Beijing plans to build 800 parks in the city, bringing the total number of parks to 960 by 2008, said officials at the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Parks and Woods.
"The parks in the city have developed very fast in the past five years," said Jing Changshun, division chief of the bureau.
There are currently 160 parks in Beijing, the largest number of city parks in the country, Jing said. In the early 1980's, there were only 42 parks in the city.
According to statistics, major parks in the city see 110 million tourists every year.
Popular parks like the Temple of Heaven and Jingshan Park, open at sunrise and are quickly filled with many Beijingers who practice dancing or Tai Chi.
One retired sports official said he refused to move house because he can't leave his neighborhood park. He lives close to the Temple of Heaven and has been doing excises there for years.
"The demand by the residents for parks is the motivating force behind the planned development of more parks," Jing said.
While Beijing has the most number of parks in the country, the per capita park space is only 3 square meters and is unequally scattered, experts said.
In London for example, residents have a per capita park space of 24.5 square meters and Parisians have 13.8 square meters.
Paid parks in Beijing account for 40 percent of the city's total parks, Jing said.
More than 60 percent of the parks in Beijing will be free to the city residents in future, he added.
The Beijing Municipal People's Congress passed a law to protect, preserve and develop parks in the nation's capital last Thursday.
The law outlines the need to preserve historical and cultural sites and develop small and medium-sized community parks.
The law also stipulates that certain activities cannot take place at ancient parks to preserve their historical significance and original style.
(China Daily October 24, 2002)