Beijing's parks a window into everyday life

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Lakeside pavilions at Beihai Park [Photo by Bruce Connolly/]

Beijing is a city of parks. Some of the larger ones were once dynastic royal gardens; others were altars where annual ceremonies were once held.

Today they represent a major asset for the city and its people. Very popular, particularly at weekends, they are excellent areas to watch everyday life. There is always much to see, listen to or take photographs of.

Ditan Park, north of Yonghegong (Lama Temple) is centered around the former Altar of the Earth. It is famed for its annual temple fairs. Today, mostly a local park, Ditan draws many people to relax, exercise, meet friends, make music and more. Frequently one can see impromptu 'orchestras' of local musicians, and admire the passion in their performances.

In contrast to Ditan is Beihai Park. North of the Forbidden City, it is based around a vast lake above which rises an iconic white pagoda. The waters are part of an extensive, manmade lake system, dating back to the 12th century Yuan Dynasty. It is famed for its classical architecture featuring secluded gardens, temples and pavilions. Beihai attracts people from across the city. Many enjoy walking around the shores of the lake or boating on the water. Others see it as an excellent backdrop for photography or a place to dance.

Both parks provide excellent environments for locals and visitors to relax and exercise.

A visit to Beijing's parks is highly recommended. They provide insight into the lives of the city's people and opportunities to capture some great images featuring iconic aspects of everyday Beijing.

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