing au­tumn pic­ture.

In 1934, writer Yu Dafu (1896–1945) wrote a fa­mous es­say, “Au­tumn in the An­cient Cap­i­tal,” de­scrib­ing the strong flavour of au­tumn in Bei­jing. Such a strong flavour does not come from just maple leaves and yel­low gingkos, it is made up of a mix­ture of dif­fer­ent reds, yel­lows and greens which cre­ate the most beau­ti­ful of sights.

Fra­grant Hills and Mang­shan Hill

At the men­tion of red leaves in Bei­jing, peo­ple will im­me­di­ately think of the Fra­grant Hills. The fa­mous writer Yang Suo once said about such a scene: “I heard that the red leaves of the maple tree in the Fra­grant Hills have the strong­est sense of au­tumn. If there is any chance, I would, of course like to go.” The Fra­grant Hills are known for their red leaves and are con­sid­ered one of the top-four places to ap­pre­ci­ate maple trees. “With the maple-cov­ered peaks within sight, the red leaves fill the hills as if they have even spread to in­side my jacket.” As such, when­ever au­tumn comes, the leaves of the maples and smoke trees all over the hills here turn a fiery red.

The Fra­grant Hills are lo­cated in the western sub­urbs of Bei­jing. Steep and cov­ered with green trees, they were once an im­pe­rial gar­den. On one of its peaks there is a huge stone which looks like an in­cense burner. In the morn­ings and evenings, the clouds and fog en­velop the peak, mak­ing it look like smoke com­ing from an in­cense burner from afar, hence, the name In­cense Burner Peak ( Xian­glushan), or Fra­grant Hills ( Xiang­shan) for short. In­cense Burner Peak is 557 me­tres (m) above sea level, its steep­ness and dif­fi­culty to climb bring­ing about the nick­name “Ghosts’ Frown.” Con­struc­tion of the first tem­ple in the Fra­grant Hills be­gan dur­ing the reign of Em­peror Shi­zong (1123–1189) of the Jin Dy­nasty (1115–1234). Em­peror Shi­zong and Em­peror Zhang­zong (1168–1208) of the Jin Dy­nasty con­ferred the ti­tle of “Day­ong’an” (lit. great peace for­ever) on the tem­ple. Em­peror Zhang­zong, vis­ited the Fra­grant Hills on seven oc­ca­sions.

Dur­ing the Yuan Dy­nasty (1271–1368), Em­peror Ren­zong (1285–1320) re­paired the Day­ong’an Tem­ple and changed its name to Ganlu Tem­ple (Sweet Dew Tem­ple). Af­ter that, dur­ing the reign of Em­peror Wen­zong (1304– 1332), Yeh-lu Alemi, a de­scen­dant of Yeh-lu Chut­sai (1190–1244), built the Biyun Nun­nery, form­ing the “Eight Scenes in the Fra­grant Hills and Ten Scenes at Biyun Nun­nery.” Dur­ing the reign of Em­peror Ying­zong (1427–1464) of the Ming Dy­nasty (1368–1644), the eu­nuch Fan Hong spent more than 700,000 taels of sil­ver or­der­ing work­ers to re­build the tem­ple, mak­ing it brand-new and on a grander scale. When the em­peror learned of this, he con­ferred the name of Yong’an Tem­ple on the nun­nery.

Dur­ing the reign of Em­peror Qian­long (1711–1799) of the Qing Dy­nasty (1644– 1911), the em­peror or­dered an ex­pan­sion of his old tem­po­rary dwelling palace whilst he was away from the cap­i­tal. It took only nine months to build more than 80 gar­dens, big and small, in the Fra­grant Hills. Among them, Em­peror Qian­long wrote po­ems for 28 sites, which be­came the “famed 28 scenes of the cap­i­tal.” Em­peror Qian­long also con­ferred the name “Jingyi Gar­den” on the tem­po­rary dwelling palace of Em­peror Kangxi (1654–1722).

As a park with nat­u­ral moun­tains and forests, the Fra­grant Hills have a long his­tory. In par­tic­u­lar, a large num­ber of trees such as gingkos and Chi­nese red pines were planted around the tem­ples. Among them, the num­ber of first-class an­cient trees reached more than 300. Species in­clud­ing Ar­borvi­tae, Chi­nese ju­nipers, white-barked pines, gingko, Stan­tung maples and pan­i­cled golden rain trees make up the main part of the land­scape. Since the Tang (AD 618–907) and Song (AD 960–1279) dy­nas­ties, with the rise of the Chi­nese Bud­dhism and Tao­ism, the beau­ti­ful and quiet Fra­grant Hills with their wide-open and high ter­rain and ami­able cli­mate, have be­come a famed land­scape and re­li­gious site in the north­west of Bei­jing.

In an­cient times, the Fra­grant Hills used to be cov­ered with apri­cot blos­som, the fra­grance of which filled the hills ev­ery spring. Wang Heng (1562–1609), a fa­mous drama­tist dur­ing the reign of Em­peror Wanli (1573–1620) of the Ming Dy­nasty (1368–1644) once said, “The num­ber of apri­cot trees reached 100,000, which were the top draw to the Fra­grant Hills.” One Ming Dy­nasty poem goes: “The tem­ple lies along an an­cient path in the Fra­grant Hills, half of it cov­ered by white clouds. In the cor­ri­dors and court­yards, small springs still flow. Among the val­leys, there are apri­cot trees.” In the book, Brief Sum­mary of Land­scapes in the Cap­i­tal, it is recorded: “Some say that the Fra­grant Hills get their name from the fra­grance of the apri­cot blos­som.”

When en­ter­ing the Fra­grant Hills in au­tumn, the colour­ful red leaves give vis­i­tors a sense that al­though spring can beau­tify na­ture, au­tumn makes na­ture more at­trac­tive. The poet Du Mu (AD 803–852) de­scribed the area in a poem, say­ing: “Peo­ple feel like stop­ping for a while when climb­ing be­cause the leaves of the maple trees in evening time dur­ing au­tumn are even red­der than the flow­ers in Fe­bru­ary.” The red leaves in the Fra­grant Hills come from more than 30 species in­clud­ing smoke trees, Shuntung maples, tri­dent maples, painted maples, pal­mate maples and flare maples. The smoke trees are the most rep­re­sen­ta­tive species in the Fra­grant Hills, and the pal­mate maples have the red­dest leaves in au­tumn.

