Explore this famous scenic area with three lakes surrounded by places of historic interest and immense beauty. The Shichahai Lakes consist of Qianhai (Front Sea), Houhai (Back Sea), and Xihai (Western Sea, in imperial times, it was called ‘The Riverbank.' Around the lakes are remnants of old-style Beijing residences, which can be discovered on this 147 hectares of scenery.
A proud history
The Shichahai Lakes date back to the Jin Dynasty, between 1115 and 1234. During the Yuan Dynasty (1279 - 1368) it was the northernmost part of the Grand Canal joining Hangzhou in the south to Beijing in the north of China. This made the Shichahai area used to be an incredibly important commercial district. With Beihai Lake becoming an imperial site, some 20 temples were built in the area of Shichahai Lake. It was said that these temples were established for the convenience of women to leave the imperial families. 'Cha' refers to a small temple while 'shi' can mean 'tens', giving Shichahai its name.
In the last 200 years, many governmental officers, celebrities, monks and nuns chose to build mansions, temples and nunneries in Shichahai, making it not only a place of great natural beauty, but full of interesting architecture. There are ten famous Taoist and Buddhist temples on the site, as well as several formal royal mansions and gardens around the lake, the most well-known of which are Prince Gong's Mansion and Prince Chun's Mansion, which is the largest Siheyuan in the world and the most well preserved mansion in Beijing.
The narrow streets (Hutong) and courtyards around Shichahai's residential area is one of the biggest attractions for tourists. It's very popular to hire a pedicab and be given a fascinating tour around these distinctive Beijing-area alleys. Yinding Bridge, a 12 meter-long, 7 meter-wide and 8 meter-high bridge, is located on the waterway between the Qianhai Sea and the Houhai Sea of Shichahai. Cameras at the ready; this beautiful bridge is not only worth a picture itself, standing on it provides the best views of the lake itself.
Much to see and do
You can explore and enjoy this area of natural and historic beauty in a variety of ways. Take a tricycle tour to visit old Beijing Hutong and historical sites, or hire a tandem bike to make your own way around. Hire a rowing boat to explore the lakes; you can even taste local wine as you do so! If you prefer, you can take a gentle walk around Shichahai, were fishing, swimming, playing chess, dancing and singing are popular local pastimes. There are also many specialties restaurants in the surrounding area. The Barbecue Season near Yinding Bridge, which is a old restaurant in Beijing City, is famous for roast lamb; while Wangdelou Restaurant in Yandaixiejie is a popular old halal restaurant.