Taoranting, Park of Ecstasy
By Shida Zhu (Beijing Today)
Updated: 2004-04-13 09:53
The site of today's Taoranting Park was the eastern urban district of the capital, Dadu, of the Jin Dynasty and imperial brick kilns during the Ming and Qing dynasties.
During the Yuan, Ming and Qing, court officials and rich men built their private gardens there. Jiang Zao, the Minister of Industry during the reign of Emperor Kangxi, who was in charge of the brick kilns, built three houses at the Zibei Temple (the Temple of Mercy) south of the kiln. He named the compound "Taoranting" (the Garden of Ecstasy) after famous Tang poet Bai Juyi’s poem:
When the chrysanthemums turn yellow and wine is made,
Lo! my dear friend,
Let’s drink to our heart’s content and be drunken away
The site that covered the Black Dragon Pond the east, Dragon Spring Temple in the west, Nanheng Street in the north and the city wall in the south later became an attraction for tourists from far away and those scholars who came to the nation’s capital for imperial civil examinations.
Most famous at the site was the Plum Garden northeast of the Garden of Ecstasy and northwest of the Black Dragon Pond. Scholars and literati of the Ming and Qing dynasties often came there to drink wine and compose poems. Cao Zhenji, a poet of the Qing, once sang of the garden:
When the plum has not yet come to bloom,
I invite friends to come;
The leaves falling like in dreams,
We toast under the pine tree.
Northwest of the Garden of Ecstasy was an ancient garden, the Garden of the Fengs, built in 1122, the sixth year of the reign of Emperor Tianfu of the Jin Dynasty and declined in 1722, the 61st year of the reign of Emperor Kangxi. Though it decayed, some of the ancient pine trees still stood, attracting many a poet.
At Nanbanjie Hutong on Nanheng Street was the Garden of Ease, locally dubbed the Seven-Building Garden, the private garden of Yan Song, a high-ranking official of the Ming Dynasty and later Wang Xi, a great court official and scholar of the Qing. The garden covered the most part of the street and transcended over the southern, western and northern parts of the city.
Most outstanding of the garden’s sights was the grotesque formation of Taihu Lake rocks designed by Zhang Ran of Huating. Zhang Ran desiged the rock formations at such famous imperial gardens as the Yingtai at Zhongnanhai, Changchunyuan (later the Summer Palace) and Yuquan Hill.
Northwest of the Garden of Ecstasy and southeast of the Dragon Spring Temple was an ancient temple called Longzhuahuai noted for two Dragon Claw Chinese scholar trees.
The current earthen mound on the north of today's Taoranting Park was the site of an imperial kiln called Blac Kiln. It made ordinary bricks and tiles for the building of imperial palaces during the reign of Emperor Yongle of the Ming. As feudal emperors who had superstitious ideas about fengshui forbade excavation of soil for brick making in the imperial city proper, the kiln had to get its soil from the sandy hill.
In the 281 years from the 18th year of the reign of Emperor Yongle of the Ming to the 33rd year of the reign of Emperor Kangxi of the Qing, the hill had almost been leveled. Officials in charge of the imperial kiln built a temple there for the worship of the God of Fire.
Today’s Taoranting Park still retains many ancient traces. On the goud-shaped islet in between the Eastern and the Western lakes stands the Temple of Mercy, built on a raised rocky platform during the Yuan Dynasty. The temple is a standard traditional quadrangle (sihe) courtyard with pavilions on the east, south, west and north. The western and northern pavilions each had three rooms. The western pavilion was the original Taoranting.
During the reign of Emperor Kangxi of the Qing Dynasty, the Black Kiln was still in operation and there were two supervisors, one Manchurian and one Han. The Han supervisor was Jiang Zao, a native of Hanyang, Hubei province, a Minister of Industry of the court. He was a poet and calligraphic master.
At the gate of the temple was a calligraphic work in gold of Taoran by Jiang Zao and on the temple wall were inset with a rock carving, “Ode to Taoranting” that sang in the last two verses:
Sorry that I'm not a painter
To draw a picture of listening to the cascading spring
In deep Autumn night.
The temple wall was also inset with the calligraphic work “Urban Forest” by Wang Yushu.
Southwest of the gourd-shaped islet was a two-storied pavilion, respectively named Cloud-painted Tower and Pure-sound Chamber. The pavilion, built during the reign of Emperor Qianlong of the Qing, was originally at the eastern bank of Nanhai, the southern lake. Zhou Enlai suggested moving the pavilion out of Nanhai to Taoranting Park in 1954.
