BEIHAI Park

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July 29, Sunday morning, teaching assistant Renjie, IPRO instructor Dan and two friends, Erik and Cecilia, decided to go to Beihai park in Beijing. This is a public park and and former imperial garden. This park features the White Pagoda (a.k.a. the White Dagoba) situated on Jade Flower Island. Several Buddhist temples are here and the Nine Dragon Wall is here as well.

Any architecture I have seen in and around Beijing (if not modern) is all of the appearance of the Qing Dynasty, 1644 to 1912 AD. This is true for nearly the all Buddhist structures I have come across as well. Even my hotel has a faux Qing Dynasty roof and decoration.

Our friends Erik and Cecilia join us for our adventure on this day. Cecilia is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University’s design program and is part of an active community of designers in Beijing.

The White Pagoda is 40 meters high and is placed on the highest point of Jade Flower Island. This Buddhist stupa is of the Tibetan style and offers a refreshing change in the landscape.

Beihai Park is a popular recreational site in Beijing. Many people come to stroll and dance. I have heard the “Beer Barrel Polka” and other tunes familiar to Western ears.  Cecilia tells me retirees come here to “square dance”. It is quite charming to watch. I did, however, discover a large (or rather small) problem for the country right here in Beihai Park. It seems that the kids here are far, far too cute! This little one seems to grasp the function and utility of a parasol. Cute and smart I would say!

The dragon is the symbol of the Emperor and is understandably prevalent in the Beihai imperial garden.

This is a ceremonial incense burner. They are found in the courtyards of the temples.

Cecilia’s beads are made from the ashes of such incense burners and then covered in a hard enamel. Her beads are from Tibet and are somewhat rare.

I have seen such sweepers all over Beijing. The style of broom is consistent, and kind of beautiful when seen up close.

Nine Dragon Wall: This structure is famous here in China and is one of three such walls. It is part of the Five Dragon Pavilion and has it’s origins in the earlier Ming Dynasty. Glazed brick is used for the dragon images on the wall.

A Dragon vase

Minor Western Heaven

Minor Western Heaven hall was built by Emperor Qianlong in 1768-70 to honor his mother’s birthday and pray for her happiness and longevity. The hall is surrounded by water making it an island.

Cecilia tells me that many things were damaged in China’s Cultural Revolution and had to be rebuilt. A few surviving artifacts have survived from that period and are housed in this museum.

Ancient Buddhist tile work

Ancient artifacts and architectural decoration

Many sculptures are made from the idea of compositing parts of different animals. The idea is to combine the virtues of each animal into a lucky totem.

Apparently, this is a combination of turtle and dragon.

This stone appears to  have it’s design origins in Tibet or India, and yet it does contain dragons so it must have been meant for Chinese culture.

We recognize this symbol as the ancient swastika. Today it remains a symbol of divinity and spirituality in many places of the world. It was briefly corrupted by the Nazi’s (it’s direction changed) to represent something entirely different, a symbol genetic superiority, in the middle 20th century.

The steps leading to the White Pagoda

The White Pagoda, or Degoba, is impressive to see. I’ll note that the closer you are to the pagoda the less you are able to see it. I wonder if there was something intentional about that.

This is the structure that sits right in front of the White Pagoda. It is covered in beautiful, glazed tile work. We wish to thank Erik and Cecilia for being our guides to Beihai Park on this day and for offering insights into many of the sights in the park.

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