There are many ways people find comfort in, or escape, the Chinese winter, from skiing, to family gatherings and snowball fights. But perhaps the most relaxing pursuit on a frosty winter's day is a hot spring.
The history of hot springs goes way back in China. The first emperor had his own private spring at Lishan Mountain in modern-day Shaanxi province, which he believed could cure disease. While this was an exaggeration of their health properties, the temperature, trace minerals, water pressure and relaxing atmosphere of a hot spring can alleviate aches and strains.
China's hot springs are also mostly in scenic spots, some even on mountains believed in ancient times to have been blessed by the gods.
For the Chinese, hot springs have become an increasingly popular way to relax in recent decades, and they cater to all budgets. Xiaotangshan (Little Tangshan in Chinese) in Beijing is a popular place for Beijingers.
Xiaotangshan town's hot springs date back 1,500 years. During the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) they were used by emperors, two of whom built palaces there.
Elements in the water such as strontium, barium, iodine, boron and radon are good for arthritis and some skin diseases.
Xiaotangshan is located in an important place, according to the laws of feng shui. It is also the location of Xiaotangshan Modern Agricultural Science Demonstration Park, the largest modern agricultural park in China.
Hot spring temperature: 40-76C
Location: A small town in the Changping district of Beijing, about 16 km from Beijing Capital International Airport