- China' Treasure House
is a unique representation of the past and future of China.
Beijing served as the capital for various dynasties over the past
several hundred years. There are the Forbidden City-the political
center for Ming and Qing Dynasties, the Summer Palace-the vacation
spot for the past and current rulers, and the Temple of Heaven-an
architectural wonder that was used to offer sacrifices to heaven.
There is also the ruins of Yuan Ming Yuan in Beijing. Once considered the
most beautiful and extravagant palace of the world, it was torched
by westerners during the war at the end of 19th century. Chinese
people consider this their temple of shame. Beijing has witnessed
China's decay from a world power to the "Sick Man of the East".
Beijing also represents the future of China. It has many of
the top universities in China. Beijing is also the cradle of many
Internet start-ups. To some degree, the development of Beijing
symbolizes the advancement of China.
Because of Beijing's long history and its position of being the center
of changes in China, Beijing has a fascinating combination of
the old and the new. That is also why Beijing is the culture center
of China as well.
Beijing City Ratings
- ** The following
ratings are based on a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best.
- Area - 16,800
Population - 10.92 million
People - Han, Hui, Mongolian, Manchu
- When to go
- Tourist Season - May through November
Coldest Months - January and February with temperature as low as - 20C; Hottest Months - July and August, with temperature as high as 38C;
Annual Precipitation - 683 millimeters (mainly in May through September)
- Getting Around
- By Public Bus - Public buses are convenient, but old and not air-conditioned. Take the express air-conditioned buses. These are bit more expensive (Y2). Be careful though, the mini buses may not cover the entire routes;
By Public Tour Bus -Numbers one to five tour buses go to all the major attractions;
By Metro (Subway) - Beijing's subway is still being expanded. It's convenient but a bit crowed. All stops are in pin yin ;
By Taxi - Taxis are the most common means of transportation for foreigners in Beijing. All Beijing taxis have a meter. Taxis cost Y10 for the first five kilometers. Each additional km costs Y2.0 -Y3.0 depending upon the model of the taxi.
By Bicycle Rickshaws - Bicycle rickshaws are a tradition of old Beijing. It is small and can usually get around traffic jams. It is good for short distances. Do decide on a price before you get on it.
- Getting In and Out
- By air - Beijing is about four hours flight west of Tokyo, three hours north of Guangzhou or Hong Kong and two hours from Shanghai. It has air links with 76 Chinese cities and at least 35 foreign cities;
By Train - Beijing is around 30 hours from Hong Kong by train and 19 hours from Shanghai. Its main railway station - Beijing Railway station is located downtown with trains to and from almost all major cities in China.
The Great Wall (Changcheng)
The Imperial Palace (the Purple Forbidden City)
The Temple of Heaven (Tiantan)
The Mansion of Prince Gong (Gongwangfu)
The Old Observatory (Guanxiangtai)
The Summer Palace (Yiheyuan)
The Old Summer
The Ming Tombs (Ming Shisanling)
Western Qing Tombs (Xiling)
The Marco Polo Bridge (Lugouqiao)
The Peking Man Site
Prospect Hill (Jingshan) or Coal Hill (Meishan)
Museum of the Chinese Revolution and Museum of Chinese History
The Temple of Confucius(Kong Miao)and the Former Imperial College(Guozijian)
The Source of Law Temple (Fayuansi)
Beijing is one of the oldest cities in the world whose history may be traced back to "Peking" Man time, about 300,000 - 500,000 years ago. During the Zhou (1027 - 221 BC) and subsequent dynasties, a series of large settlements were established here. For a portion of the Liao Kingdom (916 - 1125), the city was a secondary capital and was given a fancy name: Yanjing, or the City of Swallows. When Khubilai, a grandson of Chinggis Khan, became Great Khan of the eastern part of the Mongol empire in 1260, Beijing was chosen as his winter capital.
Marco Polo made his way to Beijing at the end of the 13th century and by then it, called Khanbaliq or the City of Khan, was already one of the world's great metropolises.
The Mongols were defeated and the Ming dynasty began in 1368. The city was established as the capital of Ming dynasty in 1421 and was given its modern name, which means Northern Capital, and which Europeans later pronounced as "Peking". The site became the capital of Qing dynasty in 1644 and that of the Republic of China in 1911. It also has been the capital, the country's political, cultural, and intellectual center ever since the founding of the Peoples' Republic of China in 1949.
- The Great Wall (Changcheng) * * * * *
As the old Chinese saying tells: "No one is a real man unless he has climbed the Great Wall".
The Great Wall project actually began around 500 BC and went on to the 16th century AD. To some degree, The Great Wall was like the backbone of the body of Chinese history. The main purpose of the wall was to provide defense mechanisms against raids form northern nomadic minority tribes. The Chinese people called them "Barbarians from the North". When the most parts of the Mainland were unified by Qin Shi Huang in 221 BC, a continuous line of fortification was constructed by joining up the old walls. The history books record that it took 300,000 men to work for ten years on the construction of one single section of the wall. Many people died due to inhumane working conditions, bad weather, and vicious diseases.
After the continuous and diligent work by Chinese people from ten dynasties, The Great Wall reached 25,000 kilometers in length. The most recently built portion of it that totaled up to 6,300 kilometers was finished in the Ming dynasty. The strongest and best preserved part of the wall is to be found shielding the capital city of most of these dynasties- Beijing.
Ever since the founding of Peoples' Republic of China, the federal and local governments have been putting much effort into restoring and reconstructing many different sections of The Great Wall on many different occasions. One restored segment closest to the city of Beijing is named Badaling, which is located at approximately 70 kilometers (44 miles) north of the city. It happens to be very close to the Ming tombs as well. Most tourists are able to hit both spots in one day. On the way to Badaling, you will be passing through Juyongguan, or the Juyong Pass where a marvelous architectural structure is a must-visit site as well. It's called the Cloud Platform, at the root of a recently reconstructed section of the Great Wall. Built around 1340's (Yuan dynasty), it served as the base for three pagodas which were destroyed several decades later. A hexagonal archway pierces the platform. The ceiling and walls are covered with wonderful carvings of the Four Heavenly Kings and the texts of Buddhist scriptures in six languages: Nepalese Sanskrit, Tibetan, Phagspa Mongolian, Uighur, Xi Xia, and Han Chinese. It's also known as the "language archway".
Another segment of The Great Wall you may want to visit is located at Mutianyu, northwest of the city in Huairou County. It has a much more peaceful atmosphere because of fewer tourists and one can really appreciate the Great Wall's history and grandeur as it spans the horizon.
Practically, the Great Wall was of little use. As the great Chinggis Khan once said," The wall is only as strong as the people who guard it." The Great Wall never stopped the "Barbarians" from crossing the borders to loot and later on, taking over the entire country as the Mongols and the Manchurians did. The Wall is only great in the sense that it is a demonstration of what people can achieve through collective efforts.
- The Imperial Palace (the Purple Forbidden City)* * * * *
- This is the place to go if you want to see the most complete and best-preserved collection of ancient buildings and historical treasures in China. Having been the center of Chinese politics, economics, culture, and religion for nearly 500 years, The Imperial Palace is a vast complex of halls, pavilions, courtyards, and walls. It is within these walls that 24 emperors of two dynasties, aided by their ministers, eunuch guards, concubines and servants, acted out the drama of ruling imperial China form the early Ming in 1420 the fall of the Qing in 1911. The Imperial Palace witnessed more cases of murder, betrayal, adultery, homosexuality, power struggle, and money hunger than the entire soap opera watching population of the world.
The Imperial Palace was originally built in the year of 1420 by over 200,000 workmen at the direction of the third Ming emperor and was mostly burnt to the ground in 1644 during the Manchu takeover. Rebuilt and renovated many times, it nonetheless retains the initial design set down 500 years ago. Occupying an area of over 183 acres, the complex is indeed more like a city than a palace. As most ancient Chinese architectures, an extraordinary sense of balance is maintained between the buildings and the open spaces that surround in the Palace. The scale is monumental but never oppressive; the design symmetrical but not repetitive. As in the Chinese predilection for harmony over diversity, The Imperial Palace makes use of a single style of building in an awe-inspiring combination of geometric planning and aesthetic beauty. All the buildings are carefully laid out on a north-to-south axis as most buildings in China, but there is no sense of rigidity to them. Like the Louvre or the Taj Mahal, the Imperial Palace is a monument that can be visited with pleasure again and again.
