Beijing offers a plethora of parks, wetlands, forests, bodies of water, mountains, hills and other outdoor areas. They look especially vibrant in the fall as the leaves of the trees change and the weather cools down. These areas are great venues for a quick stroll, a long hike or a weekend getaway. Some highlights are examined in this overview.
Cultural Heritage, Magnificent Landmarks
The Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian has an irreplaceable position on the UNESCO List of World Heritage Sites. The area has witnessed the footprints of early human beings and the earliest glimmer of civilisation. The intact Peking Man skull that was found in the area represents an important part of the process of human evolution. The Great Wall guarded the capital and the emperors' imperial mausoleums for many centuries. Its towering body, depicting the vicissitudes of life, is even more striking against yellowish red leaves. The Grand Canal, which has experienced more than a thousand years of history and changes, is rushing passionately with a tone unique to Chinese people... These World Heritage Sites are magnificent landmarks in Beijing.
Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian Searching for a Glimmer in the Distant Past
Standing on high ground overlooking Zhoukoudian Village in Fangshan District 48 kilometres (km) southwest of Beijing, one can see the westbound stretch of the Taihang Mountains linking up an expanse of the fertile North China Plain, with the turbulent Zhoukou River rushing across it. As early as 600,000 years ago, ancient humans and ancient animals lived in this area. Crossing the torrent of time, they appeared out of the blue and resolutely carried some of the history of human civilisation with them. They are part of the miracle of Beijing.
In 1926, Otto Zdansky, the young Austrian paleontologist, discovered two human teeth in the collection of fossils that were discovered at Zhoukoudian. For the first time ever, modern humans had knocked at the door of their ancestors. Pieces of good news continued to come in one after another. In October 1927, Canadian biologist Davidson Black, who was leading the archaeological activities around Zhoukoudian, announced that he had discovered a human tooth fossil on Longgu Mountain. After completing some examinations, Black proposed a new species of ancient humans—the Beijing species of ape-man. This classification later commonly became known as Peking Man. He deduced that Peking Man lived about 500,000 years ago. This news shocked the scientific community at that time.
In 1929, Pei Wenzhong discovered a skull of Peking Man. He had just graduated with a geology degree from Peking University two years earlier. Later, Jia Lanpo, who later became a leading Chinese paleoanthropologist, successively discovered three Peking Man skulls beginning on November 15th, 1936 and continuing over the next 11 days.
The Ape Man Cave where these ancient human remains were discovered is known as the First Site at Zhoukoudian. Since 1927, the academic community has been conducting research based on the human skulls, broken skulls and a large number of fossil bones excavated at the First Site at Zhoukoudian, revealing more information about our human ancestors. These fossils come from more than forty different men, women and children and represent a quite complete group of ancient humans. They confirmed the existence of an intermediate stage during the evolution of the ape man, providing more details and a more convincing argument for the concept of evolution.
The Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian is hailed as a treasure trove of specimens from ancient civilisations. Over 90 years of excavations have elucidated mysteries about human origins that were once unknown. Each of these discoveries has caused major changes in our understanding of human evolution. Fossils, remains and other relics of Peking Man and the Upper Cave Man have shed light on
a previously unknown stage of mankind. The Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian was added to the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage List in 1987. “Scientists have discovered the remains of Peking Man, who lived in the Middle Pleistocene era. A variety of daily necessities were also discovered, as well as the remains of newer humans from between 18,000 to 11,000 BC. The Zhoukoudian site provides evidence about human civilisation on the Asian continent in ancient times and clarifies the process of human evolution.”
Chinese paleoanthropologist Jia Lanpo had a vision for the area and stated: “If conditions allow, we should simulate scenes from 500,000 years ago in the vicinity of the Peking Man site. We should plant trees and grasses that were common then and create figures of Peking Men making stone tools, hunting, collecting fruit and using fire so that visitors can feel that they have gone 500,000 years back in time when they enter the Peking Man site.”
People look forward to seeing the results of Jia's idea. The Zhoukoudian Ruins Park now exists. It is a world-renowned scientific sanctuary. In the middle of lush greenery, sculptures of ancient animals stand erect and the heart-stirring excavation sites are clearly identified. People may wonder about the animals hiding in the forest in the autumn in the distance past. Perhaps some were hungry if they did not catch a deer or other animal that day. These kinds of ideas occupy one's mind when walking through the area.
