Beijing's Mystery Canal: Centuries-Old Brook Reimagined in Qianmen Neighborhood

Last month, state media buzzed about the restoration of an ancient brook, a long-lost waterway transformed into a beautiful new park in Beijing. The trouble was, the brook didn’t seem to exist on any historical maps of the city. Long-time China watcher, historian, and author Paul French (Midnight in Peking, Tales from the Badlandswondered on Twitter, “Could this be a pretend brook??”

It turns out the brook was – at one time – quite real, although it hasn’t flowed since the days of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and the current park is more a reimagining of an idealized Beijing canal than an attempt to accurately restore a historical waterway.