A major education and technology centre in Beijing, the Haidian District personifies modern Chinese culture while still cherishing its past. The Summer Palace, a well-preserved example of ancient royal gardens dating to the Qing Dynasty, offers a peaceful respite from city life with its serene lakes and pavilions. The neighbourhoods surrounding Peking University and Tsinghua buzz with nightlife, hot-pot eateries and bars hosting open-mic nights, weekly pub quizzes and karaoke contests.
Xiangshan Park, often referred to as Fragrant Hills Park", hosts a collection of small temples dotting the hiking trails leading to a summit, with a cable car providing impressive views of the city. Beijing Botanical Garden is home to the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, with a marble archway and ancient cypress trees leading to a 5.2-metre-long reclining copper Buddha statue completed in 1321. The 18th-century Big Bell Temple harbours hundreds of bells and gongs from the Ming, Song, Qing and Yuan dynasties.
About 15 kilometres from downtown Beijing, Haidian connects to the city’s extensive subway and bus systems, which run to major tourist attractions and the business and university districts. The neighbourhoods have well-defined bike lanes, and rentals are available from hotels and shops adjacent to subway stations, especially near the universities. Visitors can hail a taxi directly from the street or in front of major hotels.
Big Bell Temple gets its name from its enormous two-story bell inscribed with more than 100 Buddhist scriptures, reportedly dating to the reign of Emperor Yongle. The bell weighs 46 tonnes, and its chimes are known to carry for 15 kilometres. On special occasions in Beijing, the bell rings 108 times, indicating the sacred number 108 in Buddhism.