The Imperial Palace can roughly be divided into three different but associated parts. In the foreground are four gates, each of which may look so large that many first-time visitors think that this is the palace itself. Beyond these gates is the center of the complex, there are three principal halls of monumental size and scope and this is where the emperors conducted important State ceremonies.
-The Palace Gates
By passing through the Gate of Heavenly Peace (Tian'anmen) and the Upright Gate (Duanmen), you arrive at the imposing Meridian Gate (Wumen), which is the traditional entrance to the Forbidden City. The horseshoe-shape of the Meridian Gate's massive fortress walls, topped with five towers, seems to draw the visitor submissively forward through the entrance to the inner precincts. This gate was originally used for important State functions such as victorious troops and announcing the lunar calendar. The emperor was the only person that was permitted to pass through the central opening of the gate.
Beyond this gate lies a courtyard leading to the fourth and final gate, the Gate of Supreme Harmony (Taihemen), a huge open porch supported by red lacquered pillars. Visitors will need to cross a stream by one of five marble bridges, all of which are beautifully and skillfully built with flowers and animals carved on their sides. Two striking bronze lions guard this entrance. These lions symbolize the power of the emperor and the subservience demanded by him.
- The Principle Halls
The next courtyard, called the "Sea of Flagstones" by the Chinese, was designed to accommodate 90,000 people during an imperial ceremony. In its center stands the Hall of Supreme Harmony (Taihedian), the largest and grandest structure in the Palace. Here were held the most solemn of ceremonial occasions, such as celebration of the New Year and the emperor's birthday or announcing the successful candidate of the imperial examinations. The treasures in this hall include bronze incense burners, musical chimes made of jade, and a nine-dragon screen behind the throne.
Behind the Hall of Supreme Harmony are the halls of Complete Harmony (Zhonghedian) and Preserving Harmony (Baohedian). In the former, the emperor donned formal regalia before proceeding to the Hall of Supreme Harmony, or performed lesser State functions like inspecting seeds for a new planting. The Hall of Preserving Harmony had been used for a time as the site for the highest level of the imperial examinations. Behind this hall, between the descending staircases, is the "Dragon Pavement", an exquisitely carved a single block of marble said to weigh over 200 tons.
- The Inner Court
The three rear halls, the Palace of Heavenly Purity (Qianqinggong), the Hall of Union (Jiaotaidian) and the Palace Earthly Peace (Kunninggong), were also the sites of lesser State functions. During the Ming dynasty, emperors lived among these buildings, but later the Qing rulers moved to smaller, less formal parts of the Palace. They nevertheless continued to use the Palace of Earthly Peace to spend the first few nights of their marriages here. The last emperor, Puyi, who ascended the throne as a child and formally abdicated in 1924, was allowed to use this chamber on his wedding night. However, intimidated by the color scheme of gaudy red (the traditional color of joy), he fled to his usual quarters.
The east and west sides of the Palace's rear section is where the imperial families, concubines and attendants lived. The section contains a dizzying succession of smaller courts, schemed for power and engaged in their many intrigues. In the far northeast corner of the complex, behind the Palace of Peaceful Old Age (Ningshougong), is the famous well which the Pearl Concubine was cast down. Several of the eastern palaces have been converted into exhibition halls as a part of the Palace Museum.
Two sections in the eastern palaces are worth seeing as well. One is the Qianlong Garden, built for the retirement of the aging emperor who was willingly stepping down. It is a quiet, secluded rock garden with a central pavilion made of fine wood brought from the forests of Sichuan and Yunnan provinces. One of three smaller pavilions was a specially constructed for elaborate drinking games with strong Chinese liquor, a favorite pastime of the emperor.
The Belvedere of Flowing Music (Changyinge) is a three-story theatre, the largest theatre in the Palace, and a favorite haunt of the Empress Dowager Cixi. Magnificently carved and painted eaves set off the stage where drama often depicted Buddhist worthies and Taoist immortals swarming all over the boards, dropping from ceilings and popping out of trap doors. The building opposite, where Cixi watched the dramas, has a rich display of silk costumes, stage properties and scripts used by the imperial troupe. Visitor may also find the drawings of famous productions of the 60th birthday celebrations of Qianlong and Cixi. The latter affair is said to have continued for ten consecutive days.
Beyond the rear palaces, by the northern gate of the Palace, are the Imperial Gardens. Landscaped with cypress and pine trees that are now hundreds of years old, all makes it an excellent place for the visitors to take a brief rest.
Before leaving the Palace, you might visit an interesting exhibition of palace architecture and construction located in the tower of the Gate of Divine Prowess. Here there are blueprints, tools, color schemes, roof tiles and old photographs that are highly informative. despite the frustrating absence of labels in any language except Chinese.
- The Temple of Heaven (Tiantan) * * * * *
- The Temple of Heaven has been called "the noblest example of religious architecture in the whole of China". The construction of it begun in 1406, in the reign of Emperor Yongle, it was not completed until 1420. The huge site- twice the size of the Imperial Palace- is reached by going south along Qianmen Dajie, following a route traversed by past emperors and their entourages in splendid procession from which the commoner had to avert his eyes.
The emperors came to The Temple of Heaven at the winter solstic to offer sacrifices to Heaven- momentous occasions for which the temple's grandeur and simplicity provided a fitting background. The temple's design symbolized certain tenets of their beliefs. The altar and temple buildings are located within a wall which is half-circular to the north, and square to the south. During the Yongle period, annual sacrifices to the earth at the summer solstice were also performed here. Each main structure in the temple has three tiers, making a total of nine, a number in Chinese cosmology representing Heaven. A separate Altar to the Earth (Ditan) was later constructed to the north of the city.
From the entrance at West Heavenly Gate, an avenue leads to the Hall of Abstinence (Zhaigong). For three days before the rites began, the emperors would have stopped taking meat and wine as part of their diet, and the last day of his fast would be spent here. For his safety, the hall was enclosed by a moat. From there visitors can walk up to the Circular Mound (Yanqiu), an open altar set on three round marble terraces, built in 1530. The emperor used to come here to commune with Heaven and, interestingly, there is a curious acoustical effect to be heard form the center of the Circular Mound.
Next to the mound is the Imperial Vault of Heaven (Huangqiongyu), a wooden structure roofed with blue tiles and built entirely of wood in 1530. Tablets used in ceremonies held on the Mound were stored here. The Imperial Vault is surrounded by a round wall, popularly known as the Echo or Whispering Wall, because of its remarkable acoustics. If the round courtyard is relatively quiet, two people standing out of earshot at any point along the wall with their heads at approximately the same distance off the ground can hear each other barely whispering.
A second acoustical phenomenon is the "echo stones", which refer to the first three rectangular stone at the foot of the staircase that leads up to the Imperial Vault. You can hear echoes while clapping on one of the stones if it is reasonably quiet.
Leaving the Imperial Vault, there is a fine walk along a raised approach called the Bridge Of Vermilion Stairs to the main building of the park, the magnificent Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests. A triple roof covered in blue tiles and crowned with a gilded ball surmounts this round wooden hall. The walls are resplendently painted in rich and vivid colors- red, blue, gold and green. It stands on three marble terraces.
Two rectangular buildings stand in the courtyard before the Hall. The one to the west is a large comprehensive gift shop, while the one to the east contains a display of the musical instruments, both authentic and reproduction, used in the imperial rituals.
- The Mansion of Prince Gong (Gongwangfu)* *
- The Mansion of Prince Gong is one of the largest and best-preserved prince's mansions in Beijing. Prince Gong was the younger brother of the Xianfeng emperor, whose short rule lasted only ten years (1851 - 1861). When Xianfeng died and the young Tongzhi emperor mounted the dragon throne at the age of five, Prince Gong served as regent along with Xianfeng's principal concubine and Tongzhi's mother, the notorious Empress Dowager Cixi.
The mansion is divided into three sections. There is the residence itself, with a large banquet hall now used for evening shows. The spacious garden has several artificial hills made of heaped Lake Taihu stones, grotesquely eroded chunks of limestone that were transported from the Yanzi delta region. On top of one of the hills there is a pagoda that was used for watching the moon. There is also a large square fishing pond with an island in its center.
Many literary scholars in China have suggested that The Mansion of Prince Gong was the model for the mansion and garden, the Prospect Garden described by Cao Xueqin in The Dream of the Red Chamber (Honglou Meng), the 18th century novel generally regarded as China's greatest. Indeed several details of the mansion correspond with the description in the book, especially the layout of the buildings. In the 1980s, the Public Security Bureau was using the mansion as a residence for the retired officers but later on it was decided that the structure was better off to stay a historical site.
