Beijing Zoo, lies west of Xizhimen and the western part of Beijing, was known for a short time after the founding of the People's Republic as the Western Suburbs Park.
In the 18th century, the zoo was known as the Sanbeizi Gardens, supposedly named after the third son of Emperor Kangxi, Prince Cheng Yin. Another explanation is that Sanbeizi Gardens refereed to the Qing courtier Fukangan and the Gardens the site of his cottage. In fact, as early as the Ming Dynasty, an imperial mansion called the Garden of Happiness and Friendship constructed for Prince Kang stood here, and during the Qing, part of the Sanbeizi Gardens called the Garden of Continuity became the private property of an official in the Bureau of Palace Affairs.
In 1906, during the reign of Emperor Guangxu, the park area became an agricultural experimental farm and a zoo. Known as the Garden of Ten Thousand Animals, it opened to the public in 1908.The zoo has developed rapidly and by 1955 it covered an area of over 40,000 square meters. Bears, elephants, pandas, lions, tigers, songbirds, hippopotamuses, rhinoceroses, antelopes and giraffes were brought in the late 1950s, and a gorilla cage, leaf-monkey cage and aquarium house, was opened, containing specimens of over 100 species of reptiles from all over the world, including crocodiles and pythons.
Nowadays the Beijing Zoo combine cultivated flower gardens with stretches of natural scenery, including dense groves of trees, stretches of grassland, a small stream, lotus pools and small hills dotted with pavilions and halls.
Like many of Beijing's parks, areas of the zoo have the distinctive look of classical Chinese gardens. The buildings in the zoo cover an area of more than 50,000 square meters, including the monkey hall, the panda hall, the lion and tiger hall, the elephant hall, and many others. Altogether there are more than 30 large halls.
The Beijing Ocean Hall was opened to the public inside the Zoo in 1999. It is the biggest ocean hall in China. In addition to a wide range of fish species, visitors can watch shows performed by dolphins and sea lions.
At present, the zoo houses over 7,000 creatures of 600 different species, including the giant panda, red-crowned crane and Pere David's deer-all unique to China-as well as the African giraffe, rhinoceros, chimpanzee and antelope; American continent; wild ox from Europe; and elephant and gibbon from India. Visitors to the Zoo can also explore its many Qing Dynasty era buildings. The Beijing Zoo today houses over 7,000 creatures of 600 different species from all over the world.
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