In April 1992, it was announced by the Beijing Municipal People's Government that the Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian would also be a youth education centre. In June of the same year, it was rated the No. 1 tourist attraction in Beijing. In 1997, it was listed by the Publicity Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) as one of the 100 national patriotic education demonstration bases. In 2014, the new Zhoukoudian Relics Museum opened its doors to visitors. The exhibition area of the new museum was now nearly seven times bigger than before and integrated exhibitions, scientific research and popular science education functions. There are more than 1,600 items on display. A batch of dust-laden treasures that had been sealed for over half a century are now being showcased for the first time.
A exploration of the museum after strolling through the relics park provides fascinating details about the evolutionary path that humans have taken.
The Great Wall
The Imposing Mountain Peak Dominates
Beijing enjoys a special historical status. The Great Wall spread to the Wuling Mountain, Lingshan Mountain and Yanshan Mountain Range to the east, west and north of Beijing City, respectively, to safeguard the environs of the capital city. The Badaling, Mutianyu, Simatai, Jiankou, Huanghuacheng, and Juyongguan Great Wall sections and magnificent and sometimes very steep garrisons steadfastly watch over Beijing's suburbs among the high mountains and lofty hills. The wall is still very majestic, despite the fact that times have changed. The tremendous courage and wisdom of the Chinese nation are apparent when standing atop the majestic wall winding through lofty mountain ranges.
The Great Wall attracts tens of thousands of tourists from China and other countries every autumn.
Beijing's Fragrant Hills are a good place to see red autumnal leaves. There are some other options also. The imposing Badaling Great Wall is also a great area. Construction of this section began during the Warring States Period (475–221 BC) and thus is quite old. Additions and renovations began in the 18th year of the reign of Hongzhi Reign during the Ming Dynasty (1505) and would continue for over 80 years. The famous anti-japanese general Qi Jiguang (1528–1588, military general of the Ming Dynasty) was dispatched to the north to direct matters of defence related to the Great Wall. The Badaling Great Wall extends more than 1,300 li (a Chinese unit of distance equal to about 0.5 km) and is the best-preserved section of the Ming Great Wall. It was the first section of the wall to be opened to tourists, and it is as high as 1,015 metres (m) in some places. Badaling National Forest Park's Red Leaf Hill is nearly 67 hectares and features more than 50,000 smoketrees. The end of September to early November is the best time to see them. The ancient Great Wall winds through the mountains like a black dragon with graceful red leaves nestled against it like scales, forming quite a spectacular scene full of vigour and vitality.
Badaling National Forest Park has a lot of natural advantages. The smoketrees in the area grow very well as a result of the comparatively lower temperatures in the area. The mountainous area northwest of Beijing is three to five degrees Celsius
cooler than urban Beijing. Autumn starts earlier here, and the leaves in the area are particularly bright and charming.
In addition to climbing the Great Wall, one can also visit the Chinese Cultural Celebrity Sculpture Memorial Park, which sits quietly and solemnly on the southwest side of the Badaling Shuiguan Great Wall. There are nine sculptures of important cultural figures including Bing Xin, Mao Dun, Ye Sheng Tao, Xia Yan, Tian Han, Xu Beihong, Guo Moruo, Cao Yu and Wu Wenzao, who have left valuable cultural heritage for future generations. Attractions such as the Wulang Statue, Stone Buddha Temple statues, a Goldfish Pond, Crossroad Beam, Qi Jiguang Garden, Yuan Chonghuan Garden, Great Wall Steles Garden and the Ancient City of Chadao can also be found in the park, forming a popular, cultural tour route. The Great Wall, the Great Wall Museum and the Great Wall National Theater, supported by three free scenic gardens and complemented by the Great Wall Remnants and Ancient City of Chadao scenic areas make the Badaling Great Wall an in demand area and contribute to its great reputation.
The Mutianyu Great Wall section is another highlight of the Great Wall. It is a paradise for tourists, although steep and a little peculiar. When hiking through the area and exploring passes built on precipitous cliffs one may eventually make it to Bull's Horn Ridge. It has an altitude of over 1,000 m. The Arrow Nock (Jiankuo) and Eagle Flying Belly Up Great Wall sections are nearby. Bull's Horn Ridge stretches from valley areas all the way to the tops of the mountains. A watchtower is located at the highest point in the area. The ridge then suddenly drops back to the mountainside and abruptly rises again until it reaches a point more than 940 m above sea level. The ridge is shaped like a bull's horn, and was named accordingly. It is forceful and vigorous. The Mutianyu Great Wall section is known for its steepness.