The ear­li­est poem to de­scribe the red leaves in the Fra­grant Hills, called “The Fra­grant Hills,” was writ­ten by Zhou Ang, a poet in the State of Jin. It goes: “The for­est in the morn­ing fea­tures two colours: red leaves and yel­low flow­ers, form­ing a strong con­trast be­tween the hill and the cap­i­tal. The wa­ter in the wild teases peo­ple and the pine trees wit­ness the world without telling the year. I am so im­mersed in the scene that I do not have time to write a poem. We start to chat about life. I wish to know whether you have calmed down, who knows whether the book talks about life be­fore.” In au­tumn, the red leaves and yel­low flow­ers in the hills, mixed with the streams and tow­er­ing pine trees, make peo­ple feel com­pletely at ease.

The abun­dant smoke trees are a sym­bol of the Fra­grant Hills. Planted dur­ing the reign of Em­peror Qian­long of the Qing Dy­nasty, more than 200 years later, they grad­u­ally formed a for­est with more than 100,000 spec­i­mens.

En­ter­ing the park from the East Gate, one passes Jingcui Lake, Shuangqing Villa, Langfeng Pav­il­ion and Yu­tai Gate to reach the peak be­fore ar­riv­ing at the red leaf for­est. From 1989 on­wards, the Fra­grant Hills Park has hosted more than 20 ses­sions of the Red Leaves Cul­ture Fes­ti­val for ap­pre­ci­at­ing the red leaves. The fes­ti­val is held ev­ery year in mid-oc­to­ber, at­tract­ing nu­mer­ous vis­i­tors.

Yang Shuo (1913–1968), a fa­mous writer and es­say­ist, wrote: “Some will re­gret that they missed a red leaf. How­ever, I picked one such pre­cious leaf and kept in my heart. It is not an or­di­nary red leaf, how­ever. It is a red leaf that has ex­pe­ri­enced set­backs and hard­ships in life. The deeper it gets into au­tumn, the love­lier the red leaf is.” He saw the red leaves all over the moun­tain and found one that had been ex­posed to the wind and rain, which he then kept in his heart.

There is a pop­u­lar story amongst peo­ple in Bei­jing’s Chang­ping Dis­trict. Leg­end has it that to­wards the end of the Yuan Dy­nasty (1271–1368), there was a python liv­ing in the hilly ar­eas in Chang­ping, which of­ten at­tacked passers-by. Later, an Is­lamic scholar by the name of Shaykhbaba (mean­ing “wise an­ces­tor”) came to the area. He vol­un­teered to put on a cowhide cloth and wield sharp knives, en­ter­ing the belly of the snake in or­der to kill it. How­ever, Shaykhbaba was killed and was buried at Hey­ing Vil­lage in Nan­shao. There is a tomb and a mosque ded­i­cated to him. To com­mem­o­rate Shaykhbaba, peo­ple named the hill there Mang­shan, mean­ing the “Python Moun­tain.” Ev­ery year on the 24th day of the third lu­nar month, the Hui eth­nic peo­ple of Hey­ing Vil­lage in Chang­ping Dis­trict cel­e­brate “Shaykhbaba Fes­ti­val” in his hon­our.

Mang­shan Na­tional For­est Park is lo­cated in Chang­ping Dis­trict and is part of the Jundu Moun­tains, a branch of the Yan Moun­tain range. The park is the largest na­tional for­est park in Bei­jing and has more than 170 species of trees and flow­ers, vast nat­u­ral forests and unique views. Its high­est peak is 659 m above sea level. Hon­oured as a “nat­u­ral oxy­gen bar,” Mang­shan fea­tures a slope cov­ered with 300 mu (one mu is about 614 sq.m) of red leaves, called “red-leaf slope.”

The red leaves at Mang­shan are hon­oured as “bet­ter than the Fra­grant Hills.” The scenery there is ex­tremely mag­nif­i­cent, as de­scribed in one poem: “Its pines, cy­presses and float­ing clouds form a great pic­ture; the green hills and clean wa­ter record his­tory.” Be­tween the Frost’s De­scent and the Be­gin­ning of Win­ter (the 19th so­lar term), the for­est will turn red. The red leaves on Mang­shan are mainly smoke trees, flare maples and Shan­tung maples, but it also has dozens of other colour­ful trees in­clud­ing oaks and per­sim­mon trees. Af­ter sev­eral frosts, the maple trees, oak trees, smoke trees, Shan­tung maples and flare maples in the for­est turn bright red and golden.

At the plat­form at the foot of Mang­shan Hill, there sits a statue of the Maitreya Bud­dha. The largest stone Bud­dha in north­ern China, it was de­signed by Pro­fes­sor Zhao Shu­tong, a fa­mous Chi­nese sculp­tor, and took more than 80 stone ma­sons one year to com­plete. The red-leaf slope lies to the north­east of the Bud­dha statue and is the area with the dens­est con­cen­tra­tion of red leaves on Mang­shan. The won­der­ful views at the Mang­shan Stone Sculp­ture Bud­dha Scenic Spot both cap­ti­vate and en­thral all who visit.

Au­tum­nal Leaves at the Great Wall

Dur­ing the reign of Em­peror Wanli of the Ming Dy­nasty, the com­man­der of West Bei­jing, Jiang Yikui, was look­ing for old tablets and stone stat­ues to col­lect records and po­ems on Bei­jing’s an­cient scenic spots. The book, The Guest’s Note on Chang’an, con­tains one of his records on the Badal­ing sec­tion of the Great Wall: “The road sep­a­rated from here to reach all di­rec­tions, hence the name Badal­ing, which is the high­est peak of the pass.” The ear­li­est poem about the Great Wall was writ­ten by Gao Shi (AD 704–765) dur­ing the Tang Dy­nasty. He wrote, “The slope joins with the wa­ter down be­low, the moun­tains are as high as clouds.” The ear­li­est record of the name “Badal­ing Great Wall” is found in the long po­ems, Ar­riv­ing at Badal­ing in the Evening and Climb­ing the Fol­low­ing Morn­ing as well as Go­ing Out­side of Badal­ing.

