by William Wang
In places, the Chinese capital's lack of colour puts the beige in Beijing. It's not the greenest of cities, but at least it has a multitude of parks to offer solace to the soul. Whether you're looking for a sense of community or a respite from the urban rush, you can find it in one of Beijing's parks. Parks are perfect places to be alone, or with family, friends or lovers.
CRI's William Wang strolls along countless quiet pathways in order to tell you about Beijing's unmissables.
Situated at the centre of Beijing's central north-south axis, Jingshan Park occupies a position of royal importance in China's capital. It's no coincidence the symmetrical mountain is where it is. It was constructed during the Ming Dynasty, using the soil which was excavated to make the Forbidden City's surrounding moat.
It's not quite the mountain that its name implies, but on a clear day Jingshan's peak offers breathtaking perspectives on Beijing's enormity. The Forbidden City and Drum and Bell towers fall into alignment, while the National Centre for the Performing Arts and the CCTV tower and headquarters all get situated in your mind. If you own binoculars, bring 'em.
At times, the top of the mountain can get crammed with photo-snapping tourists who clamor for a view or squeeze into Wanchun Pavillion to see the golden Buddha sitting patiently inside.
Down at ground level things can be busy too. Busloads of tourists snap photos of the tree where the last Ming Dynasty emperor and his eunuch hung themselves to avoid execution by the approaching Shun army.
But this park is also beloved by many as a gathering spot for community performances. Particularly on weekend mornings, slightly older people come out to recite kuai ban, sing, and play music to appreciative crowds. It's not touristy at all, but it's definitely something that guests of Beijing should see.
In many western countries, the elderly are almost invisible. In Beijing they happily throw themselves into the spotlight. Even after a spectacular sunset, the festivities continue. The nighttime crowd moves in, pulling sound systems of varying quality. Folks gather into the gang of their choice, ballroom dancing or busting out the choreography to early '90s techno.
Think about it: crowds of middle-aged and elderly folk dancing to the sounds of synthesizers and drum machines, in the heart of China's capital. Perhaps this is the natural progression from the early London and Manchester rave scenes. Or perhaps it's not. It's somehow quintessential China, and it's nothing less than amazing.
Location: Just north of the Forbidden City, Jingshan Front Street.
Admission: 2 yuan, except during special events
Opening hours: 6:00 – 21:30