China · China travel

Beijing travel- Xiangshan (Fragrant Hills)


A lot of people probably don’t realize Beijing has mountains. This is because much of the city center is flat (and smog often obscures the views), but Beijing is actually ringed by mountains that extend from Haidian district all the way to the Great Wall and towards Hebei.
When I lived in Beijing, I only did two hikes near the city. Both were in Xiangshan (Fragrant Hills). Located in the northwestern part of the city in Haidian district, a little further beyond the old and new Summer Palaces, the 557-meter-tall Xiangshan is a decent, scenic choice for an outdoor outing. The whole place is a park, created all the way back in 1186, and was visited by emperors. At the foot of the hill are a garden, a Buddhist pagoda and Biyun Si (Temple of Azure Clouds), which features a large white stone pagoda called Vajrasana Pagoda. While Xiangshan isn’t too high, there is also a chair lift which I never took but I wish I did. The hill is nicely forested, though the path is a concrete stairway with little pavilions along the way. Interestingly, Biyun Si also has an exhibition dedicated to Sun Yat-sen, the Chinese political icon. This is because after Sun died in Beijing in 1925, his body was placed at the temple until being taken to Nanjing to be buried.

The first time I went there was in the afternoon and I only went halfway up the hill because I didn’t think I had enough time, but the second time I went up all the way. The summit was crowded with people, noisy and shouting and creating quite a commotion, as Chinese tend to do. On top, you can look onto urban Beijing but still feel that you are in a completely separate place, with forest and mountains all around you. You can even see the Summer Palace’s lake. I always intended to go back again, but given I lived all the way on the other side of the city, I never did.

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Vajrasana Pagoda
I wonder if this is one of the highest chair lifts in the world.
Kunming Lake on the grounds of the Summer Palace


6 thoughts on “Beijing travel- Xiangshan (Fragrant Hills)

  1. I only went once to Xiangshan, during my first year in Beijing. It was winter and super cold, brrr. I didn’t ride the chair lifts either, I think they were not even working the day I went! I loved blue sky days when you could see the mountains in the west from the universities district 🙂


    1. I can imagine it must have been tough hiking there when it is so cold. I also really liked blue sky days and being able to see the mountains to the west.


  2. Great series and photos ~ after the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square ~ my first excursion outside of Beijing in ’92 was Xiangshan…it gave me a great ‘different impression’ of Beijing.


    1. Thanks. I’m glad it brought back some memories for you. I guess the place must have been more peaceful and the view more scenic back then.


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