Badal­ing is a pass in the Jundu Moun­tains, a branch of the Yan Moun­tain range. Moun­tains re­veal them­selves one be­hind the other, their steep­ness mak­ing them an ex­cel­lent strate­gic po­si­tion.

The Badal­ing sec­tion of the Great Wall is hon­oured as one of the nine fortresses in China. As a fron­tier out­post, the Great Wall dur­ing the Ming Dy­nasty was no longer a sin­gle high wall, rather it had be­come a de­fen­sive sys­tem with sev­eral lay­ers of pro­tec­tion. Since an­cient times, there have been many say­ings about the re­gion such as “Look­ing down at Juy­ong­guan Pass at Badal­ing, is like look­ing down a well from a high roof” and “The steep­ness is not at the pass but at the Great Wall.” Shen Yongji, the Qing Dy­nasty poet, once wrote, “Rid­ing a horse and leav­ing Juy­ong­guan Pass, mak­ing turns to climb over the peak. Sit­ting on the peak to ob­serve the cap­i­tal, one would walk around many fortresses.”

Badal­ing is the most pop­u­lar sec­tion along the Great Wall. Due to restora­tions, it is well-pre­served and so favoured by vis­i­tors. Its tem­per­a­ture is also lower than that in the city, so when the leaves in the cap­i­tal have not yet changed, Badal­ing is al­ready multi-coloured. To­day, Bei­jing Badal­ing Na­tional For­est Park is si­t­u­ated be­tween the Badal­ing Sec­tion and Juy­ong­guan Pass with its high­est peak at 1,238 m above sea level. Dragon-watch­ing Bea­con Tower is the best place from which to see the Badal­ing Sec­tion of the Great Wall. One say­ing goes: “If you re­ally want to see the Great Wall, visit the side peak of the dragon. One who fails to reach the Great Wall is not a man. You will only be one af­ter you reach the Dragonwatch­ing Bea­con Tower.”

Badal­ing Na­tional For­est Park has more than 50,000 smoke trees, the largest nat­u­ral Manchurian lilac for­est. At the Qin­g­long Val­ley Scenic Spot, there is a large nat­u­ral pear tree for­est. The main scenic spots in the park in­clude the Red-leaf Scenic Spot, Qin­g­long Val­ley Scenic Spot, Manchurian Lilac Val­ley Scenic Spot and Stone Gorge Scenic Spot. The best place to ap­pre­ci­ate the au­tum­nal leaves is at Red-leaf Scenic Spot which is ad­ja­cent to the zig-zag rail­way de­signed by Zhan Tianyou (1861–1919) in the north, the Bei­jing-tibet High­way in the west and the Great Wall to the east and south. There, colour­ful smoke trees and Shan­tung maples are mixed in with Ar­borvi­tae. The leaves there not only turn red ear­lier but are also the bright­est, mak­ing it the most at­trac­tive place in the for­est park dur­ing au­tumn.

Com­pared with the high-al­ti­tude Redleaf Scenic Spot, the flat Qin­g­long Val­ley Scenic Spot is bet­ter suited for leisure. The colour­ful smoke trees, Shan­tung maples and golden rain trees are scat­tered be­tween pines and cy­presses. Wan­der­ing through Qin­g­long Val­ley, one can raise one’s head to look at the Great Wall atop the moun­tains. In terms of colours, the smoke trees are par­tic­u­larly strik­ing, look­ing as they do like en­chant­ing red clouds. The Shan­tung maples are the bright­est-coloured, their base colour of red and yel­low chang­ing over time into a sea of ten­der red, pink, light yel­low and orange. The fruit of the Shan­tung maples looks like Chi­nese shoe-shaped gold in­gots. Un­der the yel­low­ish-red Shan­tung maple leaves hang many “gold in­gots,” cre­at­ing a colour­ful and warm at­mo­sphere amid the maple tree for­est.

The brightly coloured leaves, set against the back­drop of the wind­ing Badal­ing Great Wall, form a grand sight. One can feel the an­cient his­tory of the Great Wall when

lis­ten­ing to the rustling of the leaves and the singing birds, touch­ing the wall’s grey stones that have wit­nessed such dif­fi­cult times, and rub­bing one’s hands along the red-leafed trees and bark of the pines and cy­presses.

As with Badal­ing, the Mu­tianyu sec­tion of the Great Wall is also open to the pub­lic, hav­ing un­der­gone del­i­cate restora­tions, and is the most com­plete part of the Ming Dy­nasty Great Wall. Mu­tianyu is si­t­u­ated in Huairou Dis­trict, an area with a long his­tory and mag­nif­i­cent cul­ture, and a high con­cen­tra­tion of de­fen­sive fortresses. The Mu­tianyu Great Wall Tourism Area is sur­rounded by pic­turesque moun­tains and in au­tumn, the moun­tains are com­pletely cov­ered with red leaves and fruits. It en­joys the hon­our of be­ing known as the “unique scene at Mu­tianyu of the Great Wall” at home and abroad.

The scenic spot has un­du­lat­ing moun­tains and beau­ti­ful scenery. There are more than 200,000 trees across the moun­tains in­clud­ing apri­cot trees and flare maples; their leaves cov­er­ing the whole of the Mu­tianyu area. Around mid-oc­to­ber is the best time to visit the Mu­tianyu Great Wall. The colour­ful leaves grad­u­ally turn from light yel­low to golden yel­low, deep red and bright red, for a dis­tance of about five kilo­me­tres (km), cre­at­ing a strong sense of lay­ers. As the tem­per­a­ture drops, the leaves be­gin to change colour day by day. Look­ing down from a high van­tage point, the for­est seems to have been dyed dif­fer­ent colours. Among the trees here, the bright­est are those of the smoke trees, oaks, mono maples, Shan­tung maples and Rhus ty­phina, which look like curl­ing red clouds. The leaves wave in the wind like flames in a fire. The colour­ful leaves on the moun­tain dot­ting the Great Wall form a po­etic scene, mak­ing vis­i­tors for­get they have to go back home. The bright red leaves in the scenic spot cre­ate an ap­pro­pri­ate set­ting for the Great Wall, sketch­ing the po­etic and pic­turesque golden au­tumn.

