Lotus Market and Houhai area


This scenic area contains the largest and best-preserved age-old block in the city. In the Yuan Dynasty it was the capital's center for commerce. During the Ming and Qing dynasties, it was home to many high officials and men of many letters. After the Manchu takeover, the emperor-led Pure Yellow Banner Troops were stationed here. In 1992, the Standing Conference of the Beijing Government named it a scenic area of history and culture. Thereafter is was referred to as Shichahai, which is the name it has maintained to date. In 2002, the Shichahai area, which covers 1,467,000 square meters altogether, was designated as one of 25 historical and cultural protection zones of the city.


Shichahai has both a beautiful and unique scenery. A famous essay, once written in ancient times, says that during the spring it is like the West Lake in Hangzhou; yet during the summer it reminds one of the Qinghuai River in Nanjing. The poem, whose author is unknown, referred to the autumn season as a time that makes Shichahai a blissful reminder of the Dongting Lake in Hunan. Shichahai has the densest collection of cultural tourism resources, having altogether 40 historic sites under protection, with three of them under national protection. The best known among them are Prince Gong's Mansion, which used to be the residence of He Shen, the most avaricious minister of the Qing Dynasty, and the Yinding Bridge, which is known as the best place to view mountain side near the area.


Shichahai has rich historical legacies and a number of well-preserved Hutongs, Quadrangle Dwellings, mansions and gardens. It has a vast cultural heritage within the walls of the temples, halls, and distinguished former residencies which are now historical sites. These areas are harmoniously blended with natural scenery and with distinctive folk customs. In recent years, bars, homely restaurants and hotels in some Quadrangle Dwellings have began to sprout in this neighborhood, making this place more fashionable to tourists. The tradition and aesthetics of this time period attracts about five million tourists each year from home and abroad. In 2005, it was listed by the Chinese National Geography Center as one of the five best city blocks in China for 'being fashionably next door to Zhongnanhai.'


Each year, the cultural tourism festival is held in Shichahai. Several Hutong Tours have been set up which convey a different, albeit important side of the area. The area of Shichahai has become a well-known scenic spot among expats living within the city. Tourists may experience the genuine culture of Beijing by joining the tours of Prince Gong's Mansions, seeing the old streets, ancient temples, former residencies, the city gate towers, the boating areas, the old bars and accommodation arrangements of the Quadrangle Dwellings. It is well worth the visit as it lends one an image into the life of the old city. Take a trip there during your next day off. Bring a friend or a co-worker or simply head there on your own to reflect.


It is a great place to appreciate the days of the past and the future that lies ahead.



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