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Deer, wetlands and greenery - in Beijing!

Photo: Yin Yeping

Photo: Yin Yeping 



 

Rejoice, green park lovers (especially those living in Daxing district): Now you no longer have to rely on the beautiful Olympic Forest Park for your verdant needs. As of September 26, reconstruction work at Nanhaizi Park was officially completed after eight months and 600 million yuan ($89 million), and now lays claim to being the city's largest urban wetland at 7.86 square kilometers, including 0.3 square kilometers of lakeland, 1.5 square kilometers of grassland and 200,000 trees.

Wildlife lovers can ascend observation towers equipped with powerful telescopes to watch the herds of milu (a Chinese deer similar to elk) whose descendants have now been repopulated in the ancient wetlands. It's a far cry indeed from the former garbage incinerators whose millions of cubic meters of waste once blighted the park, contaminating this beautiful environment with landfill. The construction waste was smashed into pieces and used to fill the hills in the new park.

But while wildlife will soon hopefully once again become a familiar part of the landscape here, some old traditions will be left to history. Liu Chunqi, the director of the Landscape and Forestry bureau of Daxing district, said Nanhaizi was formerly used as a hunting park for royalty in the Liao, Jin, Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties, as well as a training area for soldiers.

During the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), this place was designated as one of the 10 famous beautiful scenes of the city for its sprawling wetlands. "Around 12 emperors in the Ming and Qing dynasties came here for hunting or just relaxing," said Liu. In Qing times, a number of palaces and temples were built, one after another. Nanhaizi became a place for emperors to inspect the royal troops of the Eight Banners. "Also here, the Emperor Shunzhi and Qianlong respectively held meetings with the fifth Dalai Lama and sixth Panchen Lama," added Liu. This place was so highly appreciated that about four xinggong (seasonal residences for imperial families to escape the Forbidden City) were established here.

 

At the end of the Qing dynasty, the Yongding River flooded the area, resulting in massive losses to the indigenous wildlife population, including the milu. Around the same time, in 1900, the Eight-Power Allied Forces further laid waste to the area and hunted many of the remaining animals.

But the reconstruction of the park should hopefully lay to rest the hurtful memories of those troubling times. Walking into it from the south gate, I saw a vast lake with an island providing shelter for birds. A bird skimmed across the water - was it an egret? Hopefully this was one of many creatures making a return to this once-bountiful area, and National Day tourists will feel a surge of proud to see so much of the original environment start to be regained (albeit with an inevitable modern Chinese park style). Foreigners will certainly applaud and admire the rebirth of a park as well.

The project is part of an environmental remaking of South Beijing, to include subways, medical care, shanty town reconstruction and ecological transformation.

Address: On the cross road between Jiuzhong Lu and Huangyi Lu, Daxing district