Fragrant Hills Park

Fragrant Hill Park

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Fragrant Hill Park is close to the Temple of Azure Clouds, this park is set in a belt of hills northwest Beijing, about 40 minutes’ drive away. Western Hills, as the area is also called, was long a favorite retreat of the emperors. In the 12th century when it was a royal hunting park, the landscape was considered so picturesque that the hills came to be designated as one of the Eight Great Scenes of Yanjing. Witch the addition of a resort palace in the reign of Kangxi, its attractions further increased until the park reached the peak of its splendor in the 18th century.

Roads fan out from the main east-facing gate. To the left is the Fragrant Hills Hotel, a recent construction. Many of the old beauty spots still remain, however, most notably at the northern end of the park. One can reach this part by encoring through the north gate from the direction of the Temple of Azure Clouds. Crossing Spectacles Lake ( Yanjinghu) one comes to the Stocky of Self-knowledge (JianYinzliai),a 16th-century garden with a circular pool, enclosed by a rounded wall and promenade and shielded by clumps of trees on three sides. To the south of it are the remains of Zhaomiao, a Tibetan-style temple erected in the Qianlong period, as well as an ornamental archway and a pagoda roofed in yellow glazed tiles, with bells dangling from its eaves. There is now a cable car.

The name Fragrant Hills probably derives from the two slabs of stone-shaped like incense burners-on top of the highest peak at the western extremity of the park. The wisps of mist clinging to the summit resemble puffs of scented smoke coming from the incense burners at the top. But the park is famous above all for its autumn aspect. The blaze of red on the hillsides when the leaves of the Huanglu smoke tree (sometimes referred to as maple) are turning is a sight much celebrated in poetry and painting

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