Grand View Garden 大观园
Tour groups staying at the nearby Grand View Garden Hotel sometimes find themselves ushered into what was Běijīng’s first theme park, a modern creation of the settings of the three-volume classic novel A Dream of Red Mansions, or The Story of the Stone, translations of which can be picked up at almost any Xīnhuá Shūdiàn or Wàiwén Shūdiàn (book shops). Also calling itself The Běijīng Museum of Red Chamber Culture and Art, it was originally built as a set for a highly popular television series based on the book. Many of the settings of the novel are believed in fact to have been taken from Prince Gōng’s Mansion (see p.237) which, at the time this park was built, was occupied by some part of the security apparatus, the final cohort driven out only in 2007.
This park doesn’t greatly differ from many others, although it’s mercifully free of funfairs. In the afternoon (even on weekdays), near the ‘Happy Red Court’ close to the main entrance on the south side, you may see bridal couples having their wedding photographs taken, the brides in the finest Western white wedding dresses and the grooms in tails, not entirely in keeping with the recreated period setting.
There are lakes surrounded by willows, a movie called the Illusory Great Void Theatre (¥55), and various halls around a courtyard with a theatre stage on the northern side of the park that have displays of images from the TV serie. Portraits of the cast all looking exceedingly pleased with themselves. Alarmingly, the reproduction buildings that you find in this garden are indistinguishable from the historic buildings that you find elsewhere. Either the Chinese ability to make copies is very good, or everything you see elsewhere is also merely replica. You can also be bounced around in a sedan chair by bearers in period costume and accompanied by musicians, for a fee.
▶ Dà Guān Yuán, Nán Cài Yuán Jiē 12, t 6354 4993/4, www.bjdgy.com, 7.30am–5pm. ¥40. m Táorán Tíng (Line 4), walk 1km W & S. m Táorán Qiáo (Line 14) coming soon. b to 大观园: 特3, 特12内环, 53, 59, 63, 84电车, 运通102线, 122, 458, 474, 717.
Just outside the south entrance there’s a fairly new camel-back bridge used for kite flying over a willow-hung section of canal, and there are several reasonable restaurants outside the west gate around the neighbouring Grand View Garden Hotel, including a branch of lǎo Běijīng-style Dào Jiā Cháng restaurant (just north of the hotel on the west side of the road). Museum of Ancient Pottery Civilisation is a short walk north and right into Cài Yuán Xī Jiē along the north side of the park.
For discussion of China travel, see The Oriental-List.