Taoranting Park

Taoranting Park(Joyous Pavilion Park) lies in the south of the Outer City, near the Temple of the Creator of Agriculture. It has earned its nation-wide reputation since the end of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). However, the place was by no means a scenic spot. It owed its fame to the fact that earlier, the best scenic areas and hill pavilions were largely inaccessible to the public, and men of letters .gathered here for relaxation because it was virtually the only available spot of that kind. In the Qing Dynasty, when autumn came, many scholars would come to this elevated ground to drink wine and write poems. For common people, such an elevated place to view the city from was almost unattainable elsewhere. In the first place, their buildings were not allowed to be built higher than the palace edifices; secondly, most of the natural elevations of the city were possessed by the imperial family. Within the compound of the park, the high spot where the Cibei’an (Temple of Mercy) built in the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) was situated was therefore much sought after. It was surrounded by water on three sides, and that was considered to be enough to make a lovely landscape. The beauty of the place was greatly exaggerated by the cultivated pens of the scholars who were in Beijing for civil examinations, and by other men of letters bringing it an undeserved reputation.
As far back as in the Warring States Period (475-221 B.C), the area was inhabited by working people. Many relics of that period were dug out in 1953 while the pond was dredged and deepened. About 800years ago in the Liao Dynasty, this spot was the eastern suburb. It was crisscrossed by ditches and streams, a common pattern in southern China. On the southwest tip of the land that pushes out into the centre of a reed-filled pond is a hill, the site of the Temple of Mercy built in the Yuan Dynasty (1271 – 1368).  Two stone pillars still stand, one erected in the Liao Dynasty, and the other in the Jin Dynasty (1115-1234). In the Ming and Qing dynasties, kilns for making bricks and tiles were built here, and the present Yaotai (Kiln Terrace) was the site of these kilns. In 1695, Jiangzao, secretary of the Board of Works of the Qing court, built a 3-room wing west of this old temple, and named it Taoranting (Joyous Pavilion), after the poem by Bai Juyi, a famous poet of the Tang Dynasty:
When chrysanthemums are in bloom and our homebrew is ready, let’s enjoy them together.
In later ages, the people adopted this name for the entire area. The place was so neglected, however, that on the eve of liberation in 1949 it was no more than a dirty muddy hole choked with reeds. Many tourists were under the impression that there had been a gorgeous pavilion, but this was not the case, for in former times, the word tirig had various other meanings besides “pavilion.” At one time in Chinese history, there was an order calling for the construction of a small house every five kilometres to provide travellers with a place to rest. The structures so erected were called ting, word denoting practically any small-sized building used for resting purposes. This 3-room building in the park has been repaired many times. It is now a tea-house.
The slab which bears Jiangzao’s handwriting is still set in the wall of one of the rooms, and another tablet also made from his handwriting, bearing the characters “Taoran,” is placed on top of the gate to the temple.
In 1952, the People’s Government had this muddy pond dredged and made into a lake of about 19 hectares in area, in which fish are bred to supply the market. The earth that was dug from the lake was used to make seven hillocks, on which small look-out pavilions were erected.  Thousands of square metres of turf have been laid in the camp-pound and flowers now vie with trees and shrubs to offer tourists the charm of the park.
The Joyous Pavilion Park was at one time a centre of revolutionary activities, for Comrade Li Dazhao rented one of the three side-rooms of the Temple of Mercy while he-was in Beijing working to further the revolution and many meetings were held here.
Nowadays, the park has become a true scenic spot.

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