Beihai Park (Běihǎi Gōngyuán, 北海公园) lies just to the west of the Forbidden City and until 1925, it was considered part of the imperial complex and therefore off-limits to the masses.
The heart of the park consists of three man-made lakes: Beihai (Běihǎi, 北海), Zhonghai (Zhōnghǎi, 中海) and Nanhai (Nánhǎi, 南海). The lakes are connected by the Jade Islet (Qióng Dǎo, 琼岛) which, along with the lakes, was created during the Jin Dynasty (1115-1234 AD), although the site's history as an imperial playground goes back even further to the Liao Dynasty (907-1125 AD).
The 75 hectare (186 acre) park has a number of excellent sights (some of which require an additional entrance fee), including the Yuan-era Jade Jar of Dushan (Dúshān Dà Yùhǎi, 渎山大玉海) within the Round City (Tuán Chéng, 团城), the striking Tibetan-style White Dagoba (Bái Tǎ, 白塔), the Nine Dragon Screen (Jiǔ Lóng Bì, 九龙壁), Western Paradise Hall (Xītiān Fànjìng, 西天梵境), Yong'an Temple (Yǒng'ān Sì, 永安寺) and the Five-Dragon Pavilion (Wǔlóng Tíng, 五龙亭).
Kublai Khan, the first Yuan emperor, made Tuan Cheng his home, and with the advance of the Ming Dynasty, the Forbidden City became the center of imperial life, with Beihai serving as a pleasure garden.
The majority of the existing structures date back to the Qing era, including the distinctive White Dagoba.
Paddle and rowboat rentals are available and Beihai is also a popular destination for ice-skating in the winter.
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