Zhongshan Park is located to the west of Tian'anmen
Rostrum in the heart of the Inner City. It is the site of the former
Altar of Land and Grain.
Entering through the main southern entrance, one
comes to a large vestibular pavilion with long corridors running
off to the east and west. In front of the pavilion is a white marble
memorial archway erected by the Qing government to commemorate the
German Minister Baron von Kettler, who was killed during the Yihetuan
Rebellion in 1900. This archway originally stood outside the western
entrance to the Xizongbu Alley, but after Germany's defeat in World
War I, it was removed to the Zhongshan Park and inscribed with the
words "Triumph of Righteousness" (Gongli Zhansheng). After
1949 it was rein scribed in Guo Moruo's handwriting with "Defeat
the Peace"(Baowei Heping).
To the east stands a beautiful specimen of Taihu
Lake stone known as "a slice of dark clouds," which was
moved here from Yuanmingyuan. Emperor Qianlong composed its inscription.
There is a peony pond, a wisteria arbor and, to the north, a grove
of cypresses with trees said to have been planted in the Liao Dynasty
(916-1125). Seven of the trees are so large that it takes three
of four persons with arms outstretched to encircle the trunk. One
of the cypresses on the eastern side is particularly unusual, because
a scholar trees is called "the embrace of the scholar tree
and the cypress." The path that runs through the archway is
lined with umbrella-like scholar trees and verdant pines.
On the southern side of this east-west path lies
a greenhouse with fresh flowers on display all year round. Included
are 39 varieties of tulips presented to the park in 1977 by the
Princess of Holland. The eight "Orchid Pavilion" stela,
standing inside a hall nearby, are engraved in the hand of Emperor
Qianlong with the text of a famous preface to a collection of poems
entitled the Orchid Pavilion. The Pavilion Where the Rites Are Practiced
was moved to the Zhongshan Park from the Honglu Court, an office
which during the Ming and Qing dynasties. In imperial times all
officials coming to the capital to be received by the emperor for
the first time went first to the Honglu Court to learn the proper
To the south of this path there is also a display
of rare goldfish. Further south, one comes to the quietest spot
in the park, the area of the Lotus Pool, Water-side Pavilion, Pavilion
of Four Contentment and the Pavilion to Welcome the Sunshine.
On the north side of the path is the Altar of
Land and Grain. Here the landscape is particularly charming. With
the lofty Concert Hall to the east and the Health Education hall
to the west. The area is planted with numerous fruit trees, herbaceous
peonies and green lawns. A wide path through the center of the lawns
leads to the altar.
To the east of the altar is the Pavilion of the
Pines and Cypresses and a tall rockery. Footpaths lead to secluded
nooks and wind their ways to the cross-shaped Touhu Pavilion, which
takes its name from an old game of throwing arrows into a pot. South
of this building lies the Kiosk for Meeting New Friends (Laijinyuxuan)
where refreshments are sold.
To the west of the Altar of Land and Grain is
the liveliest part of the park. Here among a forest of cypress trees
stand artificial hills, thatched pavilions, a teahouse, a restaurant,
a children' s playground and an amusement park.
To the north of the altar past the Zhongshan Hall
is another copse of cypress trees, among which is a stone table
built of hollow bricks dating from the Han Dynasty. The classically
elegant designs on the old bricks are still quite distinct. The
moat (Tongzihe or Tube River) is also known as the Imperial River
(Yuhe) and is used for ice skating in the winter and boating during
the summer and autumn.
Over 1,000 years ago, the site of Zhongshan Park
was the Temple of National Prosperity, which stood in the northeast
suburbs of Yanjing, the Liao Dynasty capital. Under the Yuan Dynasty
(1279-1368), the name of the temple was changed to the Temple of
Longevity and National Prosperity. Although no traces of the old
buildings remain, the ancient cypresses planted inside the temple
serve as a reminder of those days. In 1421, the Ming Emperor Yongle
built the Altar of Land and Grain symmetrically opposite the Imperial
Ancestral (Taimiao) Temple, which stands to the east of Tian'anmen
Rostrum. In 1914, the altar was renamed Central Park and opened
to the public on October 10. In 1928, the park was renamed Zhongshan
Park in tribute to the memory of Sun Yat-sen.