Xiangshan(Fragrant Hills Park), about 30 kilometres northwest of Beijing, is one of the most favourite resorts on the city’s outskirts. It covers an area of 160 hectares.
In ll86, in the Jin Dynasty, the Fragrant Hills Temple was built and terraces, pavilions and pagodas were added by the subsequent dynasties. The area was later converted into a park and was named the Park of Tranquility and Pleasure.
Along with Yuanmingyuan twice destroyed in 1860 and in and the Summer Palace, the park was1900. The destruction was so serious that the reconstruction efforts made in the later years were never able to restore its original scale and splendour. After 1949, large-scale restoration took place and now the Fragrant Hills Park is a popular place in late autumn for holiday-makers when the maple leaves redden. The brilliant foliage is the main attraction. No one is sure where the sumac trees originated. Legend has it that a south wind carried the seeds of the red-leaf trees to Beijing. Then the seeds survived, and as years passed they grew into a lovely forest. Another story goes that the sumacs were transplanted to the area by Emperor Qianlong (1736-1795) of the Qing Dynasty. In November, the frosted leaves of these trees, along with the persimmons and maples, spread over the Fragrant Hills like a thick red blanket. For two centuries, it has been are sort for the residents in Beijing.
Major places of interest in the park include:
Spectacles Lake
Built in 1745, the Spectacles Lake actually consists of two ponds separated and spanned by a stone bridge. When the water reflects the sunlight, the twin lakes resemble a pair of spectacles, hence the name. On the shore is a small stone cave with a spring above it. The water drips down over the entrance of the cave, forming a water screen that freezes into icicles in winter.

Studio of Tranquil Heart
It was first built in mid-16th century under the Ming and was re-constructed in the Qing period. In the enclosure there is a large semi-circular pool in the shape of a heart. The studio was burned down in1860 and was renovated after liberation.

Bright Temple
Lying to the south of the Studio of Tranquil Heart, the Bright Temple was built in 1780 as a residence for the Sixth Bainqen Erdeni when he visited Beijing. The compound has a 10-metre-high red terrace in Tibetan style. It was destroyed by the Anglo-French troops in 1860.

Glazed-Tiled Pagoda
It is a 7-storey octagonal pagoda of yellow and green glazed tiles built on a stone base. Bronze bells hang from the eaves of each storey and when they ring in breeze, the pleasing tinkles break the stillness of the hills.

Jade Flowers Villa
The Jade Flowers Villa was one of the 28 sights in the park. It is now a courtyard where visitors can take a rest and have a cup of tea. It is a good spot for viewing red leaves in late autumn. North of the Villa is the Hibiscus Hall, an elegant courtyard full of flowers and shrubs.

Baisongting (The Lacebark Pine Pavilion)
The lacebark Pine Pavilion is situated to the west of the Xiangshan Temple. It is a round 6-pillar pavilion nestling amid the white-bark pine trees which stand tall and erect. It is a quiet and peaceful place.

Ruins of the Xiangshan (Fragrant Hills) Temple
Not far from the entrance stands a stone arch. It is the site of the ancient Xiangshan Temple built into the landscape in 1186. There were originally five successive halls and side chambers. In 1860 the temple was burned down by Anglo-French troops. Now only the terraces and the foundations of the buildings are left.

Banshanting (The Mid-Hill Pavilion) and Langfengting
Behind the Xiangshan Temple there is a walk which runs across a section of forest. Climbing the hills along the winding path, the visitor will come to a splendid scene. There stand half way up the hill two thatched pavilions, Banshanting and Langfengting.

Shuangqing Villa
In the southeast corner of the park is a small pool fed by two springs named Shuangqing or “Two Streams.” The water from these springs is not only clear but also rare in north China. It contains no al-kali in it.
In March 1949 when the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party was moved to Beijing, the Fragrant Hills Park became its seat. Here the late Chairman Mao and other Chinese leaders did a lot of work for the liberation of whole China and the founding of the People’s Republic of China. In November of the same year, the seat was moved to Zhongnanhai near Tian’anmen Square.

Xianglufeng (The Incense Burner Peak)
The Incense Burner “Peak is the summit of the Fragrant Hills. To its west is a precipice nicknamed the Devil Frowning Peak, which is very difficult to climb. On top of the hill is a huge piece of rock, which looks like an incense burner at a distance, so it is also named the Incense Burner Peak. It is 557 metres above sea level, the highest peak among the nearby hills. Up there, the visitor can have a magnificent view of the surrounding area.

Xiangshan (Fragrant Hills) Hotel
Xiangshan Hotel is situated at the foot of the Fragrant Hills in the western suburbs of Beijing. With 322 guest rooms, the hotel was de-signed by the world-famous Chinese-American architect L M. Pei. It was opened in early 1983. The central atrium and the main artificial garden are the most successful parts of the hotel. In the garden is a man-made lake of 1,400 square metres.
On the terrace above the lake stands a miniature “stone forest,” with weirdly shaped rocks shipped here all the way from the Stone Forest near Kunming, southwest China.

Smoke Trees
Autumn is the busiest period for the Fragrant Hills when the red leaves there always attract millions of people from China and abroad.
The Fragrant Hills have approximately 74, 000 smoke trees. When the frosty season comes, the mountain looks like a flaming cloud stretching to the sky. Legend has it that in the Qing Dynasty, Emperor Qianlong (1736-1795) had the Tranquility Garden constructed there. He visited it after the garden was completed. The Emperor felt that the garden had everything except a trace of autumn. Therefore, he ordered Liu Yong, an official in charge of gardening, to come and bring autumn with him in three days or his whole family would be beheaded.

Liu Yong felt hopeless but suddenly he got an inspiration. He handed a message -boldly to the Emperor.  The message read the autumn was in the Emperor Majesty’s command, please authorize him and tell him how to make the autumn scene there more beautiful. The Emperor was very happy and wrote three Chinese characters meaning “Forest of Splendid Autumn” in brush and a note beside the writing showed a forest of smoke trees. Liu Yong took the hint and planted a hundred smoke trees. From that time on, the northwest wind has brought the seeds to the south slope and formed the magnificent scenery of today.

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