On January 18, 1920, Mao Zedong met with his revolutionary friend Deng Zhongxia, a member of the Fu Society, at the Temple of Mercy. In the late Qing Dynasty, Kang Youwei, Liang Qichao and Tan Sitong, scholars who attempted to wring a reform copying the West within the framework of the feudal rule, often gathered here for secret meetings.
Members of the Young Chinese Society, an organization under the leadership of Li Dazhao, one of the founders of the Chinese Communist Party, had meetings here in absolute secrecy. On August 20, 1920, representatives of the Tianjin Society of Awakening, led by Zhou Enlai, and the Young Chinese Society of Beijing had a joint conference to consolidate their solidarity.
According to legend, on the mound in the northeast of Taoranting there was a grave of a “fragrant beauty” of the Ming. The beauty was a famous courtesan who was mared to a man called Yinchuan at the age of 16. Yinchuan’s first wife, a hot-tempered woman, bullied her incessantly and she died of melancholy. Some feet away there was another grave of parrots.
The legend says that a Cantonese official who was recalled by the emperor to Beijing brought with him a white-feathered parrot that could recite some Tang poems. When the parrot died, the sad Cantonese official buried the bird here. As a matter of fact, the graves only contained the ink-brushes and manuscripts of poetry buried by one man who had repeatedly failed the official civil examinations.
Now, there is a grave of Gao Junyu, a labor movement agitator during the period of the Northern Warlords, who died at the age of 30. The grave stone is inscribed with a poem by his girlfriend Shi Pingmei:
I'm the sword,
I'm the fire,
I will live like a lightning,
Die like a fleeting star.
The couple were buried in the grave when Shi Pingmei died.
|The Taoranting Park is located to the north of Beijing's Southern Railway Station in the southern part of the city. A former location for literati to get together, while most of Beijing's gardens were reserved only for imperial families during the Qing Dynasty, it gained its name from a poem by the Tang Dynasty poet Bai Juyi.|
The park has a lake with many pavilions scattered around its bank. It is popular with residents and visitors for walking and boating.
Taoranting Park, also named Joyful Park, is situated in the southeastern part of Beijing's Xuanwu District. It has an area of 59 hectares (around 146 acres), of which 17 hectares (42 acres) is covered by water. As a historical and cultural park, Taoranting Park is a mixture of ancient construction styles and modern park design. It is also one of the first national tourist sites of AAAA level.
Taoran Ting (Taoran Pavilion) is the best known spot within Taoranting Park and is also from where the park gets its name. Taoran Ting is listed as one of China's four famous historical pavilions, together with Aiwan Pavilion in Changsha, Zuiweng Pavilion in Chuzhou, and Huxin Pavilion in Hangzhou. It was built in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) and enjoyed great fame at that time. Scholars often frequented this pavilion, gathering there reciting and composing poetry and essays, or just to relax, admiring the beauty of the moon. After the foundation of People's Republic of China, it was rebuilt and since then has been greatly enjoyed by Beijing citizens.
Taoran Pavilion is part of Cibei Temple (Mercy Temple). Mercy Temple is seated on the southwest of the island which is in the center of one of the park's lakes and was built more than 700 years ago in the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368). It is not only a scenic spot but also a museum containing many cultural relics. Within the temple, the history of the park is explained; stele inscriptions are exhibited and more amazingly, some stone scripture pillars of the Liao Dynasty (916-1125) and the Jin Dynasty (1115-1234) are displayed, which date back to more than 900 years ago.
The China Garden of Famous Pavilions has been dubbed 'The Garden of Gardens' and opened to the public in 1985. The park contains 36 pavilions in total, of which ten are full sized replicas of famous pavilions in China such as Orchid Pavilion, Canglang Pavilion,Duxing and Zuiweng Pavilions and so on from ten cities covering six provinces. These pavilions were arranged in such harmonious balance with the scenery that visitors will lose themselves within the beauty of their setting.
Visitors can entertain and refresh themselves either in the Mini Golf Center or at Water Wonder Land and see the Peacock, China Rose, and Deer Gardens and so on as well.
Admission Fee: RMB 2
Opening Hours: 07:10 to 20:30
Time for a Visit: 45 minutes
Bus Route: 40, 59, 819, 102, 122, 106, 20