- The Old Observatory (Guanxiangtai)* * * *
- Kublai Khan established an observatory in the 15th century at the southeastern corner of the city and it still stands today. The Old Observatory now functions as a part of the more modern Beijing Observatory and Planetarium, it is also a museum with a small but excellent collection of Ming and Qing astronomical instruments.
Of the instruments that were made from the 15th century onwards only fifteen pieces remain, including several made by Jesuit fathers- notably Adam Schall and Ferdinand Verbiest- in the 17th century. When these missionaries arrived to China they were found to be very skillful astronomers that they were put in charge of the observatory. These instruments were taken to Germany in 1900, as spoils of war after the Allied Forces had subdued the Boxer Rebellion, but were returned to China in 1919. Eight of them are displayed on the Observatory terrace here atop one of the few remaining sections of the old city wall (the other seven were moved to Nanjing Observatory in 1931). The collection includes three armillary spheres, a quadrant, a sextant, a celestial globe, a horizon circle and a quadrant altazimuth.
- The Summer Palace (Yiheyuan)* * * * *
- In order to avoid the intense heat of the summer in Beijing, the imperial court used to leave the Forbidden City and stay in a specially built resort about 11 kilometers (7 miles) northwest of Beijing. Known in the west as the Summer Palace and in China as Yheyuan- the Garden for Cultivating Harmony- the resort encompasses Longevity Hill (Wanshoushan) and a series of palaces, pavilions, terraces and covered walks strung out along the northern shore of Kunming Lake. Three-fourth of the palace here is covered by water of the Kunming Lake, whose shape and size have been altered many times by successive landscape architects, is central to the overall design of the park. The indefatigable Emperor Qianlong reconstructed it to resemble the West Lake in Hangzhou in 1751, the year of his mother's 60th birthday (Longevity Hill was named for her).
- Imperial Residences
Directly opposite the East Palace Gate (Donggongmen), across a large courtyard, is the Hall of Benevolent Longevity (Renshoudian) where Cixi and her nephew, the nominal Emperor Guangxu, gave audience to their ministers. Behind the courtyard were the private apartments of the imperial household, the Hall of Jade Ripples (Yulantang). This residence was made even more private when the Empress Dowager had a wall erected on its lakeside. Here Guangxu was for ten years her prisoner, having flouted her authority by giving his support to an ill-fated reform movement in 1898. With him safely under guard (but officially "chronically ill"), she emerged from "retirement" to assume control of the government once more.
Cixi's own residence was in the Hall of Happy Longevity (Leshoutang), with Longevity Hill behind and a pleasant lake view in front. Both sets of private apartments, hers and Guangxu's, contain contemporary Qing furniture. Another part of the compound is the Court of Virtuous Harmony (Deheyuan), made up of the Hall for Cultivating Happiness (Yiledian) and a theatre, built at the cost of 700,000 tales of silver to commemorate Cixi's 60th birthday. She was particularly fond of theatricals and tableaux vivants, ad even appeared in them herself. In order to create such effects as trickling streams and gushing fountains, they even sank a large water tank under the theatre stage. Visitors should not miss the building, now renovated as a theatre museum. Attendants dressed in Qing-dynasty clothes are on site to direct visitors to superb exhibitions of theatre costumes and stage props. A collection of Cixi's personal possessions is also on display. These include the automobile- the first imported to China- presented by Yuan Shikai to Cixi. Yuan was the military commander who was later President of the new Republic for a brief time. Silver and gold ware; brushes, garments and perfumes are among the display items as well. The Hall of Cultivating Happiness now displays over 200 historical artifacts, among them the four large carved screens inlaid with jade which are considered national treasures.
- The Old Summer Palace (Yuanmingyuan) * * * * Once the proud of Qing royal family and, most probably, the most luxurious palace ever, Yuanmingyuan was burnt down to the ground by the Westerners during the war.
- The Ming Tombs (Ming Shisanling) * * *
- About 48 kilometers (30 miles) north of Beijing lies the valley of the Ming Tombs. Thirteen of the 16 Ming emperors rest here, hence the sites' Chinese name Ming Shisanling (The 13 Ming Tombs). The tombs were located in accordance with Chinese geometric specifications requiring graves to be protected by higher ground.
The approach is impressive. The modern road passes by a stone portico with five carved archways. This is the beginning of the imposing route known as the Spirit (or Sacred) Way. Next comes the Great Vermilion Gateway; of its three openings the central entrance was reserved for the coffins of deceased emperors, and all followers were required to dismount at this point. The whole tomb site, to which this gateway was the actual entrance, was surrounded by a wall. The wall has been destroyed over the years.
- The Spirit Way
The emperor's coffin would have been borne past a stele pavilion, a typical imperial structure with the floating clouds motif repeated on its supporting columns. There would be a funeral guard of honor of six pairs of animals and six pairs of human figures carved from large blocks of stone. The procession of mourners would then have filed along the Spirit Way. The latter, all standing, are statues of scholars, administrators and warriors. The stone animals- lions, xiechi (a mythical beast), camels, elephants, unicorns, horses- are either standing or crouching. The Spirit Way ends at the Dragon and Phoenix Gates.
This part of the Ming Tombs dates from the 15th century in its entirely. Beside the road there is now a mass of shrubs and fruit trees. Once across and arched bridge, visitors can then visit the different miscellaneous tombs of former higher officials and imperial relatives, scattered round the valley.
Yongle was the third emperor of Ming dynasty and is one of the most significant figures of the history of China. The most important tomb, appropriately, belongs to him, who was responsible for building so much of Beijing. He chose this site and had his burial place built on the traditional plan of a walled enclave, enclosing buildings separated by three courtyards, with the tumulus at its head. The tumulus is marked by a stele tower and traditionally referred to as the Precious Fortress (Baocheng). It has not been excavated, but visitors may see inside the magnificent Hall of Sacrifice. This very fine structure built in 1427 is supported by 32 massive wooden pillars wrought from huge trunks of Nanmu wood from the extreme southwest of China. The Yongle Emperor was interred in the Changling in 1424. Sixteen royal concubines were buried alive in ancillary graves following a custom that was finally discontinued during the reign of the sixth Ming emperor.
Dingling is the tomb of the Wanli Emperor (reigned 1573 - 1620) and his two consorts. Its construction was begun in 1584, when Wanli was aged 22, and took six years to complete. It was excavated in 1958, and one may now descend by a modern spiral staircase to the underground tomb behind a stele tower.
The vaulted marble palace was built deep underground so that it is cool in the summer time and comfortably warm in winter. The structure is consisted of three burial chambers. At the entrance to the antechambers is a carved marble gateway. The floor is paved with specially made "golden bricks" which had been fired for 130 days and dipped in tung oil before being laid so they look vividly golden for a long time. The middle chamber has three marble thrones; in front of each of them are five drum-shaped stools for holding offerings and a large glazed pot known as the Ever Bright Lamp. The lamps would have been filled with oil and lit before the tomb was sealed. The back chamber was the actual repository of the royal coffins. On being opened by the excavation team they were found to be stuffed with some 300 assorted garments. Even more lavish, countless pieces of jewelry, curios and porcelain- stowed in chests- were also deposited to provide for a luxurious life in the nether world. The regalia and the treasure have all been moved to two small exhibition halls outside. They should not be missed.
- Western Qing Tombs (Xiling)* * * *
- The Western Qing Tombs lie a good distance from the capital city, some 125 kilometers (78 miles) southwest of the city limits in Yixian, Hebei Province. Four emperors- Yongzheng, Jiaqing, Daoguang and Guangxu- are buried here, along with their nine queens, 76 princes and 57 imperial concubines.
One traditional view holds that Yongzheng (reigned 1723-35), son of the great Kangxi and father of the great Qianlong, chose to be buried apart from his father because he had ascended the throne by devious means. But there is little evidence to support this. In any case, Qianlong decreed that after his own death the tombs of the emperors that came after him should be distributed alternatively between the eastern and western burial grounds. Incidentally, Puyi, the last emperor of the Qing Dynasty who was overthrown in 1911 was cremated after his death in 1967, and his ashes were placed in the revolutionary cemetery at Babaoshan. In 1995 his casket of ashes was finally taken to Xiling for a simple burial.
