Fragrant Hills Park (Xiangshan Park)

Map of Fragrant Hills Park
Map of Fragrant Hills Park
Situated in the east part of Western Hills, 17 miles (28 kilometers) northwest of Beijing City, Fragrant Hills Park is very large, made up of hills and forest covering 400 acres (162 hectares). Both its natural sceneries and cultural relics are abundant. Xianglu Peak, literally Incense Burner Peak, 1,830 feet (558 meters) high, is its highest peak.

Fragrant Hills Park, aka Xiangshan Park, was first built in 1186 in the Jin Dynasty (1115-1234) and later expanded in the Yuan and Ming dynasties. In 1745, Emperor Qianlong (1711-1799) ordered the addition of many new halls, pavilions and gardens and gave it a new name, Jingyi Garden, meaning a Garden of Tranquility and Pleasure. Unfortunately, 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. Since 1949, with a half-century's restoration and development by Chinese government, it has been recognized as one of the ten most famous parks in Beijing.

The most spectacular natural scenery in the Fragrant Hills Park is the red smoke tree leaves over the mountains. When autumn arrives, fiery red leaves blanket the entire mountain. Every year, thousands of tourists come to it. The cable cars are a great way to take in the beautiful scenes.
Fragrant Hills Park
Xiangshan Park
Visitors may take two main routes to explore the park. The first one is to go along the north route, where visitors will see Spectacles Lake (Yanjing Lake), Study of Reading Heart (Jianxin Zhai), Bright Temple (Zhao Miao), etc. Spectacles Lake is a lake divided half by a bridge. Study of Reading Heart was built in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and was noted as the park inside it. Bright Temple is a large Tibetan style lamasery complex built in 1780 as the residence for the sixth Panchen Lama during his visits to Emperor Qianlong. Buildings in the complex have partially been burned down. Among the surviving treasures are a majestic glazed-tiled archway in front of the complex, a Tibetan style terrace and a glazed-tiled pagoda. Bells hung on the eaves of the pagoda chime in breeze.

Another route leads to the south area of Fragrant Hills Park. Main attractions along the route include Tranquility Green Lake (Jingcui Lake), Shuangqing Villa, Fragrant Temple, Xianglu Peak, etc. This route is a little hard for the highest peak, Xianglu Peak. However it is worthwhile to try. One of the 'must see' points of interest is the Shuangqing Villa, which is attractive not for its natural beauty but more for its place in Chinese history - it was once the residence of Chairman Mao Zedong as well as an early sight for the headquarters of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party. The alluring beauty of it for you to appreciate all it has to offer.
 
Red Leaves
Red Leaves

This hill is one the most famous places in China to see the red leaves. Red Leaves Festival is held every Mid-October to early November. That is the busiest time of it. Travelers had better go there in week days to avoid great number of visitors in the weekends.
 

Best places to see red leaves:

 Tranquility Green Lake - Walk 5 minutes from the east gate, you will arrive at the lakeside. It is the nearest from the entrance. The lake area is surrounded by hills in three directions, so, you need to find a good point of view to see and take pictures.
 Best time to see red leaves: circa October 25 - November 9

 Fragrant Hills Temple (Xiangshan Temple)
The temple is in the south hill foot close to Shuangqing Villa. First built in Tang Dynasty, the temple is the origin of Fragrant Hill's culture. Be cautious of many steps in this area. 
 Best time to see red leaves: circa October 18 - November 2

 Heshun Gate:
It is on the south hillside, 980 feet (300m) above the ground. It is close to the red leave trees. 
 Best time to see red leaves: circa October 25 - November

 Yuhua Xiu:
This is the largest flat area in it and the road to it from the east gate is even, within 20 minutes' walk along the middle road. There is broad field of vision. 
 Best Time to see red leaves: October 18 - November 4

 Xiangwu Ku (literally Fragrant Mist Cave)
It has classical garden environment on the hillside. It takes over half an hour to climb up to this place.  
 Best time to see red leaves: October 15 - November 4
 

Recommended red leaves watching routes:

Biyun Temple
Biyun Temple

 Route 1: East gate - Jingcui Lake - Shuangqing Villa - Xiangshan Temple - Heshun Gate - hill top
 Tips: The route takes about two hours. Need to climb up the hill. 

 Route 2: East gate - Yuhua Xiu - Xiangwu Ku - hill top
 Tips: This is a meek route and suitable for family going together. 

 Route 3: North gate - cable car station - hill top
 Tips: It is 5 minutes' walking distance from the north gate southward to the cable car. By cable, you can get to the hill top nearly 20 minutes later. You can have a bird-eye view of Temple of Azure Clouds (Biyun Temple) and overlook the red leaves afar. 
 

How to get there

 By Subway:
Take Subway Line 4 and get off at Beigongmen Station. Get out from Exit A and transfer to bus 563 to Xiangshan Gongyuan Dongmen (east gate of the Fragrant Hills Park) Station. Visitors can also take bus 331 from Beihongmen Subway Station to Xiangshan (Fragrant Hills) Station.
 By Bus:
1. Take bus 563 to Xiangshan Gongyuan Dongmen Station.
2. Take bus 318, 331, 360, 630, or 698 and get off at Xiangshan Station.
 Beijing Bus / Subway Search 

Admission Fee
Apr. 1 to Nov. 15: CNY 10
Nov. 16 to Mar. 31: CNY 5
Temple of Azure Clouds CNY 10
Combo Ticket (the park + Temple of Azure Clouds) Apr. 1 to Nov. 15: CNY 15
Nov. 16 to Mar. 31: CNY 14
Cable Car (available from 9:30 to 16:30) CNY 60 for single trip; CNY 20 for children below 3.9 feet (1.2m)
Opening Hours
Apr. 1 - Jun. 30: 06:00 to 18:30
Jul. 1 - Aug. 31: 06:00 to 19:00
Sep. 1 - Nov. 15: 06:00 to 18:30
Nov. 16 - Mar. 31: 06:00 to 18:00

 Suggested Itineraries:
Beijing 1-Day Tour: to Fragrant Hills Park - Botanical Garden - Wofo Temple
Cycling from Fuxing Gate to Fragrant Hills: starting from Military Museum to Botanical Garden and Fragrant Hills Park
More Beijing Tours

 Neighboring Attractions:
Botanical Garden
Wofo Temple (Temple of Recumbent Buddha)
Badachu Park