Tang Shun­zhi (1507–1560), a Ming Dy­nasty poet, wrote: “All the towns are at the foot of the moun­tain, but this one sits atop the moun­tain as if a bird’s nest. Peo­ple here would think of the brave sol­diers fight­ing in the high moun­tains.” The poem de­scribes a view of Gubeikou Great Wall, which is the most com­plete part of the Great Wall sys­tem. It con­sists of the Great Wall built in the North Qi King­dom (AD 550–577) and that built dur­ing the Ming Dy­nasty. It is a fortress lo­cated be­tween Shan­haiguan Pass and Juy­ong­guan Pass, which is a strate­gic mil­i­tary site. Ac­cord­ing to the book, North His­tory, in AD 556 “The Great Wall started from the north­west of Da­tong in the west and stretched to the sea in the east for a to­tal of more than 1,500 km.” To de­fend against the north­ern no­madic tribes, the North Qi built the Great Wall in Gubeikou. This sec­tion of the Great Wall is si­t­u­ated in Gubeikou Town, Miyun Dis­trict in Bei­jing. It is lo­cated in the Yan Moun­tains, in the south­ern shal­low area of the hilly moun­tains of Pan­long and Wohu. The area is ex­tremely steep, mak­ing it a key po­si­tion for en­ter­ing the cap­i­tal. The Em­peror Hongwu (reign: 1638–1698) of the Ming Dy­nasty first built the Gubeikou Pass over the moun­tain. The town was built on top of the moun­tain, ex­tend­ing up and down along the slope, which is why Tang Shun­zhi likened it to a bird’s nest.

In 1569, Prime Min­is­ter Zhang Juzheng (1525–1582) in­vited fa­mous gen­er­als such as Qi Jiguang and Tan Lun to the north to con­sol­i­date the area’s de­fences. Tan Lun be­came the gov­er­nor of He­bei and Liaon­ing whilst Qi Jiguang be­came the com­man­derin-chief of He­bei in charge of the more than 600 km of the Great Wall. Af­ter metic­u­lous plan­ning and su­per­vi­sion by Qi Jiguang, a solid de­fen­sive line with high walls, fortresses and bea­con tow­ers was built in around a dozen years. When Qi Jiguang re­stored the Gubeikou Great Wall, he not only kept the sec­tion built dur­ing the North Qi but also added bricks to the outer wall—hence the

fa­mous dou­ble Great Wall at Gubeikou.

In au­tumn, climb­ing the Gubeikou Great Wall to ap­pre­ci­ate the red leaves can­not help but evoke a strong sense of his­tory in peo­ple’s minds. Cur­rently, Miyun Dis­trict has more than 60,000 mu of coloured-leaf forests, mainly mixed broad-leaved forests in­clud­ing a dozen species of smoke trees, mono maples and birches. The won­der­ful com­bi­na­tion of the Great Wall and the an­cient town cre­ates a grand nat­u­ral view and cul­tural scene. The lay­ers of colour­ful leaves in au­tumn have in­spired count­less famed schol­ars through­out his­tory.

Pic­turesque North­ern Palace and White Birch Forests

In 1804, Jinyi (1764–1815), the head of Rongke Pre­fec­ture, started to build a res­i­den­tial park in Ying­taoyuan, Dahuichang Vil­lage, Feng­tai Dis­trict. How­ever, con­struc­tion was not yet com­plete in 1815 when he passed away. The more than 60 houses had been be­ing built for more than 10 years, turn­ing Yinghuayuan into a gi­ant con­struc­tion site. As there was an­other con­struc­tion site to the south, peo­ple be­gan to re­fer to the site in the south as “Nan­gong­shang” and the site at Ying­taoyuan as “Beigong­shang,” which was later short­ened to “Beigong” (North­ern Palace). As a re­sult, Beigong grad­u­ally re­placed the name of Ying­taoyuan. To­day, Beigong Na­tional For­est Park has been con­structed as an au­tumn re­sort.

The Beigong For­est Park is lo­cated in the moun­tain­ous area of Feng­tai Dis­trict in the north­west of Bei­jing and was first built in 2002. Af­ter six years of ef­forts, it has be­come a moun­tain-wa­ter scenic spot with a colour­ful, rich and beau­ti­ful gar­den lay­out. The park con­sists of three scenic spots in the east, west and cen­tral part and in­cludes the Beigong Manor and Ming­sheng Build­ing. There are 12 pavil­ions, cor­ri­dors, at­tics and tow­ers and more than 10 scenic spots such as Fangze Stream, Small Jiang­nan and Maple For­est Road. There are more than 30,000 trees, high­light­ing the eco­log­i­cal con­struc­tion in the western part of Bei­jing. Lang­pod­ing is the main peak in the For­est Park which is si­t­u­ated at 349 m above sea level. The park has a fa­mous earth­quake fault zone and man­made scenes such as the Golden Tur­tle Vis­its Bud­dha and Look­ing-to-bei­jing pavil­ions. In the south, there are steep slopes from east to the west. Leg­end has it that Lang­pod­ing used to be in­hab­ited by packs of wolves and other wild an­i­mals, hence its name, which lit­er­ally means wolf slopes.