The Tailing is the tomb of Yongzheng that is the largest tomb in the entire mausoleum complex. It consists of numerous gateways and buildings that were used during the various Buddhist rituals and sacrifices held in the emperor's memory.
The Muling of the Emperor Daoguang (reigned 1821 - 50) is small in comparison to the Tailing but is more exquisitely constructed. Soon after his ascension to the throne, Daoguan began building his tomb at the eastern burial grounds, as decreed by Qianlong. One year after its completion, however, the underground burial chamber was found to be flooded, and Daoguan, finding this inauspicious, went to the Western Tombs to select a new site for himself. Because Daoguang believed that the flooding in his first tomb had occurred because several dragons had been deprived of their homes, he lavishly decorated his second tomb with carved ../images of this auspicious creature.
The Chongling of Emperor Guangxu (1875 - 1908) was left unfinished when the Qing Dynasty fell in 1911, and was completed four years later. Accompanying Guangxu in a tomb of her own is Zhenfei, known as the "Pearl Concubine". Zhenfei was forced down a well in the Imperial Palace.
- Tian'anmen Square* * * * *
The enormous square facing the Gate of Heavenly Peace-Tian'anmen is the heart of modern China. During the centuries of the Qing Empire the square did not exist. There were originally buildings on either side of a central thoroughfare leading northwards to the entrance of the Imperial Palace.
Gradually cleared and organized during the first half of the 20th century, the largest square in the world, covering about 40 hectares (98 acres), has witnessed crucial developments in China's history. A number of important political demonstrations took place there during the Republic (1911 - 49) including the founding and failure of the New Republic. On October 1st of 1949, Chairman Mao proclaimed the establishment of the People's Republic of China from the rostrum of the Gate of Heavenly Peace. Twenty seven years later, the Tian'anmen Square Incident-when masses demonstrated their support for the late premier, Zhou Enlai-heralded the end of Mao's reign and the downfall of the Gang of Four.
The Gate of Heavenly Peace itself is an imposing long red structure with a double roof of yellow tiles on the northern side of the square. Since January 1st of 1988, tourists have been allowed to enter the gate and climb to the rostrum from which emperors handed down edicts over the centuries and Mao Zedong declared the founding of New China. Besides being steeped with historical significance, Tian'anmen, and the Great Hall of the People, provides one of the finest views of central Beijing.
On either side of the gate's rear portion are two parks. To the east is the Working People's Cultural Palace. Over 550 years old, this was an imperial ancestral temple and now contains a park, a library, and gymnasium and other recreational facilities. On the western side is Zhongshan Park, dedicated to Dr. Sun Yat-sen, the leader of the 1911 Revolution that marked the end of Old China and founder of modern China.
On the eastern side of Tian'anmen Square are two major museums, the Museum of Chinese History and the Museum of the Chinese Revolution. In the center of the Tiananmen Square is the Monument to the People's Heroes, an obelisk in memory of those who died for the revolution, with inscriptions by Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai, as well as a dozen stone carving. At the far southern end of the Tiananmen Square (beyond Chairman Mao's Memorial Halls) is the Qianmen, or Front Gate, a massive double gate that controlled entry to the northern section of the city.
- Great Hall of the People
To house the People's Congress of PRC, the Great Hall of the People was built on the western side of the square in 1959. It may usually be visited on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings, when there are no party meetings scheduled.
The Great Hall of People is built around a square, very much in the solid "revolutionary-heroic" mould. It is worth going inside where, even if the d¨¦cor is not to everyone's taste, the sheer scale of the rooms is breathtaking. The first hall to be seen in the structure is the huge reception room. Overhead, 500 recessed lights radiating outwards from a gleaming red star illuminate the vaulted ceiling. The Banquet Room of the size of half of a football field can hold some 500 guests for dinner at once. Gilded columns and brilliant lighting combine to produce a sumptuous if overwhelming effect. In addition to the formal public rooms, the Great Hall also provides 32 separate reception rooms, named after each province, Provincial-level City and autonomous region of China.
- Chairman Mao's Memorial Hall
Chairman Mao's mausoleum was built in only one year by teams of volunteers and completed on September 9th, 1977, the first anniversary of his death, by his successor to the Communist Party leadership, Chairman Hua Guofeng. Standing behind the Monument to the People's Heroes, this imposing two-tiered edifice resting on a foundation of plum-colored Huangang stone is supported by 44 granite columns and topped by a flat roof of yellow glazed tiles. Visitors who have been to the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C will find astonishing the resemblance between the two monuments.
Entering the building, visitors come across a reception area that is capable of accommodating over 600 people. There are three main halls on the ground floor, the Hall of Reverence is in the middle with one hall on each side of it. The visitor are usually first confronted by a seated statue of Chairmen Mao carved in white marble as they enter the lobby area. Behind it hangs a painting of Jinggangshan in Jiangxi Province, which is one of the places of great significance during the Third Civil War. Inside the Hall of Reverence, the embalmed body of the late chairman Mao draped with the red flag of the Chinese Communist Party lies in the crystal coffin. The dates '1873 - 1976' are engraved in gold on a plaque.
- The Marco Polo Bridge (Lugouqiao)* * *
- On the contrary to what most people think, the Marco Polo Bridge was not built for the western adventurist. The western name for it came about for the impression it made on Marco Polo, who saw it in 1290 and left a fine description of.
As the oldest surviving bridge in Beijing, Marco Polo Bridge spans the Yongding River. As early as the Warring States period (475 - 221 BC), the site of the present bridge had been very important for river crossing. Initially the crossing was probably made by a wooden bridge or by pontoons. From the Jin Dynasty onwards, when the capital was at Beijing, increased traffic across the river warranted a more permanent bridge, which was completed in 1192. The construction of the bridge had been with careful reference to the river's flow rate and seasonal changes. This solid stone structure resting on 11 arches has withstood weathering for several centuries.
The piers supporting the bridge are reinforced by triangular metal posts which locals used to call "Swords for Decapitating Dragons" in the belief that evil dragons, seeing these posts, would quietly go away rather than cause mischief for river craft. On either side of the bridge there is a parapet with 140 columns carved and surmounted with lions. Imperial steles stand at each end; one commemorates the renovation of the bridge in 1698, the other carries a four-character inscription by Emperor Qianlong, "Bright Moon on Lugou).
- The Peking Man Site* *
- In 1929 the little village of Zhoukoudian, used to be known for its lime production, achieved worldwide fame with the discovery of the first skulls of Peking Man. The village is reachable by train approximately 90 kilometers southeast from the city of Beijing. The fossil remains of Homo erectus pekinensis have been dated to about 600,000 to 700,000 years ago.
The limestone caves of Zhoukoudian probably account for the location of a paleolithic settlement here. So far bones of over 40 inhabitants have been unearthed and, with the evidence of other remains, scientists have pieced together a fascinating picture of this early community.
The limestone caves, on the northern slope of Dragon Bone Hills to the east of Zhoukoudian station may be visited. There is also a comprehensive museum on the evolution of man and the Zhoukoudian culture. The exhibition includes stone implements used by Peking Man and Upper Cave Man (who lived about 50,000 years ago), fossils of animals hunted by them. There is also the evidence found that Peking Man used fire. The whereabouts of the original Peking Man fossils, lost during the Second World War while en route to the United States for safekeeping, is still shrouded in mystery. It is best to go with a tour guide due to the fact that very little information is available in English at the site.
- Prospect Hill (Jingshan) or Coal Hill (Meishan)* * * *
- Located just north of the Imperial Palace, the site occupied by Prospect Hill was a private park reserved for the use of the emperors in the Yuan dynasty (1279 - 1368). During the Ming (1369 - 1644), an artificial hill with five peaks was made, utilizing earth excavated when the moat of the Imperial Palace was dug. There is an old but fictional story that an emperor used to keep supplies of coal hidden under the hill in case there was shortage of it, hence its other name, Coal Hill. A pavilion was erected on each peak, and five bronze Buddhas given pride of place in them. Four of the statues were stolen by the troops of the Allied Expeditionary Force when they came to Beijing to relieve the Siege of the Legations in 1900. Prospect Hill was opened to the public in 1928. Designed as a park after 1949, and closed during the Cultural Revolution, it can now be visited daily.