The No. 14 and No. 15 beacon towers are great places to observe scenic areas around Mutianyu. There is a broad view of the Great Wall unfolding from the southeast to the northwest. The southeastward section is relatively flat and beautiful, while the part going northwest is steep and abrupt. Foreign leaders who visit the Great Wall tend to like to go to this section. Today, the section of Huairou District that the Mutianyu Great Wall is located in is very green. Outside the city, range upon range of mountains are covered with dense vegetation. It looks best in autumn when abundant fruit and colourful leaves can be seen.
About 60 percent of the leaves outside the Great Wall are no longer verdant as October approaches, ushering in the best viewing period. The bright red, plumcoloured and golden leaves cover the mountains and accompany the Great Wall winding up mountain peaks, forming a scene of golden autumn.
The Grand Canal Connecting Ancient and Modern Times
The Grand Canal has supported people's livelihoods for thousands of years throughout Chinese history. It is inspiring and enlightens the mind. Wherever the water flows, it would yield a touch of Chinese-style magnificence. Antiquated and weathered ships, the lasting appeal of the old canal and ancient wharfs that are now quiet... History and the reality of the present complement each other, while romance and classicism are sideby-side. The Grand Canal of China is like an endless song.
There are efforts to protect various tangible and intangible cultural heritage related to the development, history and area of the Grand Canal. People are also doing everything in their power to preserve the semi-natural ecosystem of rivers, lakes, wetlands and cities to safeguard the historical landscape of the Grand Canal. A Grand Canal Cultural Scenic Area is taking
shape and adding new vitality to the area.
Walking to today's Jishuitan Pond and climbing up the hill on the north bank of the West Sea, one will find the Memorial Hall of Guo Shoujing. It is open to pedestrians. Jishuitan Pond was formed by the ancient Yongding River course. It turned into a pond after groundwater began to fill it. In 1292, after the Great Capital of the Yuan Dynasty was expanded, water sources became insufficient, so Guo Shoujing (1231–1316, a Chinese astronomer) launched a water diversion project and created the Tonghui River. Jishuitan Pond began to overflow with a vast expanse of water. Boats from Tongzhou could finally reach the centre of the city, resulting in an increasing boom in grain transportation. Today, a statue of Guo Shoujing stands silent at the foot of the hill on the north bank of the West Sea. Guo connected Jishuitan Pond's destiny with that of the Grand Canal and formed a deep bond with the land in the area.
The Yuhe Site Museum on Ping'an Avenue has been open since the summer of 2012 in Beijing. The museum preserves the ruins of the East Buya Bridge and part of the Ancient Yuhe Path. The exhibition hall covers 600 square metres (sq.m). It showcases the changes and archaeological achievements of the Yuhe River and its history and culture. A spectacular view of water running through streets and alleys along the Yuhe River is created with hightech lighting methods.
The famous Tonghui River became a moat for the imperial city during the Ming and Qing dynasties and was deprived of its transportation function. It was withdrawn from the capital city canal system during the late Qing Dynasty period. After the Ming Dynasty, the body of water was renamed the Imperial River and was commonly known as the Yuhe River. After the establishment of the Republic of China, the Yuhe River was converted into an underground river. In 1998, a dike featuring ancient bricks was found near the north entrance of East Jixiang Hutong during the construction of Ping'an Avenue. Cultural relics experts discovered proof of the existence of the Yuhe River. The Yuhe River belongs to the Backdoor Bridge river system. It was typical of the Yuan Dynasty, integrates into the Nanluoguxiang conservation area and adds charm to the ancient capital of Beijing. After a series of projects involving inflow of water to the riverway and East Buya Bridge repair, prosperity reappeared on both sides of the Tonghui River. The historical river system has been restored, and the blood of Beijing flows unblocked again.
There is new life on the banks of the Grand Canal. Following the successful application for World Heritage Site status for the canal, Beijing's Tongzhou District has created four scenic areas in its old town. These are the South Street historical area, the Burning Lighthouse historical canal culture area, the business culture area covering the unincorporated bank of Baotong, a folk culture area around Jing'an Temple and an imperial culture area around the Luhe River Post. These scenic areas are designed to preserve the culture of the Grand Canal.
