With almost 500 years as China's capital, Beijing presents a vast number of historical remains plus different sightseeing areas. Also, it has a lot of other exceptional sights. The city has hundreds of miles of ancient Hu Tongs (alleys), which are lined with housing in Beijing's distinctive, traditional style. No trip to Beijing would be complete without seeing the Great Wall. Other sights worth seeing outside the city include the Summer Palace; the recently renovated White Cloud Temple (Baiyunguan), the oldest Taoist temple in the world; and Fragrant Hills Park. Besides, those who can't imagine going all the way to China without seeing a panda will want to stop at the Beijing Zoo.
Tiananmen Square (Tiananmen Guangchang)
This huge, open space (covering 122 acres/49 hectares) is the heart of Beijing. Said to hold as many as one million people, it was where Mao Zedong inaugurated the revolutionary People's Republic of China in 1949. Mao's Mausoleum is behind the Monument to the People's Heroes. The Great Hall of the People lies on the west side of the square. Today the square is a place for people to wander and fly kites. Surrounding the square is a mish-mash of monuments past and present: Tiananmen (Gate of Heavenly Peace), hung with a vast likeness of Mao; the Museum of Chinese History and the Museum of the Revolution; the Great Hall of the People; Qianmen (Front Gate); the Mao Mausoleum; and the Monument to the People's Heroes. Map of Tian'anmen Square
Forbidden City (Gugong)
Also known as the Palace Museum, there are twenty-four emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties lived in the Forbidden City, which got its name because it was off-limits to ordinary citizens and is the biggest and best-preserved cluster of ancient buildings in China. It was originally built in the 14th century, but because of fires and other catastrophes, it has been rebuilt several times. On the grounds are six palaces and 800 smaller buildings, containing more than 9,000 rooms and halls, and hundreds of gardens. Most of the buildings are post-18th century. A permanent restoration squad takes about 10 years to renovate its 720,000 square meters, 800 buildings and 9000 rooms. Map of Forbidden City
The Great Wall
The Great Wall is one of the most awesome sights in the world. It is a paved, elevated highway that snakes across the hills for more than 3,000 mi/4830 km. It is wide enough for carts and horsemen to travel along the top. A barrier to persistent invaders from the north, it was also a dividing line between settled agriculture on the plain and nomadic life in the mountains. It is built of brick and stone and filled with earth as well as the bodies of conscripted laborers who died building it. Much of it is in disrepair, but several sections have been reconstructed near Beijing. When it was originally built 2000 years ago by the Qing dynasty it was a sturdy "No Trespassing" sign directed at neighboring kingdoms. To peasants in rural areas the Great Wall is less majestically considered as "old frontier". It's a classic and well-preserved example of Ming defense with high and wide ramparts, intact parapets and sturdy beacon towers. More information on the Great Wall; Maps of Great Wall
Simatai Great Wall
Most of this section of the Great Wall isn't renovated, dating back to the Ming dynasty, and sporting a few late innovations such as spaces for cannon, with its inner walls at right angles to the outer wall to thwart invaders who have already breached the first defense. The walk over the ruins is not an easy work and it gets increasingly precipitous after about the tenth watchtower, with sheer drops and steep angles
The Ming Tombs
The Ming tombs lie in a broad valley to the south of Tianshou (Longevity of Heaven) Mountain in Changping County, about 50 kilometers northwest of Beijing proper. To the southwest of this valley, a branch of the Yanshan Range suddenly to breaks off and forms a natural gateway to the 40-quare-kilometer basin in which the tombs were built. This gateway is "defended" on each side by the Dragon and Tiger hills, which are said to protect this sacred area from winds carrying evil influences. Thirteen out of the 16 Ming emperors are buried in this peaceful valley. Map of the Ming Tombs
Summer Palace (Yiheyuan)
The Summer Palace with its cool features - water, gardens and hills - was the palace of choice for vacationing emperors and Dowager Empresses during the summer time. It was badly damaged by Anglo-French troops during the Second Opium War (1860) and its restoration became a pet project of the Empress Dowager Cixi, last Qing dynasty rulers. Money earmarked for a modern navy was used for the project. The place is packed to the gunwales in summer with Beijing residents taking full advantage of Kunming Lake, which takes up three-quarters of the park. The main building is the named Hall of Benevolence & Longevity, while along the north shore is the Long Corridor because there are over 700m (2300ft) of corridor, filled with mythical paintings and scenes. Map of Summer Palace
Temple of Heaven (Tiantan)
Located in spacious Tiantan Park, south of the central city, the Temple of Heaven is less a religious site than a historical one. Dating to the 15th century, it was where the emperor made an annual pilgrimage to pray for good harvests. It is made up of several notable buildings, but the crown jewel is the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest. The temple sets in a 267-hectare (660-acre) park, with four gates at the cardinal points, and walls to the north and east. Tiantan Park remains an important meeting place where many city dwellers start the day with a spot of Tai Chi, dancing or game-playing in the park. Map of Temple of Heaven
Temple of the Reclining Buddha (Wo Fo Si)
Also known as the Sleeping Buddha Temple, it has a spectacular horizontal bronze Buddha that was cast in 1320. The Temple of the Reclining Buddha is located in the Western Hills at the southern foot of Jubao Mountain, about 20 kilometers from Beijing proper. The temple was first built during the Zhenguan period (627-249) of the Tang Dynasty, when it was also known as the Temple of Peaceful Longevity. In later periods it fell into ruin and was rebuilt and renamed several times. The famous bronze Buddha is more than five meters long. It lies in a sleeping position, with one arm extended and the other propping up its head, and is surrounded by 12 smaller Buddha. According to legend, this scene represents the Buddha on his deathbed giving instructions to his 12 disciples, who are seated under a pair of sal (poluo) trees, which bloom in late spring or early summer. At very rear of the temple is a sutra repository built against a cliff. On the western side are rockeries, pavilions and mountain vegetation; all contribute to the beauty of the garden-like setting.
