Phoenix Hill

When you come to a big city for the first time it’s great to visit the most well-known places for a first overview of the place. Beijing Tours certainly offer a great and comfortable way to include the must sees in China’s capital on a single day trip. But to see some other spots it’s also great to go to places that are not too popular with tourists. Very often the atmosphere is totally different and locals seem to be a lot more interested and open if they are not used to crowds of foreign tourists coming every day. So if you travel to Beijing and you’re planning to see more than the main attractions you might consider spending a day away from the center.

Phoenix Hill Park (Fenghuangling) for example is a nature park about 20 kilometers northwest of Beijing and a great place to go hiking in the mountains and enjoy natural scenery. Apart from the green hills and mountains and the great view on clear days there are numerous historic spots and cultural sites of Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism. To explore this area there are different touring routes passing by caves, temples, pagodas and stone carvings on the way.

 

Located at the foot of Phoenix Range is Longquan Monastery which has a very long history. It was originally built in 951 A.D. but was nearly completely destroyed. Only the Golden Dragon Bridge, a single-arch stone bridge, and two one-thousand-year-old trees are remainders of this time. The buildings have been rebuilt after the original with the help of many volunteer workers. The monastery was officially reopened in 2005 and is since then not only an interesting place for visitors but first of all a center for Buddhist education and temple experience. For this reason there is still construction going on to add more space for classrooms.

On holidays you can participate in tea ceremonies and you even get the chance to try an original Buddhist lunch. It is separated by gender and talking is not allowed during the meals. The food is rather simple and strictly vegetarian. Although the free lunch is thought to be for Buddhists visiting the monastery even tourists who come to the area for a hike won’t be excluded from the meals.

To get a closer insight into Buddhism the monastery organizes different multilingual activities, sometimes lasting several days. These assemblies and sessions offer an opportunity to experience Buddhist life including chanting sutras, meditation training, life in the monastery, worshipping Buddha on a mountain road and others. These gatherings bring people together and lead to a spiritual journey.

If you want to go there by public transportation you can take bus no. 346 from Summer Palace with destination to Phoenix Hill (Fenghuangling) which takes about an hour. If you stay at a Beijing Hotel you can certainly ask the staff at the reception desk for directions. They might even be so nice as to write you a note in Chinese as a little help. But in general Chinese people are very helpful and even if they don’t speak English they will try their best to help you find your way.

Jack Li
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