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Daguanyuan Gardens: Still Dreaming of the Red Chamber
   2014-06-11 09:10:00    CRIENGLISH.com      Web Editor: Luo Chun

The literary character Xue Baochai is depicted in one of Daguanyuan Park's great halls. [Photo: CRIENGLISH.com/William Wang]

By William Wang

Beijing is dotted with parks of all shapes and sizes, and one that often slips off the radar is Daguanyuan (Grand View Garden), a quietly quintessential Qing Dynasty-styled oasis of still waters, arched bridges and traditional buildings.

The park is apparently a full-size reconstruction based on the garden described in the book Beyond the Red Chamber. For Chinese literature, Cao Xueqin's Dream of the Red Chamber is a cultural touchstone: a Qing Dynasty epic where reality and illusion pair up to explore personal love and relationships upon a background of a decaying family fortune. CCTV later used the park as the backdrop for its television series based on the novel.

The park packs a lot into its almost 13 hectares of space. Over 40 buildings and courtyards are squeezed in, representing an impressive amount of locales from the book. Many of the buildings contain effigies playing out scenes from the book, and plaques offering explanations (in Chinese).

Basking in the garden's quiet ambiance can immerse you in times long past. But not too long past: the park was only opened up in 1984.

Standing on its own merits, the park is definitely a pleasant one. It manages to avoid much of the tourist rush at other spots, and aided by its higher-than-average entrance fee, it can offer a more tranquil experience.

For those in search of a little entertainment, traditional performances are held 15:00 on weekends and holidays at the Grand View Pavilion.

Entrance Fee: 40 rmb

Getting there: Taoranting is the closest subway station, but a short taxi ride would be needed to complete the journey.

Address: 12 Nancaiyuanjie, Xicheng District.

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