Lan­cui is the cen­tral part of the park and Ter­race is sur­rounded by moun­tains on three sides and wa­ter on the other. Stand­ing on the ter­race, one can see the charm of Bei­jing, the beauty of Feng­tai Dis­trict and var­i­ous hills. The Huguo Pagoda (Guard­ing State Pagoda) was built in 1560. It is oc­tag­o­nal in shape and is an 11-layer wood-like tiled stone pagoda which is more than 6 m in height. The struc­ture is an out­stand­ing tower of the same type built dur­ing the Ming Dy­nasty in Bei­jing. The Taigu Huayang Cave in the park is also quite fa­mous. Ac­cord­ing to the In­spec­tions of Old Sto­ries, “Ji­etan Tem­ple is the fur­thest west, and the Taigu Cave is the most at­trac­tive. One needs to hold a torch to en­ter and see the sta­lac­tites and the stone Bud­dha stat­ues ex­tend for sev­eral kilo­me­tres. At the gate, there are five Chi­nese char­ac­ters which read ‘Taigu Huayang Cave’.” The en­trance to the cave is cov­ered with vines, and once around 250 m in­side, one can see sta­lac­tites of var­i­ous shapes. Some are shaped like fly­ing dragons, some like fish and oth­ers like seated li­ons.

The Beigong For­est Park has an area of 3,000 mu cov­ered with colour­ful leaves, of which 2,100 mu are red leaves. The trees here mainly in­clude more than 20 va­ri­eties of Shan­tung maples, smoke trees, flare maples, pan­i­cled golden rain trees, Asi­atic elms and gingkos. Yanxia Ridge is si­t­u­ated on the western slope of Xin­g­long Val­ley in the Lang­pod­ing Scenic Spot where the smoke trees there form a sea of red leaves.

“Pass­ing the river in the evening amid the cold wind; among the yel­low leaves come the geese.” En­ter­ing the Beigong For­est Park, a large por­tion of tall gingko trees are the first thing that come into sight. The golden leaves set against the blue sky are truly breath-tak­ing. Au­tumn is the best sea­son to visit the park, since at that time the park is ablaze with reds, or­anges, yel­lows, greens, blues and pur­ples—mak­ing it the per­fect place to ap­pre­ci­ate the sea­son in Bei­jing.

It is said that dur­ing the reign of Em­peror Qian­long in the Qing Dy­nasty, the em­peror once went out of the north­ern part of the cap­i­tal ar­riv­ing at a place named Labagoumen. There he found the head of a dragon in a vil­lage, and so held a re­li­gious cer­e­mony that lasted 49 days. On the fi­nal day of the cer­e­mony, the feng shui mas­ter

sud­denly be­came alarmed and told the em­peror that this place had ge­o­man­tic prop­er­ties, and that he was afraid that one day a de­scen­dant of the dragon would be born here and strive to take over the coun­try. Upon hear­ing this, the em­peror be­came wor­ried. He im­me­di­ately asked what he should do to avoid this hap­pen­ing. The mas­ter wrote two char­ac­ters “yi” (one) and “shan” (vir­tu­ous) and or­dered the stone­ma­sons to carve them on the slope op­po­site the dragon head to seal the moun­tain gate. To­day, this place is the Labagoumen Manchuria Eth­nic Town­ship in the north­ern­most of Huairou Dis­trict which to­day is still a sec­ondary for­est eco­log­i­cal scenic spot.

Labagoumen Na­ture Re­serve is the only primeval for­est nat­u­ral scenic spot in Bei­jing. It is also known as the back gar­den of the cap­i­tal, hon­oured as the “greater nat­u­ral oxy­gen bar,” and con­tains 70,000 mu of sec­ondary for­est. Nan­hou Ridge, lo­cated at more than 1,700 m above sea level, is the high­est peak in Huairou Dis­trict. Labagoumen boasts rich plant life. The moun­tain and its peak are en­veloped by po­plar trees and white birches; in­side the for­est, there are var­i­ous species of bushes and thick marshy grass­land; and the rocks are cov­ered in thick moss. The whole scenic spot is full of mys­te­ri­ous vir­gin forests; it has sev­eral his­tor­i­cal Phoenix Plat­forms; the only sum­mer glacier in Bei­jing; 1,000 mu of white birches—which are gen­er­ally only found in Siberia—and other pine trees of dif­fer­ent shapes. Due to a large dif­fer­ence in the height above sea level across the park, its cli­mate changes ver­ti­cally. The re­serve’s woody and herbal wild flow­ers are well­known be­cause of their rich va­ri­eties and ex­tremely long flow­er­ing phases.

Laba­men­gou primeval for­est scenic spot is com­posed of three main sites: Yi Shan Re­sort, the cen­tral liv­ing area in the re­sort; Baizhang Cliff Gan­tian Re­sort, which in­cludes many scenic spots such as Sword- Cast­ing Peak, Pearl Foun­tain, Com­man­der-ap­point­ment Ter­race and Sky Line; and the Nan­hou Ridge Zone, which in­cludes the high­est peak in Huairou. Here, there are dense po­plar trees and white birches grow­ing out of the soft marshy grass­land. The main trunks of the white birches can be as high as 25 m, and their white bark is as smooth as pa­per which can be peeled off eas­ily. Vis­it­ing Labagoumen in au­tumn is the ideal time to ap­pre­ci­ate the tow­er­ing white birches and pick up a few golden tree leaves.

Watch­ing-son Moun­tain and Rose Val­ley

Bai­wang Moun­tain For­est Park is si­t­u­ated 3 km north of the Sum­mer Palace, mak­ing it the clos­est for­est park to down­town Bei­jing. Lo­cal res­i­dents call it Wang’er Moun­tain, mean­ing “Watch­ing-son Moun­tain.” It is said that dur­ing the North­ern Song Dy­nasty (AD 960–1127), Gen­eral Yang Li­u­lang led his sol­diers to fight the Liao army at the foot of the moun­tain. His mother, She Tai­jun, stood on the slopes to watch and help boost morale. There­fore, the moun­tain ac­quired its name, Wang’er Moun­tain. Bai­wang Moun­tain has dense forests and is known lo­cally as Bei­jing’s oxy­gen source. Ac­cord­ing to Night Story of Chang’an: “Bai­wang Moun­tain blocks Xihu Lake in the South and leads to Yan­ping in the north. Even if one leaves the moun­tain, the peak can still be seen from 100 li ( 50 km) away. There­fore, it is called ‘Bai­wang’ [lit. one hun­dred view].” Bai­wang Moun­tain is part of the Tai­hang Moun­tain range in the east of the North China Plain. Hence, it is also re­ferred to as “the first peak of the Tai­hang out­post.”

