Autumn is the best season of tourism in Beijing for its clear sky, crisp air and pleasant climate. In addition to the traditional ways of touring around Beijing by car, bus or subway, there is a novel and creative way of touring by water — cruising along Changhe River, the imperial waterway, for a sightseeing tour of Beijing.
Without the problems of traffic restrictions, traffic jams and parking difficulties, cruising along Changhe River enables tourists to enjoy the beautiful sceneries along the river and know the history and cultural heritage of the imperial waterway via the detailed explanation all the way.
Tourists pose for taking photos on the boat. [Photo/Qianlong]
As a part of the Beijing water system, Changhe River is the only imperial waterway in Beijing with a history of more than 700 years. It was called Gaoliang River in Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) and Yuhe River in Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). During the reign of Emperor Qianlong (1735-1796), the river was transformed into an imperial waterway for Qianlong to go to Wanshou Temple to celebrate his mother’s birthday and for the royal family to go to the Summer Palace. Later in the years of Emperor Guangxu (1875-1908), the waterway was known as the Waterway of Empress Dowager Cixi for it was a must for Cixi to pass through to go to the Summer Palace. In 2008, the waterway resumed navigation after having been closed for almost one century to welcome Olympic athletes and coaches. Today, tourists can take a boat and cruise along it to go sightseeing and enjoy the beautiful sceneries on both sides of the river.
The total time of the sightseeing tour along the Changhe River is about one hour. The route starts from Beijing Exhibition Center at Xizhimen, passes by Beijing Zoo, Wuta Temple, Baishi Bridge, National Library, Zizhuyuan Park, Guangyuan Dam, Wanshou Temple, Maizhong Bridge, Changhe Bay, and arrives at the Summer Palace’s South Gate. It stops at five wharfs including Huangjiachuan Wharf at the Beijing Exhibition Center, Beijing Zoo Wharf, Ziyuwan Wharf at Zizhuyuan Park, the wharf outside the Summer Palace and the Nanruyi Wharf inside the Summer Palace.
Photo taken on Sept. 14, 2016 shows the tour route from Beijing Exposition Center to the Summer Palace. [Photo/Qianlong]
Photo taken on Sept. 14, 2016 shows the ticket office at the Huangdichuan Wharf. [Photo/Qianlong]
The first boat starts from the Huangdichuan Wharf at 10 o’clock every day. Passengers go on board in the order of the tickets and take a seat randomly. Passengers are required to stay inside the boat all the way and not allowed to leave the cabin to the bow or stern deck because most of the bridges on the way are quite low.
Photo taken on Sept. 14, 2016 shows the Huangdichuan Wharf. [Photo/Qianlong]
A boat stops at the Huangdichuan Wharf. [Photo/Qianlong]
In addition, when the boat sails between the Huangdichuan Wharf and Beijing Zoo Wharf, the windows of the boat must be closed to avoid the sparking waves made by the passing-by motor boats. At the Beijing Zoo Wharf, there are passengers on and off the boat, and then the boast sails to Zizhuyuan Park for transferring to another boat.
A foreign tourist boards a boat at the Huangdichuan Wharf. [Photo/Qianlong]
After entering Zizhuyuan Park, tourists on the boat can enjoy many historic sites of Ming and Qing dynasties and the spectacular scenery of “Viewing Willows along Changhe River”. In ancient times, a large amount of willows and peach trees were planted on both sides of the river, so each spring and summer the river saw a beautiful scenery of green willows and pink peaches, leaving a famous saying that “See pine trees at Temple of Heaven while view willows at Changhe River”.
Willows are seen along the Changhe River at Zizhuyuan Park. [Photo/Qianlong]
A bridge is seen above the Changhe River at Zizhuyuan Park. [Photo/Qianlong]
At Zizhuyuan Park, tourists need to transfer to another boat to sail to the Summer Palace like Empress Dowager Cixi did in those years. Tourists get off the boat and walk to the Ziyuwan Wharf under the guidance of a staffer to board another boat with tickets. The reason for this transfer lies in the gaps of 1.5 meters between the river’s upstream and downstream resulting from the Beijing’ terrain characteristics of low West and high East.
The boat stops for transfer at Zizhuyuan Park. [Photo/Qianlong]
Photo taken on Sept. 14, 2016 shows the sign for transfer at Zizhuyuan Park. [Photo/Qianlong]
The Ziyuwan Wharf at Zizhuyuan Park was the place for transfer and rest of Empress Dowager Cixi to sail to the Summer Palace. [Photo/Qianlong]
After leaving the Ziyuwan Wharf, an instructor will give explanation of the sceneries along the river and sell the tickets of the Summer Palace. There are two stops which are located inside and outside the Summer Palace. Only the tourists with the tickets of the Summer Palace can get off the boat at the Nanruyi Wharf inside the Summer Palace and continue to tour the Summer Palace.
An instructor introduces the sceneries along the river and sells the tickets of the Summer Palace on the boat. [Photo/Qianlong]
Photo taken on Sept. 14, 2016 shows the scenery outside the boat. [Photo/Qianlong]
Photo taken on Sept. 14, 2016 shows a ticket of the Summer Palace. [Photo/Qianlong]
Citizens are seen swimming in the Changhe River. [Photo/Qianlong]
Tourists get off the boat at the Nanruyi Wharf inside the Summer Palace. [Photo/Qianlong]
In addition, now the special imperial waterway tour around Beijing is also open at night with the considerate services of water sightseeing, dining, entertainment and leisure activities.
If you go
Ticket: 50 yuan per adult for one way and 80 yuan per adult for round trip
Route: From Huangdichuan Wharf at Beijing Exposition Center to Nanruyi Wharf inside the Summer Palace, sailing about 10 kilometers for 60 minutes
Open Time: 10am—16pm