Veiled within the verdant woodlands that flourish in the lee of Silver Mountain, the ruins of the once great Fahua Temple are the swan song of an age when the whole surrounding region was sacred Buddhist ground. Once, over seventy temples occupied the valley and the slopes of this mountain. Now, a handful of ornately decorated pagodas are all that’s left of this lost order.
In these times, local government funding agencies allocated one million yuan annually to restore and maintain this genuinely delightful valley park, and it has been money well spent. Developers have made obvious efforts to ensure that cleanliness is upheld – park restrooms are exemplary – and the artifact restoration work has been subtle and respectful. Tourist areas aside, local residents of the charming Humen Township at the foot of the mountain are visibly unaffected by the industry, and thrive cheerfully in humble agricultural surrounds. This provides an engaging option for visitors who wish to stay over with a local family – inquire in town for details.
There are many squat dagobas scattered throughout the vale, but the focus of the park is the array of five Jin dynasty towers on the scoured foundations of the Fahua Temple, known at the time of their construction as the Da Yan Sheng Temple – then an eminent place of Buddhist learning. The towers contain the ashes of prominent monastic teachers of the age.
Silver Mountain itself makes for a good hour’s climb for the fit and the enthusiastic, and provides good views of the pagoda forest and surrounding areas. The path to the top, while occasionally steep, is well marked – and stairways have been cut in for difficult slopes. The perspective will give visitors insight into the seclusion that the valley enjoys – the one factor that has protected the ruins throughout the decline of the dynasties. This isolation does make the park slightly tricky to get to from Beijing in comparison to the other better-known attractions nearby – the Huanghuacheng Great Wall and the Ming Tombs – but the peaceful air and the idyllic scenery make this a tranquil and relaxing alcove for a day’s visit.
Daily 8am-4pm. RMB 15 (Nov-Mar); RMB 20 (Apr-Oct). Xingshou Town, Changping District (8972 6426, 8972 6425)
Bus: The fastest bus route is the 845 express (RMB 9) from Xizhimen (the stop is between Xizhimen and Chegongzhuang subway stations on Xizhimen Nandajie) north to Changping Dongguan – a taxi from there should cost RMB 100-200 (RMB 300 roundtrip), or a bumpy 50-minute ride on the 31 minibus is RMB 4 (bus stops are unmarked, but wait at the stop where you get off the 845 and go in the same direction).Other buses to Changping Dongguan are 345, 345 express and 919. Route 31 takes you to Humen Town, from which it’s a 10-minute walk straight up the main road to the park gate. The last bus back leaves at 4.30pm for Route 31.
Car: Take Anli Lu (安立路) from Anhui Qiao (安惠桥) on North Fourth Ring Road to Lishuiqiao (立水桥) and eventually merge onto Litang Lu (立汤路) heading north. Pass through the Daliushu Roundabout (大柳树环岛) in Xingshouzhen (兴寿镇), following the sign to Silver Mountain Pogoda Forest (银山塔林). Parking is RMB 5 for cars and RMB 10 for larger vehicles. Approx Distance: 60km