The Burning Lighthouse and the Tongzhou Confucian Temple are two important buildings in the area. The Tongzhou Confucian Temple is the oldest Confucian temple in Beijing. It was built in the second year of the Dade Reign of the Yuan Dynasty (1298). The temple was dismantled in the 1960s and 1970s, leaving behind only five rooms from Dacheng Hall, two remnant steles and three pieces of the golden water bridge, which were buried underground. In 2004, the original 11 buildings were restored. There is also a plan to rebuild the East and West Roads of the Confucian Temple in their original locations. The Education Bureau, Discipline Bureau, and the God of Culture Temple will be restored on the West Road. Chongsheng Hall, Shengrong Hall and Zunjing Pavilion will be restored on the East Road. The Tongzhou Confucian Temple covers an area of 70,000 sq.m. It will be completely restored in the near future, reproducing the grand spectacle of the Grand Canal in the olden days.
The Grand Canal records history, passes on traditions from the past, and inspires production and labour, leaving behind festivals and folk events, such as the Silkworm Festival, Net Boat Festival and Grain Transport Launch Festival. The latter is on the first day of the third lunar month and is unique to Tongzhou. This festival commemorates the day when the first official batch of grain arrived in Tongzhou via the canal. During the Ming Dynasty, there were more than 12,000 boats carrying grain on the canal every year. They were divided into 10 groups. More than 120,000 soldiers from 124 garrisons watched over them. Distance determined the schedule of the various groups. The boats pulled in and out of the wharf in an orderly manner. On the first day of the third lunar month, the first group of boats carrying grain would arrive in Tongzhou. The inaugural ceremony was bustling and featured “tens of thousands of firecrackers,” dozens of flower markets and shops along the way offering a wide variety of items like tea and fruit. Merchant ships threw silver and made donations to people who needed them. It
was as lively as a Spring Festival temple fair in Beijing. The canal system continued until 1901, near the end of the Qing Dynasty when the north canal area discontinued grain transport. Nowadays, boat groups do not have to rush to depart and return according to the schedule. This kind of activity has become a cultural footnote for the Grand Canal.
The Grand Canal stretches for thousands of kilometres and connects the ancient capital of Beijing with affluent regions south of the Yangtze River. Beijing has formed an environment featuring inclusiveness, grandness, accessibility and cohesiveness. It was influenced by the canal. The canal is no longer important for transportation. It is a historical corridor of Beijing. It plays a significant role as a cultural artery and is cherished and admired by current generations. The canal's banks are a great place to take a stroll and have an autumnal outing.
Forest Parks, Lungs of the City
There are many forest parks in Beijing, such as Xishan National Forest Park, Shangfangshan National Forest Park, Mangshan National Forest Park, Xiaolongshan National Forest Park, Yunmengshan National Forest Park, Olympic Forest Park, North Palace National Forest Park, Chaolai Forest Park, Jiufeng National Forest Park, Century Forest Park, Grand Canal Forest Park and Songshan National Forest Park and more.
The parks are worth visiting in the autumn or revisiting if one has already been there. Hiking, enjoying mountain views, feeling a cool breeze, appreciating the leaves, listening to the singing of birds and smelling the fragrance of flowers are some of the enjoyable things to do in these areas.
Grand Canal Forest Park Diverse Attractions
The Tongzhou Grand Canal Forest Park is located on both sides of the North Canal of Tongzhou New City. It is the only canal forest in Beijing. The canal is wide in area, and the landscape on both sides is picturesque. It combines modern style with country aesthetics. The area features “one river, two banks, six scenic areas that are accessible from both sides of the canal and eighteen more scenic spots.” Luhe Peach and Willow Area, Moon Island and its Singing Birds, the Autumn Silver Maple Area, the Vital Forest, Mirror Lake Boating Area, and the Forest Pavilion Area are the six scenic areas.
When walking and enjoying the breeze, one will eventually encounter the Moon Island ( Yuedao) Wenying Scenic Area. Yuedao is raised terrain that was formed during the remediation of the North Canal. It is surrounded by water and looks like a crescent, which led to its name. A large wetland surrounds the island. In the early summer, the green reeds swaying in the wind are very beautiful.
It is as if they are waving to the tourists. Tourists can walk through the reeds on the wooden boardwalkthat traverses the wetland. Kids play hide and seek in the area. In the autumn, the reeds are taller than people and are very spectacular. There are colourful blooming flowers in the Luhe Taoliu Scenic Area in the spring. The scenic area becomes a picking garden in the summer and autumn, and the joy of picking fruit can be experienced. The Conglin Huoli Scenic Area covers an area of about 53 ha. Almost 80 percent of the scenic area is currently woods and orchards. Roads, squares and an amusement park have been added to the area. Dozens of large rides such as rollercoasters, boats and bumper cars are available and there are many varieties of fruit in the orchards. The Yinfeng Qiushi Scenic Area covers an area of more than 670 ha. It reproduces the joyful scene of abundant food and autumn harvest on both banks of the canal. The wharf provides the background, and grain storage is the theme. Greenhouses that look like historical granaries sit near the wharf. They are used to grow plants yearround, depict water transportation culture and the lives of people at the time, and showcase the area's urban agricultural tourism industry. The Mirror Lake Boating Area is more than 300 m wide. The water's surface is very flat and beautiful. People can take a boat and relax.