“As the wind from the west wishes to weave a bro­cade, it urges the tree leaves to turn red.” In au­tumn, large swathes of red-leaf forests can be seen in Bai­wang Moun­tain For­est Park. Climb­ing over the pav­il­ion and look­ing west­ward, the peaks of Tai­hang Moun­tains, stand tow­er­ing. The red leaves in­ter­weave with the green pines and cy­presses, mak­ing the red leaves ap­pear even brighter. Here when the sun sets, the evening clouds add a touch of ra­di­ance and beauty, and make the red leaves even more mys­te­ri­ous. Along with the stone plates of Bai­wang Moun­tains on the west side of the slope, there is a “Fairy Red Leaf” stone statue deep in the val­ley. From the statue, it is pos­si­ble to see the sur­round­ing peaks. The main peak of Bai­wang Moun­tain is tow­er­ing, look­ing across at Heis­han­tou and Han­jia Moun­tain. When the au­tumn wind blows, the thou­sands of mu of red leaves in­spire vis­i­tors.

Ev­ery au­tumn, Bai­wang Moun­tain holds a Red Leaves Fes­ti­val, dur­ing which nearly 1,000 mu of red-leaf for­est com­petes

to dis­play its beauty. The whole area turns com­pletely red, mak­ing it the per­fect place to ap­pre­ci­ate the red leaves. The two best places to view the red leaves at Bai­wang Moun­tain are: Friend­ship Pav­il­ion and Lan­feng Pav­il­ion on top of the moun­tain. As the au­tumn wind blows, the leaves of smoke trees—the main tree species for ap­pre­ci­a­tion in au­tumn— be­gin to turn red. The flare maples ap­pear like burn­ing torches in the moun­tains, and the per­sim­mon trees also join in the com­pe­ti­tion. Sur­rounded by the red leaves of Bai­wang Moun­tian, one can not only ap­pre­ci­ate the red maple leaves, but also the tempt­ing fruits such as dates, hawthorns and per­sim­mons. In re­cent years, large amounts of colour­ful trees such as gingkos and Amur hon­ey­suck­les have been planted. Walk­ing through the sea of colour in au­tumn is a re­lax­ing en­deav­our, and stand­ing in Lan­feng Pav­il­ion, vis­i­tors can ad­mire the brightly coloured moun­tain be­fore them.

In Bei­jing’s Men­tougou Dis­trict, there is a scenic spot which is de­scribed as fol­lows: “The hills on four sides are like paint­ings and you can see flow­ers there ev­ery day of the year.” This is Miaofeng­shan Scenic Spot, si­t­u­ated in the north­ern part of Miaofeng­shan Town. It bor­ders Chang­ping in the north, Haid­ian in the east, the Tai­hang Moun­tains in the west and the Yongding River Canyon in the south. Miaofeng­shan con­sists of five peaks, with Miao­gao Moun­tain the high­est at 1,291 m above sea level. Com­pared with other moun­tain­ous re­gions in Bei­jing, Miaofeng­shan has rel­a­tively gen­tle slopes and its moun­tains are cov­ered with forests. The scenic spot is known for its an­cient tem­ples, strange pine trees, odd stone for­ma­tions and unique flow­ers. Vis­i­tors can ap­pre­ci­ate its sun­rises, evening clouds and fog-wrapped pine trees dur­ing the dif­fer­ent sea­sons as well as its 1,000 mu of roses. It also hosts the largest tra­di­tional tem­ple fair in North China.

The tem­ples at Miaofeng­shan, in­clud­ing Niang­ni­ang Tem­ple, were first con­structed dur­ing the Liao and Jin pe­ri­ods (AD 907–1234), and built against the moun­tains, mak­ing them ex­tremely pic­turesque. There are a dozen Bud­dhist, Taoist and Con­fu­cian tem­ples and halls in to­tal, among which, Niang­ni­ang Tem­ple is the most fa­mous. Be­tween the late Qing Dy­nasty and early Repub­lic of China pe­riod, tem­ple fairs were held here ev­ery year for the first fif­teen days of the fourth lu­nar month.

The wide val­ley at Miaofeng­shan is char­ac­terised by fresh air. The plants on the moun­tains are mainly bushes and flow­ers, and there are nu­mer­ous woody plants and medic­i­nal herbs to be found. Sta­tis­tics show that more than 600 species of woody plants and more than 20 types of medic­i­nal herbs such as moun­tain per­sici, wild cloves, Huo­den­gron ti­beticum, rhodo­den­drons and straw flow­ers as well as 1,000 mu of roses grow here. Jian­gou Vil­lage in Miaofeng­shan Town has been grow­ing Chi­nese roses since the Ming Dy­nasty. It is the source of “high moun­tain roses” and has been hon­oured as the “Home­town of Chi­nese Roses.” Miaofeng­shan Val­ley and Kazan­lak Val­ley in Bulgaria are known as the world’s two largest rose val­leys. The 10,000 mu of roses are di­vided into two parts: The Yang­tais­han Rose Plan­ta­tion Base and the Rose Gar­den in the western part of the scenic spot which also con­tains the “Fairy Rose” statue.

It is a tra­di­tion for lo­cals in Bei­jing to go look at the red leaves in Xis­han ( Western Hills) dur­ing au­tumn, as they have been do­ing since as far back as the Yuan Dy­nasty. Due to its unique ge­o­graph­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment and cli­matic con­di­tions, au­tumn ar­rives ear­lier in Miaofeng­shan. The moun­tain is mainly cov­ered by Shan­tung maples along

with smoke trees and oak trees as well as per­sim­mon, pine and cy­press trees, mak­ing it a rare colour­ful scenic spot in Bei­jing. To­wards mid and late Septem­ber, the oaks, smoke trees and Shan­tung maples grad­u­ally turn red which set against the golden yel­low and green of other trees, cre­ates a colour­ful land­scape paint­ing. The whole scenic spot is cov­ered with maple trees, pine trees, apri­cot trees and smoke trees, the colour ex­tend­ing for dozens of kilo­me­tres.

