Bā Dà Chù 八大处

Part of A Better Guide to Běijīng’s coverage of Běijīng Suburbs and Beyond

There are several military camps in the area, which was entirely off-limits to foreigners not very long ago, so you may share the bus out with military personnel.

The name means ‘Eight Great Sites’, referring to eight Buddhist temples and monasteries in various states of repair, but today these would more accurately be called the ‘Eight Sites of Only Moderate Interest’. Despite a 19th-century diplomat’s opinion, those looking for a leafy break from Běijīng would do far better to visit Tánzhè Sì and Jiètái Sì, and even the Fragrant Hills have less of the fairground atmosphere. Although this was once an important site, and is still home to several 600-year-old trees, a thorough job of destruction in 1900 means that most of what you can see now is rebuilt, and done without a great deal of enthusiasm. One large pagoda at the base of the hilly site dates from only 1957 when it was built to house a Buddha tooth revealed by the destruction of one temple.

Any remaining atmosphere is driven away by broadcast rock music, souvenir stalls, chairlift, ropeway, and chute rides (extra fees of ¥30 to ¥50), ‘snack city’, and pestilential men with horses who will pursue you all the way up the hill, as will hectoring voices from tree-mounted PA systems. You’ll find mostly small temples, the earliest founded in the 10th century but most from the 15th, and all clumsily restored or rebuilt, and modern attractions such as the ‘Animal Happy Garden’ with further entrance tickets.

The climb is perhaps more worthwhile for the views, and in the autumn the thickly wooded hillsides change colour prettily, making the cable car ride down particularly attractive. It takes an hour to walk to the top if you dither at the sights.

▶ About 17km W of Běijīng just outside Fifth Ring Road, gps 39º57’12”N, 116º10’48”E, t 8896 4661, www.badachu.com.cn, 6am–6.30pm, 15 Apr–15 Nov; else 6pm. b to 八大处: 347 (from Xī Zhī Mén and the Zoo), 389, 589.

Taxis are a little rarer here than at neighbouring sights, but taking any bus just a few stops will put you back among them again. b 972 will take you south to stop 首钢小区 for the Tiányì Mù and Fǎ Hǎi Sì. Take b 347 to 南辛庄 (six stops), where you can change to b 运通112线, which runs south to 
m Píngguǒ Yuán and on to 首钢小区, or north to 卧佛寺 for the Běijīng Botanical Garden. En route you’ll pass (stop 红旗村) the Jiànruì Yíng Military Training Base (健锐营团城演武厅), a recreated 18th-century complex of towers, walls, and drill grounds (t 6259 1609, 9am–3.30pm, Tue–Sat, ¥20).

Next in Běijīng Suburbs and Beyond: Dà Jué Sì
Previously: Fragrant Hills Park
Main Index of A Better Guide to Beijing.

For discussion of China travel, see The Oriental-List.