Enter a dream world of long and lanterns at Longtan Park
If you’ve ever wondered why Beijing sports so many dragon-themed rooftops, the answer is simple: Chinese people consider themselves “descendants of the dragon” (lóng de chuánrén, 龙的传人). They express their love and respect for this “ancestor” by decorating their houses and clothes with images of the dragon, or long.
At Longtan Park in the south of Beijing, this passion for the mythological creature is on full display. There’s a dragon hiding in every corner of this park, be it a statue, a sculpture, a lantern, a bridge, a boat or a pavilion. Kids and adults alike can soak up Chinese long culture here, all while enjoying the picturesque views and entertainment facilities throughout the park.
In this tree-covered park, almost everything is named after the dragon. Long pavilion, long waterfall, long mountain, long rock – even willow trees are named after the mythical beast. Take a closer look and you’ll find that these names match the reality. Pavilions are decorated with dragon sculptures perched on roofs or crawling up columns. Man-made mountains – complete with waterfalls – resemble flying dragons. Traditional Chinese gates are adorned with dragons painted in splendid colors; the “rock jungle” features stone tablets engraved with hundreds of writing styles for the character long. And the willow trees? Their curled branches might just be mistaken for dragon claws. Culture buffs can easily spend a day exploring the horticultural features that reflect harmony between nature and Chinese traditional architecture.
Even though the park’s enchantment lies in its cultural and scenic features, younger children will be just as entertained. Two amusement areas in the northeast and northwest areas of the park have playgrounds for the little ones. Bouncy castles, carousels, a ferris wheel and other recreational facilities will keep your kids busy while you relax in one of the many dragon pavilions.
Throughout the year, Longtan Park is usually very quiet – perfect for a Sunday afternoon stroll by the lake or a picnic on the lawns on the west side of the park. If you like, you can rent a boat and get acquainted with the lake’s resident ducks (RMB 30/hour for a four-person pedal boat, RMB 60/hour for a six-person mechanical boat). Spring Festival (Chinese lunar new year) is the busiest time of the year for this park – the annual Longtan Temple Fair takes place here over two weeks, with vendors and performers from all over the country showcasing regional foods, arts and crafts, and traditional performances.
If you or your kids are in the mood to work up a sweat, head for the sporting grounds on the east side of the park; they include an outdoor gym, a jogging track and ping-pong tables. Those who are into “extreme” sports can chalk up and crimp at a massive rock-climbing wall in the park’s south end (RMB 30 each ascent, RMB 200 for a monthly membership). Kids and beginners can try out the small practice wall next door.
Near the north gate, golden lanterns in the shape of dragons sit on the surface of the lake like giant fireballs. Small clusters of floating lanterns can be found throughout other parts of the lake, and at dusk they all light up, transforming the park into a veritable fairyland. On the south side, a fountain with lotus lanterns is the site of a light and sound show every evening. For a great view, plant yourself on the changlang – a traditional promenade decorated with watercolor paintings – by the fountain. If tummies start to rumble, go to Wanliuge Restaurant in the northeast side of the park for Sichuanese and Guangdong cuisine. Enjoy the meal inside or dine al fresco and enjoy the lake’s refreshing breeze.
With its peaceful environment and cultural attractions, Longtan Park is an ideal escape from Beijing for a day of fun and inspiration.
Daily 6am-9pm (May-Sep); 6am-8.30pm (Oct-Apr), gates close at 10pm
RMB 2 (RMB 1 for students, free for children under 1.2m)
8 Longtan Lu, Chongwen District (6714 4336)
www.ltpark.com.cn (Chinese and English)