Temple of the Azure Clouds (Biyun Si)
The Temple was first built in 1366 before the collapse of the Yuan Dynasty. Under the Ming two powerful eunuchs, Yu Jing and Wei Zhongxian, had it expanded at various periods, trying to make it their burial ground, but they didn't succeed. This temple, which contains religious statuary and the Diamond Throne Pagoda, is the most magnificent temple in Beijing's western hills. It's especially nice in the spring, when surrounded by blossoms. Entering the gate you can see the Bell Tower and the Drum Tower, one on each side.
White Cloud Temple (Baiyun Guan)
The world's oldest Taoist temple, also the center of Taoism in north China, is located among the smokestacks of southern Beijing. Monks are still in residence, and every February during the spring festival, a famous temple fair is held there. Inside, you'll find an amazingly tranquil world of exotic deity statues, religious artifacts of the Ming and Qing dynasties and longhaired Taoist priests. There is also a meditation chamber open to the public for chanting four times a day, at 8:30 am, 10 am, 2 pm and 3:30 pm.
White Pagoda Temple (Bai Ta Si)
White Pagoda Temple (Baita Si) is located at the Western District inside Beijing City. It got its name from a white old pagoda, 39.5 meters high, inside the temple. This 13th-century Tibetan Stupa, the largest of its kind in China, dates from Kublai Khan's reign and owes its beauty to a Nepalese architect (name lost to history) who built it to honor Sakyamuni Buddha.
Marco Polo Bridge (Lugouqiao)
"Over this river there is a very fine stone bridge, so fine indeed, that it has very few equals in the world." ------The Diary of Marco Polo
The Marco Polo Bridge is located 15 kilometers southwest of Beijing proper. In the local dialect in ancient times, lu (reed) meant black. Historical records also prove that the Lugou River was "violent and flowed extraordinarily rapidly." The Lugou Bridge is situated at a strategic point on the one overland route to the capital from the south. Bridge construction was begun in 1189 and completed four years later. The bridge is 235 meters long of white marble. It has 11 arches and as many broad piers. On July 7, 1937, the first shot of the War of Resistance Against Japan rang out beside the Lugou Bridge.
The Ruins of the Yuanmingyuan (The Garden of Perfection and Light)
In a quiet section of the suburbs of Beijing to the northwest of Qinghua University, there once stood a complex of gardens known as the Yuanmingyuan. Built in the Qing Dynasty, this "garden of gardens" was made up of the Garden of Perfection and Light (Yuanmingyuan), and the Garden of Ten Thousand Springtime (Wanchunyuan). The work of building the garden went on over a period of 150 years, beginning in around 1700. The grounds had a circumference of 10 kilometers and occupied an area of more than 347 hectares. Of the hundreds of large and small buildings, which once stood here, all that remains are a few ruins in stone. On October 5, 1860, the Anglo-French Allied Armies occupied the town of Haidian in the northwest suburbs of the capital, and on October 7 the mad plunder of the garden began. Finally, Lord Elgin's cavalry set the gardens on fire, leaving them to burn!?? for three days and three nights. After their retreat, repairs were begun, but in 1900 the Eight-Power Allied Forces, leaving it in complete ruin, brought further destruction upon the garden. The most striking ruin in the whole garden is the complex of Western-style buildings, the construction of which began in 1746, the 10th year of Emperor Qianlong' s reign.
Big Bell Temple (Dazhong Si)
The temple has a bronze bell 21 feet and 7 meters high, weighing more than 46 tons, which was cast during the reign of Emperor Yong Le (1403-1424). It is said that a shallow canal was built so that the bell could be slid over ice in the winter to the newly built temple, which dates to 1733. Buddhist scriptures are engraved on the bell, which is considered a national treasure. Map of Big Bell Temple
Lama Temple (Yonghegong Lamasery)
The temple was built in 1694 and the architecture and ornamentation of the buildings show the influence of Han, Manchu, Mongolian and Tibetan styles. The temple was once an important center of Tibetan Lamaism, and some 200 monks still live, study and pray there. The temple is a working lamasery so it's closed early in the mornings for prayer. Map of Yonghegong Lamasery
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