Are you looking for somewhere different to see autumn colour in the Chinese capital this fall? Perhaps consider a visit to Mangshan Forest Park (蟒山国家森林公园)! It couldn’t be simpler to get to and is one of Beijing’s less crowded spots for a dose of nature!
Read on to find out more!
Mangshan, which translates as Python Mountain in English (though like many ‘mountains’ in China, ‘hill’ might be more accurate!), is located in northern Beijing’s Changping District. Opened in 1992, it’s an ecologically diverse area, hosting over 170 different plant species. As a lesser-known destination, it has perhaps seen better days, but it has still a great place to get some fresh air and exercise for free, either by simply walking the gentle boardwalk trail for 1 km, or by climbing the hill using the stone steps.
Why is it called Python Mountain?
Muslims were among the first people to live in this area of Beijing. One of them was called Ber Haji, and he was an Arab who came to China to preach during the reign of Emperor Hongwu (1368-1398). According to a story which residents of the area still know today, a large python was terrorising people crossing one of the mountain passes. Ber Haji volunteered to kill it, some say by donning a cowhide in an attempt to be swallowed by the python so he could kill it from the inside. Unfortunately he was seriously injured in the attempt and died at Changping Mosque. He was buried with honour in Heying Village, Nanshao Township and the story goes that the hill was named ‘Python Mountain’ in memory of his heroic efforts.
What to see there
After a short walk up a steep path from the entrance, you’ll come to the modern Laughing Buddha, made from carved granite blocks and accompanied by the 12 zodiac animals. From the Buddha, follow the signs to the ‘trestle’, by which they mean boardwalk (located behind the corridor).
There are two routes up the hill from the start of the boardwalk: Either you can turn right onto the wooden stops that lead up the hill, or you can head left to walk the boardwalk first then take the stone steps up the hill. Note that the stone steps are shady, whereas the wooden steps are very exposed and sunny.
If you choose the route on the left you’ll come to a huge concrete pool from where you should continue upwards on the road. The 1299 stone steps to the top start after the small shop. The path leading to the most picturesque part of the park, the white pagoda on the hill, was cordoned off during our visit, but we walked up to the the top of the hill and to the scenic pagoda looking out over views of the Ming Tombs Reservoir, which would be spectacular on a clear day.
On either route the climb takes about an hour for someone of average fitness. There’s plenty of nature to enjoy, particularly on the wooden path – we saw a lot of different flowers, plants and insects, including butterflies, crickets and praying mantises.
How to get there
Take the subway to Changping Dongguan station (Changping Line). Turn left out of exit D, then left again onto Fuxue Road and walk 10 minutes to the bus stop. Take bus 886 to the terminus at Mangshan (4 stops; 15 minutes). Entry to the scenic area was free when we went, but is listed at 20RMB.
It’s true that Mangshan doesn’t compare to many other scenic spots around Beijing, and while simple to get to, it is well off the beaten track. If you’re looking for lots to see and do this might not be the best place for you, but if you’re just looking for comparatively quiet place to walk, and have been to many other hiking areas around Beijing, it might interest you.
Have you been to Mangshan? Where is your preferred scenic spot in Beijing? Let us know what you thought of it in the comments below. We always love hearing from you!
– Cultural Keys
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