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Fragrant Hills Park

fragrant-hill-park01The Fragrant Hills Park (Xiangshan gongyuan)is located 20 kilometers northwest of Beijing and not far from the Summer Palace. The name of the park derives not from the fresh air or aroma in the area, but in the shape of the hills themselves. If you look close enough you can just make out the shape of an incense burner at the peak of the hills.

fragrant-hill-parkThe feudal Emperors of ancient China had on lack of places to rest, play and retreat to. One more place on this long list of Imperial Recreational Grounds is the Fragrant Hills. Situated 28 kilometers northwest of Beijing, the Fragrant Hills are the tail end of the larger Western Hills range.

In the 12th century the area was a royal hunting park. Its focal point is Incense Burner Peak, 557 meters above sea level and named for the huge rock on top of the mountain that supposedly resembles an incense burner. You can climb to the top, or take a cable car up. As early as 1186 there was a temple here, and in 1745 the Garden of Tranquillity and Pleasure(Jingyiyuan)was laid out around the hill.

One popular thing to do in Beijng is to go the Fragrant Hills in autumn, when the leaves of the trees on the mountains are a blaze of red and yellow. However, it is so crowded at this time that it is much more enjoyable to go in the off season.

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