On the eastern slope there used to be an old tree (said to be cassia) from which Chongzhen, the last Ming emperor, is supposed to have hanged himself in 1644 upon the fall of his dynasty. One version of the story is that the emperor decamped to the hill upon hearing that rebels intent on overthrowing the dynasty had already stormed the city. He had evidently retreated in some disarray: he wore no headdress, had only one shoe and the sleeves of his robe were freshly stained with the blood of his consort and two princesses. The story goes that he committed suicide with his own belt. A stone tablet once marked the spot. Later emperors in the early Qing, passing this place to go to the Hall of Imperial Longevity behind the hill, were required to alight from their sedan-chairs and proceed past the tablet on foot, perhaps in order to show more humility and some of respect when contemplating the salutary example of an unpopular predecessor. Part of the Hall of Imperial Longevity is now the Beijing Children's Palace.
- Museum of the Chinese Revolution and Museum of Chinese History* * * * *
- The large building which houses these two museum stands opposite the Great Hall of the People, located on the eastern side of Tian'anmen Square.
- Museum of the Chinese Revolution
This occupies the north (left) wing of the building. More than 3,300 exhibits, displayed on two floors, illustrate the history of the Chinese Communist Party. The collection of models, documents and materials begins with the May Fourth Movement of 1919 and moves on to the founding of the party itself, the First Revolutionary Civil War (1924 - 27), the Second Revolutionary War (1927 - 37), the Anti-Japanese War of Resistance (1937 - 45) and the Third Civil War (1945 - 49). The photographic accounts of this tumultuous period are of particular interest.
- Museum of Chinese History
Occupying two floors of the south (right) wing, this permanent exhibition is an extensive survey of the evolution of Chinese history and culture shown through works of art and scientific invention. Entirely refurbished and reinstalled in 1988, the Museum of Chinese History is a national showcase of the People's Republic. Through arrangements with provincial and municipal collections throughout the country, the museum can obtain on permanent loan any object considered to be a "national treasure". The result is undoubtedly the most stunning display of Chinese artistic masterpieces in the entire country, and should not be missed. Sadly, the museum does little publicity and few tourists have an opportunity to enjoy it. The most exhilarating exhibits are found in the sections that cover the period up to the Tang Dynasty, including bronzes, jades, terracotta burial figures and ceramics. While the objects are still poorly labeled, they speak for themselves. The later dynasties are displayed on the second floor.
- The Temple of Confucius (Kong Miao) and the Former Imperial College (Guozijian)* *
- Located in Beijing's northeast quarter, close by the Lama Temple, stands the temple dedicated to Confucius. Built in the Yuan Dynasty and housed the ancestral tablets of Confucius and four other sages. This is the place where the prominent scholars and the members of the imperial court would come and conduct ceremonials and sacrifices three times a year, including Confucius' birthday. Next to the temple is the Capital Museum that exhibits archaeological finds from Beijing and its environs.
The Former Imperial College is connected to the museum by a side door. First built in 1287 and significantly extended in 1784, this is where the emperor used to lecture on the Classics to ministers and students. The focal point of the former college is the square pavilion that can be thrown open on all four sides by means of doors and shutters, called the Imperial Schoolroom. It is situated in the middle of a pool and connected by bridges. On either side of the structure there used be 190 stone tablets engraved with 800,000 words of the Thirteen Classics, which took the calligrapher 12 years to transcribe. The tablets are now in the courtyard of the main gate, Taixuemen, and the Imperial College is now the Capital Museum.
- The Source of Law Temple (Fayuansi)* *
- In the southwest side of the city, Xuanwumen district, stands the Source of Law Temple (Fayuansi). Built in the Tang period by an emperor named Taizong in 654 AD in memory of troops killed in a battle with the Koreans and has been restored many times since. There used to be two pagodas standing beside the temple but they were destroyed by a fire in the middle of Tang period. The Song Minister Xie Dieshan chose this site to starve himself to death when the Yuan troops entered Beijing instead of submitting to the Mongols.
The temple is surrounded by six courtyards planted with lilac trees. In the past, the temple was obliged to lay on a series of vegetarian banquets every spring for local dignitaries, for it is an old Chinese custom to spend a convivial evening wining and dining with crowds of friends on the pretext of admiring the season's new blooms.
The Chinese Buddhist Theoretical Institute now occupies the temple and provides accommodations and classrooms for a large number of novice monks. Visitors are welcome to go in and look around.
Beijing Art Museum
The Historical Art Museum
Military Museum of the Chinese People's Revolution
Museum of Natural History
Xu Beihong Memorial Museum
- Peking Opera* * * * *
- Peking opera of China is a national treasure with a history of 200 years. In the 55th year of the reign of Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty(1790), the four big Huiban opera Troupes entered the capital and combined with Kunqu opera, Yiyang opera, Hanju opera and Luantan in Beijing's thearetical circle of the time. Through a period of more than half a century of combination and integration of various kinds of opera there evolved the present Peking opera, the biggest kind of opera in China, whose richness of repertoire, great number of artists of performance and of audiences, and profound influence are incomparable in China.
- Former Residence of Mei Lanfang* *
- Mei Lanfang (1894 - 1961) is regarded as one of the greatest female impersonators in the history of Peking Opera. This is an art form that is not very well understood and not widely appreciated out side of China and Chinese communities abroad. Mei 's skills were so sharp that he could perform women's roles in the opera more convincingly than any woman, the experts say.
His former residence at 9 Huguosi Street is now open to the public as a shrine. His studio contains many of his personal possessions, and video tapes of his performances are play here for the visitors to watch. The architectural value of this courtyard house is also appreciated by many visitors.
- Beijing Art Museum* *
- Beijing Art Museum is the first major museum to open in the city for nearly 30 years. It is located on the grounds of Wanshou Temple (Temple of Longevity) immediately off Xisanhuanbeilu (the Third West Ring Road).
The Wanshou Temple dates back to 1577 itself and it was built to serve as a library for Buddhist scriptures. In front of the museum runs a canal used by the court of the Qianlong Emperor in the 17th century to travel by barge from the Forbidden City to the summer palaces in the northwestern suburbs. For the 70th birthday of Qianlong's mother, he had 1,000 monks standing on the banks of the canal as part of the celebration.
The museum has special collections of Ming and Qing textiles, paintings, Buddhist art, personal name seals, ceramics, and Japanese paintings acquired from collections in the formerly Japanese-occupied areas of Manchuria. This collection was assembled in the late 1980s under the aegis of the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Cultural Relics.
- The Historical Art Museum * * * * *
Situated in the Hall of Preserving Harmony, the Historical Art Museum is definitely worth visiting. There is a collection that provides a broad conspectus of Chinese cultural and spiritual development. The displays are chronologically divided into three different but associated parts: The first part represents the period form earlier times to about 4,000 years ago, illustrated by excavated ancient painted pottery, bronzes and sculptures. The second portion of the displays has the masterpieces form the 5th to the 13th centuries. In this section you will find the emergence of an early modern style of painting as well as major developments in the art of ivory carving, lacquerware, weaving and calligraphy. The final part of the exhibition show samples of the arts during the Yuan, Ming, and Qing dynasties.
- Lu Xun Museum* *
- Lu Xun (1881 - 1936) is considered to be one of the greatest writers of the modern China. His works significantly contributed to the liberal movement in China in the 1920s and many of his articles and novels are still in the textbooks from grade school to college.
- Military Museum of the Chinese People's Revolution* * * * *
- A collection of over 5,000 items is the permanent exhibition here at the Military Museum of the Chinese People's Revolution. The collection includes photographs, military uniforms, directives, weapons (tanks, missiles, etc) and the Eighth Route Army insignias, along with portraits of revolutionary heroes and martyrs. The time period the collection covers is roughly the Chinese revolutionary army's 29-year history between 1921 and 1949.
- Museum of Natural History* * * *
- This museum contains four halls devoted to Botany, Zoology, Paleozoology, and Paleoanthropology (the study of primitive man). It's a must-see site for those who are interested in the diversity of animal kingdom of China due to the unique geological characteristics.
- Xu Beihong Memorial Museum* * *
- Xu Beihong (1895 - 1953), modern Chinese artist, is known internationally for his paintings of horses. His style is so distinctly unique and magnificent that hundreds of artists followed his footsteps and imitated the drawing style. The museum is located at 53 Xinjiekou Bei Dajie and it is usually not as crowded as any other tourist sites. The show here is a collection of his oil paintings, sketches and watercolors. There are also some personal items and photographs of his life moments.
