I think it’s a truism that when you travel anywhere you make the effort to visit all the must-see places in the limited time available. But when you live somewhere, you never bother because you know it is “always there”!
That probably explains why I make so little use of my local neighbourhood park – Tuanjiehu 团结湖 – which I first visited four years ago when I lived in the north east of the city; yet here I am now living close to the Central Business District, with the Park just five minutes’ walk away, and I somehow never seem to find enough hours in the day to get there.
But the recent Spring Festival Holiday (always a misnomer I feel, when temperatures plummet to around -12 degrees!) gave me every opportunity, since there was no need to go to the office for a week.
And sure enough the main entrance was bedecked with New Year paper lanterns.
The “back entrance” in Tuanjiehu Road was similarly decorated, as, of course, was most of the city…
In some ways I feel that the Park should really be called Hujialou rather than Tuanjiehu, since the three entrances are all much nearer that station on line 10.
But the reason is simple enough. In 1958 the People's Government of Chaoyang District organised the public to dig a loop from a kiln pit and fill it with water. The resulting ring lake was named Tuanjie – the lake of union or solidarity – as a tribute to the concerted efforts; and on Sept 26th 1986 (hey! that’s 28 years later!) the park was officially opened.
Unlike some of Beijing’s parks, this one has free admission. And the official blurb helpfully tells you:
Peak Season: All Day
Off-season: All Day
(I guess for any other season you have to ask!)
A helpful signboard has a rogues-gallery of the Park staff, reminiscent of the Roly-polys dance group of the ‘80s. (What? You’ve never heard of them? They were a dance troupe consisting entirely of overweight middle-aged women who would perform “amusing” dances which, if they had been young and slim, would not have been at all funny.)
And the Public Security Bureau also feels it is a really useful idea to remind you that “Being urgent, call 110 quickly”; though whether anyone at the other end of the phone will understand you if you do is another question altogether which no-one seems to have thought of.
The official blurb and sign posts helpfully tell us that “The Park covers an area of 277 acres and 67 acres of the lake” or “The Park spans an area of 12.3ha with the lake covering 5.4ha”. Hmmm. Do the maths. That’s 24% or 44% respectively. But looking at the map, I think the latter is nearer the mark.
Either way, the Park is attractive in both summer and winter. The highlight (for me) is the Jie Xiu Bridge, which is an attractive moon-bridge near the West Gate.
Even with the ice of winter, it makes an attractive setting.
And in the north-east there’s a lovely promenade looking towards the Huanbo Bridge…
… which on closer inspection features a double arch, and has visitors queuing up to be photographed in front of it.
Other curiosities abound, such as “artistically” designed windows in the walls,
and a stone tea pot near a tea house, that has always been steadfastly closed whenever I have visited.
As you’d expect from one of Beijing’s parks, Tuanjiehu features line dancing, shadow sword fighting and fan dancing at all times of the year.
But in the depths of winter, the normally thriving boating industry slithers to a halt…
… as the constant low temperatures ensure the lake turns into an ice rink.
The place is filled with people of all ages chair-skating, propelling themselves across the ice with deft movements of their specially shortened ski sticks.
Of course, in the summer the Roly Polys have to think of other ways to amuse their clientele – and what better than Beijing-on-Sea?
Look at the tourist websites and they feature pictures of a “beach” packed with half-naked people (many showing off their tattoos) as they splash about in the water. Alas, in the low-season this “Paradise” looks anything but inviting…
But come the spring, the Park comes to life as the trees start shooting flowers,
Or shooting leaves, or whatever else it is they care to shoot…
But one signpost found throughout the Park still leaves me confused. Who or what is the PKU Starlight Rroup? OK, PKU must be Peking University, also known as Bei Da 北大, and I think we can assume that Rroup (集团) is in fact Group (though why didn’t anyone check before making so many identical signs!).
But what Starlight is all about and why anyone visiting this Park should care, remains a mystery. A web search reveals it is the name of a film production company, but again why the visiting public should care, I simply don’t know. Perhaps one of my blog groupies can put me out of my misery? Any suggestions?