A Sweater-Weather Morning in Beihai Park
"Hey, why is it named 北海 if it's not part of the ocean?"
The air was chilly, the sun was nowhere to be found, and weather forecasts predicted light drizzles of rain — basically, our visit to Beihai last Saturday couldn't have had a worse start. Well, despite the unfriendly weather, our buses still set off to Beihai Park (北海公园) a few minutes before 8AM.
The first thing I noticed as we entered Beihai's South Gate was that there were so many locals! I had thought that Beihai would be empty because the weather was unfitting for a visit to a park; but boy, was I wrong. We encountered small groups of elders who preoccupied the vacant areas to do taiji exercises, some preschool children who went on a school trip, and families who took pictures here and there.
As we were crossing one of the many bridges on Beihai's lake, a friend of mine asked out of curiosity, "Why is this park called 北海 anyway? Is this lake part of the northern ocean?" We all laughed at her question, but it was actually very smart of her to ask!
Yes, the word "北" means "north", but do you know that the word "海" can actually mean "a big lake"? Well, I didn't. Hence, the name "北海" can literally be translated as "the big lake on the north"!
Based off pure curiosity, I took upon myself to dig deeper about the history behind Beihai Park. Apparently, besides it being a park containing the city's largest lake and a landmark white Tibetan lamaist-styled pagoda, Beihai is the capital's oldest Imperial garden, with a history dating to 800 years back! Besides the previously mentioned pagoda, Beihai is also the home of the Five Dragon Pavilions, the Nine Dragon Scene and the Jingxin Study — all of which we unfortunately did not get to see.
It really was a shame that the overall situation and weather wasn't very fitting for us to stroll for longer and see more of the hidden beauties in this history-filled Beihai Park. Hopefully we'll be lucky enough to get some sunshine and a nicer breeze on our next school trip!
by Aurelia Xaviera