- China National Gallery * * * *
- Located in Wangfujing, downtown Beijing, China National Gallery is housed in a very large traditional-style building. This building, constructed in the year of 1959, is considered to be one of the ten best architectural designs of socialist China. The central building of the structure is flanked on both sides by long corridors and adjoining wings. There are exhibition rooms in this building as well as drawing, painting, and sculpting studios where artists can come in and work.
The exhibitions here include a number of fantastic national (traditional and non-traditional) and international works from different time periods of history. Some of the recent works of modern Chinese artists reflect the emerging trends in the rapidly developing and changing art world. The gallery also offers the visitors the opportunities to purchase some of the drawings, sculptures and other works directly from the artists who put their time and energy into them.
Local Culture/Unique Tour
- Teahouses of Beijing
- One of the most interesting and fun-filling places to hang out is a Beijing's one-of-kind teahouses. As part the tea culture in the capital city, several excellent teahouses still exist from the old times and are still just as worthy of visiting for a cup of fine Wulong Tea and a piece of live performance of Peking Opera or comedy. One of the best known teahouse is called Lao She Teahouse name after one the most celebrated modern authors of China. Tea and snacks are served to accompany the storytelling, cross talking (a form of Chinese comedian act), conjuring, magic and ballad singing. Visitors must book ahead if want to see a show on any evening. There are also Tianqiao Happy Teahouse and The Teahouse inside the city that have slightly different settings and performances.
- One might not originally think that golfing would be part of local culture here in Beijing but the locals will prove the contrary. Beijing International Golf Club offers full rounds of swings at a reasonable price and it is not too far away from the city if you decide to take a cab. An alternative would be the Beijing Country Golf Club that offers a 36-hole course along with other recreational services. Beijing Chaoyang Golf Club is a smaller course in comparison with the other two but it's right in downtown and is much cheaper as well.
- The Beijing Zoo (Beijing Dongwuyuan)* * * * *
- Dating back to the 17th century, Beijing Zoo used to be a garden belonging to one of the princes of the first emperor of the Qing Dynasty. The Qianlong Emperor had it refurbished into a park in 1747 and also performed a number of reconstruction projects on it. It was not until 1901, the Empress Dowager restored the park and started to house some animals here. The animals were given to her as a gift by some of her ministers. All of those animals are dead now and stuffed and on display in a museum inside the zoo. The site now has become the home for tigers, yaks, sea-turtles and lesser-panda from all over the nation.
- Bei Hai Park (Northern Sea Park)* *
- Bei Hai Park is said to be one of the most beautiful places in the city of Beijing and it is located just west of Prospect Hill. A large lake is the feature attraction of the park. The lake is a perfect skating ground for the wintertime and an excellent place for boating all other seasons. The lake was actually manually dug by human labor in the Jin Dynasty (12th to 13th century) to accompany a palace and pleasure gardens to create a retreat for the Court.
Another significance of the lake is that one portion of it, Zhongnanhai, is now reserved for the senior members of the Chinese government. Many leaders of the PRC have lived and worked here; among them are Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai. This part of the lake is not open to visitors but the other side, Beihai, is open for tours and visits. Come here to see the enormous jade bowl with fine carvings of sea monsters around the outside that used to belong to Kublai Khan in 1265. Come to see the jade Buddha image that resembles the statue in the Jade Buddha Temple in Shanghai. Come to see the gorgeous landscaping and architecture that have been perfected over the centuries.
- Shichahai: The Rear Lakes * * * *
- Immediately north of the rear gate of Bei Hai Park is one of the most pleasant districts of Old Beijing. During the dynasties, this area was reserved for the residence of distant imperial families and highest government officials and the scenery here has been very well preserved over the years. The willow-lined lakes were for centuries the site for a summertime night market that has been restored along the western shore of Front Late (Qianhai), a few feet north of Di'anmen Dajie, under the name of Lotus Blossom Market. One of the greatest natural scenes to see here is during the season of fall when the luxuriant crop of lotus whose flowers fad from the florid prime of summer. There also performances on by amateur singers on hot summer nights.
- Prospect Garden * * * *
- As the newest park in Beijing, the Prospect Garden was completed with pavilions, ponds, miniature hillocks and piped music in the year of 1986. Visitors will find many similarities between this park and the gardens meticulously described by Cao Xiueqin in his great Chinese classic, The Dream of the Red Chamber. That's because it was actually purposely designed to imitate what has been written in the novel. It even has the same name as the garden in the novel: Daguanyuan. Many movies and television shows based on the novel have been made here. The park is, nevertheless, a very pleasant place to visit.
- Longtan Park ***
- Guan Yuan Park****
- Yuyuantan Park*****
- Taoranting Park ***
- Famous Local Food
- - Peking Duck * * * * *
- Mongolian Hotpot (Shuanyangrou) * * * * *
-Clay Saucepan * * *
-Steamed Dumplings (Jiaozi) * * * * *
-Roast Suckling Pig * * * * *
-Lamb Shashlik * * * * *
-Mongolian Barbecued Lamb * * * * *
- Famous Local Restaurants
- If you are from anywhere in America or most major cities of Europe, it's very unlikely that you know what real Beijing food is like. It's mainly because the vast majority of Chinese restaurants outside of China serve Cantonese, Sichuan, or Shanghai food. The typical dishes of Beijing are rather different. It would be very regretful not to try some of the most famous food items that Beijing has to offer while you are here. Here is a list of some of the restaurants that might just get you started on a taste of Beijingˇ
- Beijing Duck Restaurant (Beijing Kaoya Dian)
This is often considered, by foreigners, "the place" to have a taste of the famous dish named after the city. The Beijing duck banquet here often consists not only just the duck with crisp skin and tender meat, it also comes with pancakes, sesame buns, scallions and thick brown fermented sauce. Every part of the duck can be a dish here: shredded webs, sliced liver, heart, and gizzard. Don't be afraid to try them all.
Because of the popularity of the restaurant, it now has several branches of stores in different locations of the city.
- Imperial Cuisine (Fangshan Fanzhuang)
This may be one of the most expensive restaurants in Beijing. It was opened originally in 1925 and today it uses recipes from the 19th-century imperial court. Some visitors may find the dishes here with shark's fin and birds' nest soup too expensive and indigestible. However, it is one of the most magnificent and splendid restaurants in China that you must visit.
One of the few places in the city that serve only vegetarian dishes, Gongdelin originated in Shanghai and still has a restaurant there today. The dishes here have some what religious flavor to them because the most celebrated vegetarian dishes have been made by monks of Buddhism.
- Shenxian Dou Hua Restaurant
Has both indoor and outdoor sections within the restaurant, the Shenxian Dou Hua is located in the embassy district. There are a great variety of snacks to choose from and main dishes are delicious as well. Very pleasant atmosphere.
- Songhelou Restaurant
Specializes in the delicate, tender, slightly sweet cuisine of the city of Suzhou, Songhelou is situated on Taijichang Jie. The dishes here are said to be the favorites of the Emperor Qianlong. They have here the famous winter mushrooms with bamboo shoots, beggar's chicken, turtle with light sauce, Tai Lake greens soup, and squirrel-shaped mandarin fish.
- Duyichu Shaomai Restaurant
Shaomai is another form of steamed dumplings and there is no better place than Duyichu to have a try of it. Also served here are some the famous dishes from the Province o Shandong.
- Garden of the Horn of Plenty (Fengzeyuan)
As one of the most distinguished eating places, Fengzeyuan is also celebrated for its Shandong food. The cuisine of this coastal province just south of Beijing includes some of most excellent fish dishes. Many people come here specifically for the sea cucumber, soup with cuttle-fish eggs, and braised fish with a rich brown sauce. This is usually a very busy place and it would be wise to phone in advance to get a table.
- Shaoshan Maojia Restaurant
Famous for its dishes that are said used to be Mao's favorites. Visitors can find pictures of Mao on the wall and an altar to his memory has been set up. Shaoshan is Mao's hometown and the cooking there is usually spicy, oily but very tasty.
- Yuebin Restaurant
This place also has something to do with Mao: the founder and former-owner of the restaurant used to be Mao's chef. He opened the restaurant after Mao's death. Today it serves delicious, wholesome, and inexpensive dishes in a very uniquely decorated room.
- Donglaishun Restaurant
This is often said to be the best place to try Mongolian hotpot with excellent surroundings and very pleasant service. Mongolian hotpot, or shuanyanrou, is considered to be the most typical Beijing dish and is very popular in the northern regions of the nation in general. The lamb shashlik- chunks of lamb rolled in sesame seed and barbecued- is among the most demanded dishes here as well. There are also other Mongolian specialties such as braised camel's hump and camel tendons.
