Mountains of Immortality


As you can tell from my previous posts. I am an honest story-teller, I don’t shy from the facts and possible gray areas of living abroad. There are many layers to traveling that people tend to shy away from such as loneliness and the struggle of fitting in, mental and physical health, curbing stress and learning healthy way of coping with it, and of course being true to yourself.

In China, it’s very easy to lose your senses again and again in the ancient winding hutongs, the florescent lit city streets, the throbbing beats of night clubs, and the assignments piling on your desk. All of which has happened to me in the past months. How have I coped with 12-hour work days, or 12 hours of finishing assignments? I get out.

Beijing is filled with large parks. It is not a European city with small gardens scattered around each corner filled with fountains, grand piazzas, parks, or local gardens. In Beijing you will begin to realize that outdoor living and parks are tourist attractions and not places to bring fine wine and a picnic. Despite this, I have found solace in these parks such as the Summer Palace, Beihai Park, Tiantan, and Jingshan Park.

Spending a day or an afternoon at these parks takes patience. As a foreigner you will find yourself being stared at, feeling uncomfortable, asked to have pictures taken (or not), hassled by taxi and tuk-tuk drivers, and constantly paying more than locals. Once you get over all of that, you can enjoy the natural beauty of ancient Beijing, begin to understand and reflect on the people you walk beside, and enjoy your time.

The parks in Beijing are gorgeous. The history of the parks are unique compared to the rest of the world as they are based on ancient Chinese fairy tales and legends, or the beliefs of the emperors themselves. Many of these parks were the imperial gardens of emperors and kingsmen. Beihai park, my favorite park, has more than 1,000 years of history allocated in one grandiose site within Beijing.

The founding story of Beihai Park and most parks in China are based on three mountains. Legend has it that three mountains hold the key to immortality. They are named Pengali, Yingzhou, and Fangzhang. The supernatural beings that reigned in those mountains were said to be the keepers of a potion that allows humans to become immortal. Emperor Qin Shihuang of the Qin Dynasty wanted to live an immortal life and sent his people to search for these mountains, but his mission and many missions like this before, failed. Therefore, Emperor Qin Shihuang built what is now know as Beiahi Park to resemble the mystical mountains and immortality. From there on, almost all the emperors after him built royal gardens that resemble the “one pool and three mountains” landscape.

Beihai Park is an incredible place for finding yourself, connecting with ancient Chinese culture and literature, and taking a breath of “fresher” air in Beijing. Remember to take care of yourself wherever you are abroad. Go for runs, join clubs and attend social groups, take bike rides and enjoy solo outings by yourself. Make new friends, be present and in the moment, live life and take care of yourself.