A trip to Fragrant Hills in Summer and Autumn
Beijing has so many places to visit at any time of the year but a trip out to Fragrant Hills, which is about a forty minute drive out of Beijing, is well worth the visit any time – maybe not so much in winter but definitely any other time.
I went to visit the first time during summer with some friends and we took a picnic and sat near a small waterfall and relaxed. It was a really nice couple of hours but I knew I had to go back to see the leaves of the ginkgo, persimmon and red smoke trees in autumn.
The park was first built in the Jin Dynasty and later extended to a larger scale in the Yuan and Ming dynasties when new pavilions and gardens were added. In 1860 and 1900 after the Summer Palace and the Yuanming Yuan (the Old Summer Palace) were set on fire, lots of relics in the Fragrant Hills were damaged by foreign troops.
The whole area has since been refurbished and it is said that the red smoke trees over the mountains are some of the most spectacular in Beijing. So when autumn arrives the red smoke leaves blanket the mountain which look amazing.
There are two ways to get to the top of the mountain; walk or cable car. I decided (like I always did whenever I had the option of walk or cable car) on the cable car as the steps looked incredibly steep. But I must say the cable car ride was rather scary as it was an open car and that ride up was also incredibly steep.
Smoke trees are a Eurasian shrub or small tree which bears feathery plumes of purple or reddish flowers and fruit, giving it a smoky appearance.
The Ginkgo tree or the Ginkgo biloba, is renowned worldwide for its medicinal properties. This remarkable tree is known as a ‘living fossil’, as it is the sole survivor of an ancient group of trees that date back to beyond the time of the dinosaurs.
(information on trees from dictionary – Google search).
The best season to view the yellow and red leaves is autumn which is best from mid October to early November. There is also a Fragrant Hill Red Autumnal Leaves Festival during the same period where you can view the leaves and also go along to see cultural exhibition. As I went very early one autumn morning to avoid crowds, arriving 8am, I didn’t stay for any cultural exhibitions as by the time I was departing around 10am, thousands and thousands of visitors were arriving at the park.
There are also many other sites to see apart from the trees and leaves. I only had the opportunity to visit one, which was during my summer visit, and that is the Bright Temple which is a large Tibetan style lamasery complex built in 1780. It was built as the residence for the sixth Panchen Lama during his visits to the Qianlong Emperor.
As usual lots of stairs to climb to the top of the temple but worth it for the views.
I was told after I had visited Fragrant Hills on my wo occasions, that I should have gone to see Shuangqing Villa, which was once the residence of Chairman Mao as well as an early site for the headquarters of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party. Unfortunately I did not…but for me seeing the leaves in autumn made my visit very worthwhile as I could take some nice photos to remind me of my visit.
It was also worthwhile for me to see a cute little dog and rather lazy cat who lived in one of the houses just outside the park.
And..I know space is at a minimum around Beijing for parking vehicles but I think this driver is probably one of the most capable to manage to get his/her car into this tiny garage …and as my photo below shows, the car has been there for some time…owner probably can’t get it out!!