- There are a great variety of different stores, markets and shops in Beijing that offer so many interesting items to shop for that you could spend months just looking around here. There are traditional stores that specialize in arts, crafts, and native products of the city and region; there are also super-malls with the most famous department stores gather together whose price tags compete with any malls in America and Europe. Most of these stores take cash, major credit cards, and some even foreign currencies (Ex. American dollars).
One of the most popular items that western visitors have their eye for is antiques although most of the antiques bought here in China cannot be older than 50 or 60 years. However, there are stores that carry exceptions to that rule such as the Yueyatang in Liulichang. Here you might be able to purchase something that is as old as Ming porcelain, Tang carvings, Zhou coins, and very old paintings and calligraphy. As you purchase an item of interest, there is going to be a red seal on it- be sure to keep it on because it is the official approval of a legitimate purchase as opposed to smuggling at the customs as you depart the country. In case you buy something that does not have a seal on, it may be a good idea to have one fixed. This may be done at the Beijing Arts Objects Clearance Office located inside the Friendship Store.
Another popular store for antiques, especially ceramics, is Yunguzhai also at Liulichang. You may find the finest vases, plates, bowls, bird-feeds and jars here. Also on sale here are the bronzes and stone Buddhist carvings.
Chaowai Market is the place to go for those who are looking for old and unique antique furniture and other antiquities that is located just north of Ritan Park near the diplomatic district. A less formal market where used goods may be found is on Dong Huanchenggen, a north-south street between the Forbidden City and Wangfujing.
- Other Shops
One of the most fascinating places to shop for gifts is the Beijing Chopstick Shop in Xidan. There is the perhaps the largest selection of chopsticks there is in the entire China. The shop also specializes in walking sticks and fans.
The Nationalities Musical Instrument Store on Qianmen Dajie has all sorts of traditional Chinese musical instruments such as the two-stringed erhu, elegant pipa, drums and clappers.
The Dazhalan Hat Shop also on Qianmen Dajie has hats traditionally worn by the Tibetan, Mongol and other central Asian minorities.
- Hotel Bars and Entertainment
- The nights in Beijing can be exciting and you may find the most social, entertaining, and accelerating atmosphere here in the city.
You may want you begin with the hotels in downtown that very frequently offer quality musical shows, food, and drinks in the most intimate surroundings. Most of the hotels have western atmospheres for travelers and visitors to relax, meet people or just simply have drinks. In the summer time, there is Palace View Bar on the top floor of Grand Hotel that's just next to the Purple Forbidden City. Along with all the fancy drinks you can handle, there is also an awesome view of the golden roofs of Imperial Palace especially during sunset.
Red Lion of China World Tower is definitely worth visiting as well. Much like the very popular Pig and Whistle in the Holiday Inn Lido, they offer British style drinks and surroundings. For live music and a vividly up-beating environment, you might want to go to Piccadilly at the Palace Hotel, the Club Bar of the China World, or the Gallery Bar of the Holiday Inn Lido. For authentic Latino music and food, there is the Mexico Wave at the corner of Dongdaqiao Lu and Guanghua Lu. Another very popular and well-established entertainment center is Frank's Place across the street from the Worker's Stadium.
- Movies, Performing Arts and Theatricals
- Turn to the popular newspaper like China Daily or Beijing Weekend, you will find a variety of Chinese and Western movies being offered in many luxurious and comfortable movie theaters. Changed over the years since the 80's, some of the American movies are shown in English and are easier for visitors from the West to understand. Much like in most American cities, good movies are sold rather quickly so make sure to buy your tickets early in the morning or even the day before you want to see the show. After all, Beijing has a lot more people than any American city. Also make sure you bring enough money to the theaters because, remember this, Chinese movie theaters sell alcoholic beverages.
Just for a smooth and relaxing night of Jazz, there are the CD Caf¨¦ just south of the Agriculture Exhibition Center and Sunflower Jazz Caf¨¦ on Guanghua Lu among the popular places to go in the city for modern Jazz with Asian flavor blended in.
Shows of Western contemporary, ballet, Chinese traditional and ethnic folk dances can be found in the city if you are interested. The most popular places that offer these shows include the Poly Plaza near the Dongsishitiao subway station and Central Ballet of China in downtown. Shows such as The Red Detachment of Women, The White Haired Girl, Swan Lake and Giselle are available on any weekend. If you would like spending the evening being embraced in the arms of classical music, the Beijing Concert Hall is the place to go. You will find the finest Chinese and touring foreign orchestras give concerts here frequently.
- Karaoke, Dancing, and much moreˇ
The first thing you will notice as walking on the partying streets of downtown Beijing is that there are countless KTV Palaces, Karaoke Cities, and Singing Lounges everywhere you go. Has become overwhelmingly popular since the early 90's, Karaoke is now the number one leisure-time activity especially among younger people. It is so attractive not only because it provides the opportunity to enjoy a good crowd of friends over few good drinks but also gives everybody the chance to show off their unique singing skills. Don't worry if you can't sing in Chinese, there are surprisingly complete collections of English and Japanese songs in almost every bar you go. Just don't be amazed by how well a common you Chinese college student can sing Frank Sinatra's My Way. This is always the best opportunity for a foreign visitor to make some friends.
After screaming several hours of The Beatles and The Doors, you may feel like dancing yourself. There are quite a few excellent disco and rock 'n roll dance clubs in downtown as well. Experienced foreign DJs and extravagant light shows are seen everywhere. Come to NASA Disco Club on Xitucheng Lu for a long night of cosmic dirty dancing; or go to JJ Disco Square for some American disco music and twisting; and don't forget to stop by the Nightman Disco for the most unforgettable night of swinging and shouting. There are also the Japanese techno palace V-One in the Wangfujing Grand Hotel, Jacksons up in Haidian and Dance Agogo on Dongsanhuan Zhonglu.
- Campus Bars and Hangouts
- Beijing has some of the most distinguished and prestigious educational institutions in the nation and quite a few are well known internationally as well. Beijing University and Qing Hua University have been considered, for a very long period of time, to be two of the most outstanding schools in the country. They gather some of the most intelligent and open-minded young people from around the nation and all over the globe to make a very interesting crowd of people to visit if you are around the campuses. They both have campus bars that are managed, operated, and staffed all by students and drinks and food are cheaper in comparison with the outside world. The atmosphere in these bars is usually not as fancy as bars and clubs outside either but is definitely tastier. People very often find American or European jazz here and students and guests here are all very talkative and willing to make friends. This would be the perfect opportunity for those who would like to find out what is the nearest future of China thinking about and talking about. Don't worry about language barrier here when you are on campuses: most students understand and speak English very well.
- The Temple of the White Dagoba (Baitasi)* *
- Built in 1279, the Temple of the white Dagoba is definitely one of the oldest buildings in the city of Beijing. Located on Fuchengmennei Dajie, the 48-meter-high Yuan-dynasty dagoba stands out from the surrounding buildings. The temple was built under the supervision of a famous Nepalese architect and it was considered one of the gems of the Mongols' new capital. A large monastery was built here by Kublai Khan and was destroyed later.
The temple was mildly damaged during the 1976 earthquake and the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, but it has been restored and renovated since then. The four existing halls date from the Qing and contain Yuan and Ming Buddhist statues and Tibetan tankas. During the restoration of the temple some Buddhist scriptures and other relics dating from the Qianlong period were discovered.
- The Big Bell Temple (Dazhongsi))* *
- This is smaller temple in comparison with most of the other temple in the city of Beijing. Built in 1733, the Big Bell Temple stands on the north side of the Third Ring Road and a huge bell was brought in 1743. The bell is dated back to the Ming Dynasty therefore is more than 550 years old to date. The bell is over 7 meters tall and weighs over 46 tons. It is inscribed with Buddhist scriptures in Chinese characters and is regarded as on the China's national treasures.
The bell is situated in an inner courtyard in a tower at the back of the temple. There are also a collection of some 30 bronze bells from various periods, showing the high degree of skill and workmanship that had been achieved. Many stone steles and statuary can be seen here as well. There is a spiral staircase to the top of the Bell Tower which can be utilized by tourists who have the desire to climb up.
