By Luke Hambleton
‘Purple Bamboo Park’, as the Chinese name Zizhuyuan (紫竹园 – Zī zhú yuán) literally translates as, is confusingly given in English as Black Bamboo Park. The English botanist to first name the species of bamboo found in large amounts in this park decided it was more black than purple!
Indeed, why not take a trip out to Black Bamboo Park, near Beijing Zoo, to judge for yourself? The park is modern by Beijing standards, however, the outline of the park grew-up around the central Beijing terminal of the canal built to carry the empress dowager Cixi, to and from the Summer Palace.
Tour boats still ply the waters in the summer months carrying tourists to the palace. The present day terminal is found behind the Soviet style Exhibition Centre, near Xizhimen.
Constructed around the canal and a fairly large lake, Black Bamboo Park is a veritable oasis of peace and tranquillity in the frenetic heart of Beijing. As well as the liberal use of verdant bamboo groves, the visitor can also enjoy water lilies and lotuses, all landscaped using traditional Chinese techniques.
If enjoying the greenery and water wasn’t enough, parks are extremely popular places with Beijingers, and are some of the best places to strike-up conversations with locals.
Get there just after dawn to join in morning exercises with older Beijing citizens. Whether it’s walking backwards or ballroom dancing, those old folk really know how to live it up in the morning!
Later in the day brings families with small children flying kites, and old men practising calligraphy on paving stones with water instead of ink.
The easiest way to approach Black Bamboo Park is by taxi from Xizhimen subway station. For those who can read Chinese, there are several buses from Xizhimen going west that will take you there. Alternatively, Black Bamboo Park is close enough by foot from Beijing Zoo to combine the two in a day. At the time of writing, entrance to the park was free.
Wonder at the Great Wall, be awed by the magnificent Forbidden City, drink in the scenery from a boat on the Summer Palace’s Kunming Lake.