The 18 scenic spots are the Peach and Willow Area along the River Bank, Yuqiao Spring Charm, Chatting at Tea Shed, Ancient Ferry, Flower Shower, Moon Island Land, Wetland Croak, Household at the Hillside, Autumn Silver Maple, Maple Forest with Tea Fragrance, Greenhouse Storage, Wind through Reed Marshes, Singing in the Jungle, Natural Double Brocade, Mirror Lake Boating Area, Smoketree Forest, Purplish Red Date Forest, and Distant Pavilion. These scenic spots are cool in the autumn. Many flowers are in full bloom in many different shapes.
There are many good views when walking on the bank of the Grand Canal. The water in the park is very clear, fish jump above the water from time to time; people are often sketching on the shore; tickets are available for boat rides, and dculptures on the shore depict some of the history of the Grand Canal.
The Painted Porcelain from the Beijing Section of the Grand Canal Museum lies to the south of the west gate of Tongzhou Grand Canal Forest Park. It is more than 8,000 sq.m. There are three porcelain kilns in the museum, as well as many painted porcelain plates, ceramic paintings, works of pottery, calligraphy, various Chinese paintings and more. The Tongzhou Grand Canal Hanlin Folk Museum is also in the area. It was founded by Gu Jianhua, a private entrepreneur in Tongzhou and covers about 10,000 sq.m. It features tens of thousands of cultural relics from the Grand Canal, Ming and Qing furniture, farming tools, cultural works of art and calligraphy paintings based on national folklore and other themes. It is the only cultural venue for the comprehensive display, research, protection, development and utilisation of Grand Canal folk culture in Beijing.
Breathtaking scenery and fascinating art reflect the culture of the Grand Canal.
Olympic Forest Park Combining Abundant Landscapes
The Olympic Forest Park is the largest public park in Beijing that integrates multiple functions such as tourism, recreation, sports and fitness, and so on. In the late autumn, the mountains in the area are full of red, yellow, orange and purple, bursting forth like splattered paint. The autumn charm and scenery are picturesque and refreshing. People continuously come to enjoy the area.
The park features many small scenic areas. There is a man-made wetland in the garden that is very popular with tourists. It features reeds, cattails, sedges, calamus and canna. There is a 500-m glass walkway leading to an underwater viewing area, which provides a good view of the wetland. One can see small fish and plants purifying the water. The structure slows down the flow of water and increases purification.
The layered water flower platform is to the west. There are the three layers of water based on height differences from west to east. It creates a small waterfall. Quaint, wooden walkways are close to the water and allow visitors to enjoy the aquatic plants, water and reeds at close range.
Yangshan is located in a forest park on the central axis of Beijing and is the highest hill in the area. Its main peak is 48 m high. It preserves the local, traditional Yangshan name for the area and echoes with the Jingshan name. It resonates with the following verses: "Conduct and talent are as high as mountains, worthy of respect. People can't help but follow such a person's manners as a code of conduct." It also can translate to “admire,” which has connotations of symmetry, balance and harmony in traditional Chinese culture. Sky World is located at the peak of Yangshan. It features a 5.7-m stone that weighs 63 tons, transported from Taishan to Beijing. The surrounding 29 Pinus tabuliformis trees symbolise the 29th Olympic Games. Platforms known as Dawn Blossoms and Plucked at Dusk are located on the east and west sides of Sky World, respectively. The names are taken from Lu Xun's essay collection Dawn Blossoms Plucked at Dusk.
Aohai is located on the north side of the south entrance of the park. There is an open-air performing arts square on the south bank. It is connected to the Olympic Landscape Avenue and covers an area of about 40,000 sq.m. It can accommodate 20,000 audience members. The grandstand is located on the terrain gently sloping downward from south to north. A large, musical laser fountain is located in a lake on the north side of the square. The water can reach a height of up to 80 m.
The Big Tree Park in the northern section of this area covers 80 ha and features 100,000 sq.m of water. There are more than 100 kinds of trees in the park, such as crape myrtle, ash, wingnut, white sandalwood and ginkgo. There are tens of thousands in total. Some of the trees “immigrated” from the Three Gorges reservoir area.