In mid-oc­to­ber, the hawthorns and per­sim­mons at Miaofeng­shan be­gin to ma­ture. As such, vis­i­tors not only have the chance to ap­pre­ci­ate the red leaves but also pick their own fruit in farmer’s gar­dens or buy some agri­cul­tural prod­ucts. One can also buy dried roses, fried hawthorns, and spe­cial­ties such as rose jelly, rose Radix scutel­lar­iae and wal­nuts.

Tanzhe Tem­ple and Huo Yuan

In Bei­jing, there is an old say­ing, “First came Tanzhe Tem­ple, then came Bei­jing city,” which shows the long his­tory of the tem­ple. Fac­ing south, Tanzhe Tem­ple is lo­cated at the foot of Tanzhe Hill in Men­tougou Dis­trict, Bei­jing. Con­struc­tion started in 307, the first year of the reign of Em­peror Yongjia of the Western Jin Dy­nasty (AD 265–316). As the first tem­ple built in the Bei­jing area af­ter Bud­dhism spread into China, it was orig­i­nally called Ji­afu Tem­ple. Em­peror Kangxi of the Qing Dy­nasty later re­named it “Xi­uyun Tem­ple.” Be­cause there is a dragon’s pool be­hind the tem­ple and Cu­dra­nia trees on the moun­tain, lo­cal peo­ple called it Tanzhe (Pool Cu­dra­nia) Tem­ple. Some say that plans for build­ing the Im­pe­rial Palace were in­spired by the tem­ple, and in fact, a bird’s-eye-view does show that the strictly sym­met­ri­cal tem­ple and moat also has the same im­pos­ing ap­pear­ance of the For­bid­den City.

Dur­ing the reign of Em­press Wu Ze­tian (AD 625–705) of the Tang Dy­nasty, the se­nior Bud­dhist monk Huayan of the Huayan Sect built the tem­ple on the moun­tain. As such, Tanzhe Tem­ple be­came the first Huayan tem­ple in the Youzhou (present-day Bei­jing) area. Dur­ing the Jin King­dom pe­riod, Chan Bud­dhism gained a lot of fol­low­ers in Zhongdu (present­day Bei­jing). Sev­eral Chan masters ar­rived at Tanzhe Tem­ple, greatly en­hanc­ing the hon­our of the tem­ple. Em­peror Xi­zong (1119–1150) of the Jin King­dom once came to Tanzhe Tem­ple to burn in­cense and pray, mak­ing him the first em­peror to ever do so. Af­ter that, later gen­er­a­tions of em­per­ors fol­lowed in his foot­steps, mak­ing the tem­ple even more pop­u­lar. Em­peror Xi­zong changed the name of the tem­ple to “Dawan­shou Tem­ple” and al­lo­cated money to re­store and ex­pand the grounds.

In the Yuan Dy­nasty, Princess Miaoyan, the daugh­ter of Kublai Khan (1215–1294), the first em­peror of the Yuan Dy­nasty (1271– 1368), re­tired from the world and be­came a nun at Tanzhe Tem­ple to atone for her fa­ther. She re­mained at the tem­ple for the rest of her life and would kneel to chant su­tra in the Guanyin Hall ev­ery sin­gle day. As the days went by, she grad­u­ally even cre­ated two re­cesses with her feet in the hall. To­day, the “pray­ing brick” where the princess knelt is still present in the hall and is an ex­tremely pre­cious cul­tural relic of Tanzhe Tem­ple. Af­ter she died in the tem­ple, she was buried in front of it with a pagoda.

Dur­ing the early Ming Dy­nasty, the fa­mous monk Yao Guangx­iao (1335–1418) once helped Zhu Li, the King of Yan, cap­ture the im­pe­rial throne and be­come Em­peror Chengzu (1360–1424). Af­ter his as­sist­ing the em­peror, Yao re­signed to

stay at Tanzhe Tem­ple to pray where he dis­cussed Bud­dhism with his old friend, the ab­bot, ev­ery day. Dur­ing his stay at the tem­ple, the em­peror once paid him a visit. It is said that many build­ings in Bei­jing were de­signed by Yao Guangx­iao in ac­cor­dance with struc­tures found in Tanzhe Tem­ple. For ex­am­ple, the Hall of Supreme Har­mony in the For­bid­den City was an im­i­ta­tion of the tem­ple’s Hall of Ma­havira. It also has hip-and-gable roof, and a golden dragon and seal painted in a com­part­ment ceil­ing. The only dif­fer­ence is the size. From the first Em­peror Zhu Yuanzhang (1328–1398) of the Ming Dy­nasty on­wards, all em­per­ors, em­presses and con­cu­bines were Bud­dhist. Over the years, the im­pe­rial court al­lo­cated funds and the eu­nuchs also do­nated money on sev­eral oc­ca­sions to ren­o­vate and ex­pand the tem­ple, cre­at­ing the lay­out of the tem­ple we see to­day.

Au­tumn is the most beau­ti­ful sea­son for vis­it­ing Tanzhe Tem­ple—its red leaves be­ing known in the cap­i­tal city as early as in the Qing Dy­nasty. Pingyuan Vil­lage, where the an­cient tem­ple is lo­cated, is cov­ered with fruit trees grow­ing per­sim­mons, hawthorns and pears as well as smoke trees and flame maples. When the au­tumn wind blows, the “frost grass lingers over the pool and half of the pear trees’ leaves turn red.” This is a de­scrip­tion of the fa­mous view of “Pingyuan Red Leaves.”

