Beidaihe (Peitaiho) is one of the better-known summer resorts on China’s east coast.
As I approach Jieshi Hill from the west.
The boundless sea extends before me.
Above soughs the autumn wind.
The insurmountable waters swell below.
These lines, written by the famous statesman-poet Cao Cao (155-220) to commemorate his visit to Beidaihe, testify that the natural beauty of this seaside resort was appreciated quite early in Chinese history. A number of the principal scenic spots are described below.
Eagle promontory (Yingjiaoyan): On a corner of East Hill is an outcrop of bare rock known as Eagle Promontory. With its pointed tip jutting out into the sea, it resembles an eagle standing on one leg. A pavilion built on the highest point of the promontory provides the best spot in the area from which to observe both the sunrise and the entire panorama along the coast. A natural stone staircase descends to the beach. Looking up at the pavilion from there one gets the feelings that this huge pile of stone may fall down at any moment. A fine view of fishing boats in the misty distance off Qinhuangdao can also be obtained here.
The Pigeonholes: Twenty or thirty meters from Eagle Promontory to the right of the pavilion stands a huge yellowish reef which rises abruptly from the sea and extends nearly to the shoreline. Countless years of pounding waves has scored the rock with cracks and holes, which serve pigeons as ideal nesting places. Visitors in the early morning and late afternoon can see the lively spectacle of the resident birds flying about.
The Tiger Rocks: In the central beach area is a row of huge rocks near the shore, which become visible when the tide ebbs. From a distance, these rocks look very much like a group lively tigers bathing in the sea.
Lianpeng (Lotus) Mountain, also known as Lianfeng Mountain (Mountain of Joined Peaks): The name of this mountain, which stands some 400 meters above sea level, derives from the fact that it consists of an eastern and a western peaks. Densely covered with pines and cypresses, it offers a number of interesting vistas. On the western peak is the Conversation Rock, known also as Lian Rock, which is said to resemble a peach or a crouching lion in shape. Nearby is a tomb reputed to contain the remains of a Korean prince who died on the mountain in a battle with the Tatars. One may also visit the Stone Lotus Park, where beneath the shade of pine trees there is a host of rocks, which resembles lotus flowers floating on the water. In addition, one may visit Tiger Cave, in which crashing waves can be heard; the Southern Gate of Heaven, a natural rock formation; the Fairy Cave, where female fairies who collect medicinal herbs are believed to spend the night; Taoyuan (peach Garden), an imaginary utopia; and Tongtian (Connected with the Sky) Caves. Nearby Yansai Lake is an ideal place for rowing.
Late in the evening, the pleasant echoes of the bell in the Temple of the Goddess of Mercy lull visitors to sleep.
The Old Dragon Head (Laolongtou), the easternmost point of the Great Wall, makes a wonderful day trip from Beidaihe. The colorful name of this site is derived from the traditional description of the Great Wall as huge dragon stretching across northern China. With its body winding its way into the Yanshan Mountains in the north and its head jutting into the Bohai Sea, the stony old dragon presents a magnificent sight.
Four kilometers from the Old Dragon Head is the easternmost pass of the Great Wall, Shanhai Pass (the Pass of Mountains and Sea). Commonly known as the First Pass under Heaven, it was built more than 600 years ago in the early Ming Dynasty to defend the strategic six-kilometer-wide coastal plain, which lies between the Bohai Sea and the Yanshan Mountains.
Near the pass is the Temple of Girl Mengjiang. The touching tale of this woman, known to every Chinese, may be summed up as follows: During the Qin Dynasty (221-206 B.C.), Mengjiang’ s husband was conscripted to work on the construction of the Great Wall. He died during the cold winter and was buried amidst the rubble in the base of the Great Wall. After many years of separation, Mengjiang came to look for him, and when she arrived at the site where he had been assigned to work, discovered that he had died years before. Her crying was so loud that the section of the Great Wall where he was buried collapsed.
Convention credits the Englishman Claude William Kinder with the discovery of Beidaihe as an ideal summer resort at the end of the 19th century. But Kinder was hardly the first person to come here. Actually, ships called here as early as the Han Dynasty, over 2,000 years ago. The Han Emperor Wu Di is reputed to have enjoyed the seaside beauty here and to have built a special observation platform for this purpose. Cao Cao, whose poem we read above, was another early visitor. Due to the development of sea transport, the population of the area increased rapidly during the Ming Dynasty and Beidaihe became quite prosperous. In 1898, the Qing government officially designated Beidaihe as a summer resort. However, in the following 50 years, the region developed very slowly. Except for foreign establishments such as the American and British government estates, there were few other buildings besides the private villas of Qing bureaucrats and warlords, such as Wu Peifu and Duan Qirui. In November 1948, Beidaihe was liberated. Since then, the people’s Government has built highways in both the city proper and along the beach. Besides the restoration and enlargement of five parks, 3,000 new hotels, villas and sanatoriums have been constructed.
From Eagle Promontory in the east to the mouth of the Daihe River in the west, 22 swimming areas have been opened in Beidaihe’ s 10 kilometers of fine sandy beaches. The average annual temperature is approximately 10 degrees Centigrade, 26 degrees in summer. Breezes from the southeast cool the region, and even on the hottest summer days, the warm, calm water is ideal for swimming. Travelers from Beijing can reach Beidaihe conveniently by train.