The Olympic Forest Park also features the Olympic Declaration Square, which features five concentric circles. The area features a 2.9-m-by-2.9-m, square copper design on the ground, expanding to the periphery in a wave shape. It symbolises the inheritance of the Olympic spirit after the 29th Olympic Games in Beijing. The names of the host cities, sessions and durations of modern Olympic Games from 1896 to 2016 are engraved on the design in the five rings. A three-part, curved copper monument with a total length of 29 m is located in the northern half of the outer circle. The Olympic Declaration is written in French, English and Chinese. The Chinese portion is in the middle. It is 2.9 m high, 1.99 m wide and 0.38 m thick. The monument features reliefs of Pierre de Coubertin, the father of the modern Olympic Games and Thomas Bach, the President of the International Olympic Committee. The Olympic Declaration Square is mostly made of natural granite and features bronze inscriptions and carvings. The monument is in line with Chinese cultural symbols that were widely seen during the Beijing Olympics. It is also influenced by traditional moiré that dates back to the Han Dynasty.
Olympic Forest Park has attracted tourists from near and far with its wealth of attractions. It is also good for daily exercise and entertainment for nearby residents. It is in harmony with local people.
Western Hills National Forest Park and its Robust Cultural Elements
Extending across Haidian, Shijingshan and Mentougou districts and covering an area of 5,970 ha, the Western Hills National Forest Park is the nearest national forest park to Central Beijing. It is a temperate broadleaf and mixed forest and covers 98.5 percent of the area. It is home to mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and hundreds of kinds of plants.
A huge waterfall flows from an artificial hill at the entrance of the park. The park features the most waterfalls in Beijing, as well as streams and lakes. The waterfalls are not extravagant, but are beautiful enough to impress visitors.
Tall and vigourous pine trees cover the sandy mountains. They have a fascinating shape and their branches stretch out like a giant umbrella. The lush, young trees are also full of vitality. Beijingers have a tradition of visiting the Western Hills to appreciate the red leaves in late autumn. The smoketree, acer truncatum and oak leaves are all very red and decorate the hills with bright colour in the breeze. The sight is very delightful.
There are many historical sites in the Western Hills National Forest Park. During the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644), some royal cemeteries were built on the gentle hills, including the cemeteries of Emperor Zhu Qiyu (reign: 1449–1457) and seven concubines of Emperor Zhu Yijun (reign: 1572–1620). During the Qing Dynasty (1644–1911), the Western Hills area was famous for the Eight Palaces in the Western Hills and the Three Hills and Eight Gardens. The ruins of Qing bannermen villages and watchtowers can still be found. The Fragrant Hills, Temple of the Reclining Buddha and Badachu Park can be found in the area as well as historical sites such as the Fahai Temple, the Dizang Temple ( Temple of Ksitigarbha), Yaoyue Cave, the graves of some celebrities and the Monument of Heishanhu Battle in the Western Hills area.
The abrupt and straight summit of Baiwang Mountain is 210 m above sea level. The Capital Green Culture Stele Forest is located in the Baiwang Mountain Scenic Area. It features stele pavilions; stele corridors; a stele museum; over 500 steles inscribed by revolutionaries, celebrities and artists; and features a theme of forestation. The elegant works of art are new attractions for forest tourism.
In recent years, the Western Hills National Forest Park has increased its cultural status and organised a series of events such as spring outings, flower appreciation events, volunteer tree planting activities, photography competitions, revolutionary tours, forest culture experiences, concerts, historical exhibitions and mountain climbing events, attracting participants from near and far and enriching Western Hills culture. Trails have been paved in the park so that visitors can enjoy the forest landscape and historical sites along the way and get a look at the magnificent scenery of the capital all year round.
Wetlands have been regarded as the birthplace of Beijing's civilisation, the foundation of the existence and development of Beijing, and carriers of Beijing's cultural heritage.
Serving as a city for over 3,000 years and capital for over 800 years, Beijing was built near water like many other ancient and historical cities around the world. Its superior wetland environment was part of the reason why it was chosen as the capital city in the past and has always maintained enduring vitality. The wetlands not only provide basic conditions for the survival and development of natural systems and plant and animal species but have also been part of the development and historical changes of Beijing.
In recent years, various districts in Beijing have adjusted their development measures to local conditions and built a number of wetland parks of different grades, scales and types, providing sites for Beijingers to get close to nature. In autumn, the wetland parks display brightly-coloured landscapes and are a great choice for autumn outings.
