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Beihai Park   

Containing the city's largest lake and a landmark white pagoda, this is the capital's oldest Imperial garden, with an 800-year history. It is the best single park to visit -- and a wonderful place to stroll--especially since it is within walking distance of the Forbidden City.

The Round City (Tuan Cheng), located just outside the south entrance of the park, contains a massive jade bowl that was once the prized possession of Kublai Khan; the Light Receiving Hall within houses a 10-foot Buddha of white jade sent to Emperor Qianlong as a gift from Burma. Today's commoners take to the waters in paddleboats and rowboats during the summer and on a type of ice sled (made up of crates on skis) in the winter. Beihai Lake was drained and cleaned and its shoreline renovated in the late fall of 1998, making it an even more beautiful spot to tour.

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