Located on the eastern sides of the Western Hills, approximately 10 kilometers to the west of Beijing，Xiangshan (Fragrant Hills) Park is a large public park covering an area of 395 acres. It consists of the natural pine and cypress forest, hills with maple trees, smoke trees and persimmon trees, as well as landscaped areas with traditional architecture and cultural relics. The park was named after its highest peak, Xianglu Feng (Incense Burner Peak), a 557 meters (1827 ft) hill with two large stones resembling incense burners at the top.
The Xiangshan Temple was built in 1186 of the Jin Dynasty and for a period served as the emperor's traveling lodge. In 1745, Emperor Qianlong had a number of large halls; pagodas, memorial archways and leisure pavilions built and changed the name of the area to the Garden of Peacefulness (Jingyiyuan). This complex served the famous Qing ruler as one of his summer palaces and became one of the three favorite hills of Qianlong, beside Jade Spring Mountain (Yuquanshan) and Longevity Hill (Wanshoushan) in the Summer Palace.
Xiangshan Park is recognized as one of the major tourist attractions in Beijing. When autumn arrives, the natural scenery in the park turns spectacular, with fiery red smoke tree leaves covering the mountain side. Every year, thousands of tourists ride the cable cars through the park in order see the hills in autumn colors. The grand opening of the annual Red Leaf Festival of Beijing takes place there.
There are two main routes through the park. One route goes through the north area, with Spectacles Lake (Yanjing Lake) and the bridge, Study of Reading Heart (Jianxin Zhai) and Bright Temple (Zhao Miao). Study of Reading Heart was built in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644AD) and is a landscaped park inside Fragrant Hills Park. Bright Temple is a large Tibetan style lamasery complex built in 1780 as the residence for the sixth Panchen Lama during his visits to Emperor Qianlong. Buildings in the complex have partially been burned down. Among the surviving treasures are a majestic glazed-tiled archway in front of the complex, a Tibetan style terrace and a glazed-tiled pagoda. Bells hung on the eaves of the pagoda chime in breeze.
The second route leads through the south area of the park. Main attractions along the route include Tranquility Green Lake (Jingcui Lake), Shuangqing Villa, Fragrant Temple, and Incense Burner Peak. This route is a little harder because it leads across the highest peak, Incense Burner Peak.