Hanshiqiao Wetland Park and its Lush Reeds
If one drives eastward from Central Beijing to the southwest of Yangzhen Town in Shunyi District and keeps driving southward for about two kilometres along Muyan Road, one will arrive at Hanshiqiao Wetland Park.
The only existing large reed wetland in Beijing, Hanshiqiao Wetland Park features lush reeds, lotus roots, clear water, singing water birds and a tranquil atmosphere. It is a unique part of Beijing's suburbs and is home to many rare waterfowls. The area is known as “the large reed wetland in East Beijing” and “the little Baiyangdian lake in the suburbs of Beijing.”
Hanshiqiao Wetland Park's conservation area is divided into a core area and an experimental area. The core area is fully closed and protected. The experimental area is a scenic area integrating leisure, entertainment, fitness, conventions and exhibitions. One can row a boat here, breathe fresh air and admire a variety of aquatic plants such as cattails, irises, lotuses and water lilies. Home to 292 kinds of plants, Hanshiqiao Wetland Park is a typical, semiwild wetland dominated by reeds and cattails. Herons, egrets and other waterfowls fly over the water now and then. Carp, grass carp and silver carp can be found in the 13ha fishing area. It is a pure delight to watch the fish swim freely in the water.
Visitors can also bike through the park. There are three main routes available. The east route allows visitors to admire the aquatic plants in the botanical garden. The south route allows visitors to enjoy the landscape of the lake and forest. The west route allows visitors to have a panoramic view of the reeds in the core area.
Wireless bird watching equipment, highpowered telescopes and portable telescopes are available in the bird-watching hall at the northern end of the reserve. Continuous observations and studies in recent years indicate that there are 153 species of birds in Hanshiqiao Wetland Park. This figure is close to half of all the bird species in Beijing. Two species of birds are under national, Level-i protection. These are the black stork and the golden eagle. Seventeen are under national, Level-ii protection. Ten are under municipal, Level-i protection. Fifty-four area under municipal, Level-ii protection. It is rare to have so many birds and species of birds as a proportion to the land area in Beijing. Hanshiqiao Wetland also attracts a large number of passing migrant birds.
Shunyi District has launched a series of wetland restoration and protection measures since 2003. It has been rebuilding and strengthening wetland lake roads, dredging fire isolation zones, building bird islands and bird watching stations, creating lotus ponds and water lily areas, planting more than 600 acres of reeds, and completing 23.3 ha of greening projects. Birds often come to rest in the reserve, demonstrating that the measures have made a difference.
Hanshiqiao Wetland Park and birdnet. cn jointly organised the Bird Watching Culture Festival in the park. The festival consists of various events, including a bird releasing event, bird watching event, parent-child wetland tour and a photo contest, appealing to people from all walks of life and compelling them to care for birds and protect the environment.
Science Popularisation at Cuihu National Urban Wetland Park
Located in the north of Shangzhuang Reservoir in Shangzhuang Town, Haidian District, Cuihu National Urban Wetland Park is an artificially-restored wetland praised as a “southern Chinese riverside town.” It is the only national-level, urban wetland park approved by the Ministry of Housing and Urban-rural Development Construction of the People's Republic of China in Beijing.
The park is rich in flora and fauna. Rare wild waterfowls such as great bustards, golden eagles, relict gulls and red-crowned cranes can be seen almost every year in the park. The aquatic plants in the area are also very scenic. Water lilies, reeds, cattails and calamuses are a few that thrive at this wetland park.
The park is divided into the Closed Protection Zone, Transitional Buffer Zone and Open Experience Zone. The Open Experience Zone features the Wetland Culture Corridor, Butterfly Valley, Bird Watching Tower, Fish Watching Area, Wetland Plant Experience Area and other scenic area and is characterised by different functions and scenes.
Signs along the 35-m-long Wetland Culture Corridor introduce wetlandrelated information to visitors. They explain wetland concepts, types and functions, the history of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat, World Wetland Day and Beijing Wetland Day, major wetlands in China and the world, the relationship between wetlands and human civilisation, and current threats to wetlands.
Butterfly Valley is an open area for butterfly viewing and covers an area of approximately 2,800 sq.m. It features edible plants that butterflies and their larvae like, which attracts various varieties of this suborder of animals. The flowers are also enjoyable for visitors. When the flowers bloom, butterflies fly everywhere in the area, even in the autumn. The season is full of vigour.