In­side Tanzhe Tem­ple, the most fa­mous tree is a gingko which is more than 30 m high. Hon­oured as the “Im­pe­rial Tree,” it has a his­tory of 1,300 years hav­ing been planted dur­ing the Zhen­guan pe­riod (AD 627–649) of the Tang Dy­nasty. It was named the “Im­pe­rial Tree” by Em­peror Qian­long of the Qing Dy­nasty and is said to be spir­i­tual. When­ever an em­peror died, one of its branches would break off and con­versely, when­ever a new em­peror as­cended to the throne, a new branch would grow. The em­i­nent monks in north­ern China all re­garded the tree as a “lin­den,” a sa­cred Bud­dhist tree. The Im­pe­rial Tree has flour­ish­ing leaves and branches and re­tains its el­e­gant de­meanour even af­ter a thou­sand years.

“The au­tumn beauty in south­west Bei­jing is no match for Shang­fang Moun­tain.” In au­tumn, Shang­fang Moun­tain is quiet, the air is clear, and colour­ful trees such as maples, oaks and smoke trees ea­gerly show off their bright fo­liage. A poem about Shang­fang Moun­tain goes, “The for­est dyes the sky with its leaves; green, yel­low and red. The cy­press is the only one not sub­dued by the frost with its green leaves.” Shang­fang­shan Na­tional For­est Park is lo­cated in Yuegezhuang Town in the south­west sub­urbs of Fang­shan Dis­trict, Bei­jing. There are nine caves in the park rep­re­sented by Yun­shui Cave, and 72 tem­ples rep­re­sented by Doulü Tem­ple. The moun­tain­ous area con­sists of sec­ondary forests and colour­ful-leafed trees which are rarely seen in North China. Shang­fang­shan has a Bud­dhist cul­ture and his­tory of 2,000 years. It is a com­pre­hen­sive na­tional for­est park which in­te­grates na­ture, Bud­dhism and caves.

As early as at the end of the East­ern Han Dy­nasty (AD 25–220), monks be­gan to build tem­ples and plant trees here. The spot was hon­oured by tourists in past dy­nas­ties in the say­ing: “There are Suzhou and Hangzhou in the south and there is Shang­fang in the north.” Within the moun­tain­ous re­sort, there are nine karst caves, the most fa­mous of which is Yun­shui Cave, mean­ing the “Clouds and Wa­ter Cave.” The cave fea­tures 108 nat­u­ral land­scapes and 12 peaks, and its “cen­tral col­umn” is its high­est peak at a height of 860 m above sea level. Shang­fang­shan has nu­mer­ous tow­er­ing peaks which blan­ket the site in green. Fol­low­ing con­struc­tion over sev­eral dy­nas­ties, it formed a lay­out of “72 flo­ral palaces dot­ted all over the site.” The main tem­ple is Doulü Tem­ple which has 15 stone tablets con­tain­ing Su­tra of Forty-two Sec­tions carved on a wall be­hind the tem­ple. The writ­ing is in par­tic­u­larly el­e­gant script. There are well-pre­served Ming Dy­nasty mu­rals in the cor­ri­dor of the Hall of Bud­dha Sarira as well as in­scrip­tions by fa­mous peo­ple through­out the past dy­nas­ties.

Liu Yin, the Yuan Dy­nasty poet, once wrote a poem which said: “Huo Yuan’s res­i­dence at Xis­han, its relics can still be ex­am­ined.” The house men­tioned in the verse refers to the home of Huo Yuan who was an of­fi­cial. Leg­end has it that there was once a man named Huo Yuan who lived in Guangyang of the Yan King­dom (present­day east of Liangx­i­ang in Bei­jing) dur­ing the Jin Dy­nasty whose un­cle was framed and later sen­tenced to death. Huo Yuan stood up and of­fered to suf­fer the tor­ture in his place. In the end, the false charges were cleared and he was re­leased. Dur­ing the reign of Em­peror Yuankang (AD 291–300) of the Western Jin Dy­nasty (AD 266–316), Huo Yuan once lived at Lüping­shan, present-day Shang­fang­shan. There he es­tab­lished lec­tur­ing halls and dor­mi­to­ries to re­cruit men of tal­ents and virtue to teach, the num­ber of stu­dents reach­ing sev­eral thou­sand in its peak. At the time, Wang Jun, gov­er­nor of Youzhou, wanted to claim the im­pe­rial throne for him­self and so sent peo­ple six times to in­vite Huo Yuan to help. Each time, Huo Yuan re­fused, an­ger­ing Wang Jun who or­dered that Huo be killed. His stu­dents and the lo­cal peo­ple felt great sor­row and buried Huo’s body the very same night. To com­mem­o­rate this up­right man, peo­ple in later times changed the name “Lüping­shan” to “Li­upin­shan,” in ref­er­ence to the six in­vi­ta­tions he turned down. Ever since then, Shang­hang­shan has also been known as Li­upin­shan.

Shang­fang­shan Na­tional For­est Park is the only well-pre­served sec­ondary for­est in North China. It has trees of var­i­ous coloured leaves and is a typ­i­cal lime­stone val­ley en­cir­cled by peaks. In au­tumn, peo­ple climb the moun­tain to ap­pre­ci­ate the red leaves. The park is a fa­mous scenic spot in the sub­urbs of Bei­jing that in­te­grates moun­tains, wa­ter, karst caves, forests and cul­tural relics. The red-leaved trees at Shang­fang­shan mainly in­clude Shan­tung maples, Rhus ty­phina, smoke trees and per­sim­mon trees and the best time to visit is be­tween mid-oc­to­ber and mid-novem­ber.

“The moun­tains are far, the sky is high, and the wa­ter is cold; pavil­ions and maples trees line both banks.” En­ter­ing the au­tumn moun­tains in Bei­jing and lis­ten­ing to the sound of the na­ture, one can ad­mire the colour­ful leaves of the maples and smoke trees en­veloped by the clouds. At this time of year, the val­ley be­comes a riot of colour and a true sight to be­hold— cer­tainly one that no one who gets the op­por­tu­nity to visit should miss.

Biyun Tem­ple in the Fra­grant Hills

Mang­shan Na­tional For­est Park in au­tumn

Beigong For­est Park

Labagoumen Na­ture Re­serve

Miaofeng­shan Scenic Sopt

Tanzhe Tem­ple in au­tumn

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