Birds also enjoy the wetland park. The Cuihu National Urban Wetland Park features a 9-m-high, two-storey, wooden tower for bird watching. There are telescopes and bird-watching manuals available inside. Visitors can ascend the tower to get a view of the park, watch the birds, and learn about their habits and characteristics. Themed activities for popularising science are often carried out in the park, elucidating topics such as
wetland bird migration.
Linyuan guanyu (watching fish by the pond) is a sunken, scenic area. There is a pond that has glass walls like an aquarium. Visitors can learn how to recognise various kinds of wetland fish, how they fit into the ecosystem and information about the environment in the area.
The Amphibian Exhibition Area and the Reptile Exhibition Area feature practical information and aesthetic value. They offer beautiful living spaces for animals and allow visitors to watch them. There are Chinese softshell turtles, black spotted frogs, freshwater mussels and other animals in the exhibition areas. Signs explain information about the animals, such as their characteristics, habits and distribution.
In the three exhibition areas of the Plant Experience Zone, the original, ecological, wetland vegetation landscape has been created. It features plants with floating leaves, submerged plants and emergent plants. A pontoon runs through the Plant Experience Zone, allowing visitors to observe the plants while learning their definition, classification, characteristics and values. Wetland tourism has succeeded in popularising knowledge through lively activities.
Natural Fun at the Wild Duck Lake National Wetland Park
Known for its large, reeded area and various kinds of birds, the Wild Duck Lake National Wetland Park in Yanqing District is like a pearl embedded at the foot of the Badaling Great Wall. It is accompanied by the Guanting Reservoir.
As the only natural reserve for wetland birds in Beijing with vast wetland area and dense vegetation, Wild Duck Lake National Wetland Park is an ideal transit habitat for migratory birds in the winter and spring. The impressive species and number of birds in the park makes it an ideal site for bird watching.
The park also provides an excellent fishing environment for anglers. They often bring a sun umbrella, chair and their fishing rod. Some may wait quietly and fish all day long. It is a delight to fish in the park on a pleasant autumn day. There are also water recreation facilities, farmhouses and small villas in the park, providing convenient facilities for visitors.
The first wetland museum in North China is also situated in the Wild Duck Lake National Wetland Park. Visitors can watch the Beautiful Wild Duck Lake Wetland video on a dome-screen here. Photo exhibitions, introductory information and audiovisual materials offered by the Visitor Centre provide the public with a wide range of information about wetlands.
There are many more wetland parks in Beijing than those mentioned thus far. Located in the northwest of Haidian District, Daoxiang Lake Scenic Area is another wetland park worthy of visiting in the autumn. The scenic area consists of a natural lake and vast paddy fields. There is a beautiful waterfront landscape; fresh, rural scenery; and a comfortable and pleasant overall environment. Surrounded by mountains on three sides, the scenic area boasts beautiful scenery. When the weather permits, visitors can row a boat on Daoxiang Lake, appreciate the reeds and listen to the melodious singing of egrets, orioles and turtledoves. Various species of freshwater fish swim in the lake. The area is available for fishing and is a favourite spot of many anglers.
Located between Liulimiao Town and Tanghekou Town in Huairou District, Baihewan Wetland Park lies on the Baihe River. Rainfall, upstream water and mountain spring water feed into the area. Boasting dense wetland plants, gravel riverside paths, high mountains and fresh air, the park has become a recreation site integrating cross-country driving, rafting, dining, accommodation, entertainment and the ability to experience rural life.
Sanlihe Wetland Park in Yanqing District is known for its well-preserved, original forest and vegetation, various types of trees and shrubs that are in harmony with local conditions and its nearly 1,000-m-long, wooden boardwalk. White Horse Spring lies on the west side of the Sanli River in the park. The spring flows all year long, features green aquatic plants and clear water.
Located in Jiayu Village, Shicheng Town, Minyun District, Jiayu Wetland Park has a beautiful environment and charming scenery. The area features waterfalls, lush forests, green hills, the Baihewan ancient road and Jiayu Village nearby. The Cool Valley inside the wetland park is famous in the suburbs of Beijing. It is known for its abundant water, numerous ponds and high waterfalls. There is a cave over 200 m deep behind the waterfall. Visitors can take a look inside.
As can be seen, there are a wealth of scenic areas and beautiful scenery to explore in Beijing in the autumn.
The Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian
The Mutianyu section of the Great Wall
An ancient water transportation wharf on the Grand Canal in Tongzhou District
Cycling at Grand Canal Forest Park
A pagoda in Badachu Park
Hanshiqiao Wetland Park
Cuihu National Urban Wetland Park
Wild Duck Lake National Wetland Park