- The Five Pagoda Temple (Wutasi)* * *
- Built during the reign of Ming emperor Yongle (1403 - 24), the temple was originally named the Temple of the True Awakening (Zhenjuesi). Later on in the year of 1473, under the ruling of emperor Chenghua, a building with five pagodas, based on the Bodhgaya model, was constructed here. Severely damaged by the English and French troops at the end of Qing dynasty, the temple has never regained the glory it once had. The building with five pagodas still stands with its stone bas-relief carvings of figures and flowers. The Five Pagoda Temple is located just about a kilometer north of the Beijing Zoo in the Haidian District.
- Western Yellow Temple (Xihuangsi)* * *
- Considered to be one of the finest monuments of Lamaism (a branch of Buddhism) in the city of Beijing, Western Yellow Temple (Xihuangsi) stands approximately 2 kilometers north of the Ring Road on Huangsi Lu in the Andingmenwai District. There were originally two temple of the kind: Eastern and Western Yellow Temples and the Eastern Temple was demolished in 1958 during the period of the Great Leap Forward. The temple was built in the year of 1652 following the construction of the Eastern Temple the year before as a temporary accommodation for the Dalai Lama's visit to Beijing. In the years following that, the temple had been used as a site for the performance of the "devil dances" that took place on the 13th and 15th days of the first lunar month in the new year. These dances still take place even today in a Lama Temple nearby.
- The Temple of the Sea of the Law (Fahasi)* *
- Situated just two kilometers (one-and-a-half miles) northeast of Moshikou in the Shijingshan district, the Temple of the Sea of the Law is very frequently visited along with its neighbors, the Tanzhesi and Jietaisi.
The temple was constructed around 1440 by a eunuch in the Court of the Ming Zhengtong Emperor with funds he collected from various officials, lamas, monks, nuns and lay Buddhists. The building has the traditional three level structure and there are the finest works of art in the temple that are the famous frescos painted on the interior walls of the Main Hall. The paintings were done at the same time when the temple was built and were executed by 15 palace painters whose names can be found on a stone tablet found near the temple.
The frescos on the walls very vividly show different groups of emperors, empresses, and the religious figures engaged in Buddhist worship activities. The visitors can also find the objects used in these worships along with the bodhisattvas Guanin (Avalokitesvara), Wenshu (Manjusri), and Samantahbadra (Puxian) in these frescos.
- The Ordination Terrace Temple (Jietaisi)* * *
- A bit further away from the city than the other temples (33 kilometers or 22 miles west of Beijing), the Ordination Terrace Temple (Jietaisi) is another significant monument presenting artistic, architectural, and historical facts. The temple has been standing here since the Liao Dynasty (916 - 1125) and was built when a monk, Fajun, founded an altar here.
As most other altars, the Ordination Altar is also of white marble and its three tiers are carved with hundreds of figures, some as tall as a meter (a little over 3 feet). The altar was primarily used for initiation ceremonies for new monks during which they fasted and burnt marks with lighted incense sticks on their tonsured heads.
- The Temple of the Pool and Wild Mulberry (Tanzhesi)* * *
- Also west of the city of Beijing and even further than the Ordination Terrace Temple, the Temple of the Pool and Wild Mulberry lies in the Western Hills. The scenery around the temple is quite incredible especially in the spring time when the fruit trees are in blossom. The Temple of the Pool and Wild Mulberry is one of the oldest and largest temples in Beijing and has been restored and renovated many times since its original construction more than 1,600 years ago. The name of the temple is derived from the Dragon Pool nearby and from the trees, growing on the hillside, whose leaves were used to feed silkworms.
The temple has the typical characters of structures of the Ming and Qing dynasties. A ceremonial arch or pailou frames the entrance to a compound of several halls, pavilions and courtyards. The visitors will find on the site the Hall of Abstinence, the Ordination Altar, and the Hall to Guanying (the Goddess of Mercy). The Hall of Guanying is associated with Kublai Khan's daughter, Princess Miaoyan, who entered the nunnery here in the 13th century.
There is also the Flowing Cup Pavilion (Liubeiting) where dragon-shaped channels feed spring water into the Dragon Pool. This water is said to have special quality that enables objects to float upon the surface easily. Here is where people used to gather once a year to practice "the purification of the fermented wine": wine cups were floated down the stream and when they stopped, the participants would drink wine.
- The Temple of Azure Clouds (Biyunsi)* *
- Another one of the largest temples is the Temple of Azure Clouds (Biyunsi) which is located on the road to the Fragrant Hills. The temple has been here since Yuan Dynasty and it has been restored and extended on two different occasions by palace eunuchs who planned to place their graves in the hill behind the temple. There is much scenery to be seen around the temple and architecture to be admired. At the top of the hill is the Diamond Throne Pagoda, an Indian-style stone temple with a magnificent view from its roof. Below the hill is the Memorial Hall to Sun Yat-sen who was the founder of the modern China after the revolution that overthrew the Qing Dynasty in 1911. This is definitely worth seeing as well.
To one side of the Memorial Hall is the Luohan Hall that was constructed in the mid-18th century. Luohan are the disciples of Buddha, and over 500 gilded wooden statues of these proselytes are crammed into this section of the temple complex. It is amazing that all of the statues are distinctively different from one another.
- The Lama Temple (Yonghegong)* * * * *
- The Lama Temple is also called the Palace of Harmony and Peace. It was built in 1694 and is located in the northeast of Beijing. Emperor Yongzheng (reigned 1723 - 35) lived when he was a young prince. It became a temple as the tradition at the time required an emperor's former residence to be used as a temple upon his accession to the throne. Later on it became a center of learning for the Yellow Hat sect of Tibetan Lamaism with considerable religious and political sway. It once had a community of 1,500 Tibetan, Mongol and Chinese lamas. Even today there are still a number of Mongolian lamas tending the temple.
The complex is arranged as a series of five halls and courtyards leading from a long beautiful garden at the entrance. There are the Drum and Bell Towers, two stele pavilions and the Hall of the Celestial Guardians. The statue of Maitreya, the future Buddha, flanded on four sides by the Celestial Guardians of the East, South, West and North. The visitors can also find a statue of Wei Tuo who is said to be safeguarding a bone of Buddha's. The Great Stele Pavilion is next to the Hall of the Celestial Guardians and it contains a square stele inscribed in four languages, Han (Mandarin), Manchu, Mongolian and Tibetan describing the philosophy of Lamaism.
The Hall of Harmony and Peace is the main hall houses three statues of Buddha-past, present, and future-and at their side figures of the 18 luohan. To the north are the Hall of Eternal Blessing and the Hall of the Wheel of the Law. The roof supports five small pavilions of Zongkapa who founded the Yellow Hat Sect of Tibetan Buddhism. Several hundred Tibetan scriptures are stored here. The low galleries of the buildings were the study halls for the lamas and now is a showroom of a fine collection of Tibetan bronzes and tanka paintings.
- Niu Jie Mosque (Niu Jie Qingzhensi, Islamic)* *
- In the center of the city's Moslem district, stands the largest and oldest of over 80 something mosques in Beijing. Built in AD 996 By Nazruddin who was son of an Arab priest, the Niu Jie Mosque is also one of the oldest buildings.
It looks just like any other temples in the city of Beijing from the outside but the inside is astonishingly different. First of all, there is the hexagonal Tower for viewing the Moon, serving an Islamic purpose. This structure enables the imam to determine the beginning and the end of Ramdan (Islamic holiday season during which Moslems fast during the day). There are grouped courtyards behind the tower that contribute to another interesting scenery to the site. These courtyards used to be the main prayer hall with its entrance facing west towards Mecca, a stele pavilion, the minaret from which the muezzin calls the believers to pray. The main colors you will find in this structure are red and gold. There is also a section reserved for women believers separated from the main portion of the buildings by a screen.
Islam was not introduced to the Chinese people until the 890's AD during the Tang Dynasty and gradually became more popular especially among several racial minorities in the Country. Hui people are a representative of these Islamic minorities.
- The White Clouds Taoist Monastery (Baiyunguan)* * *
- Blending philosophy and religion in one, Taoism has been around in China since the Spring and Autumn Periods of the Chinese history. Beijing happens to have some of the most important Taoist monasteries in the nation. The White Clouds Taoist Monastery is one of them and it is located on the corner of Binhe Lu and Baiyun Lu. The monastery was originally built in the eighth century and has been restored twice in 1956 and 1981.
Qiu Chuji was one of the most significant figure that ever lived here in the Monastery in the 1230's during Yuan Dynasty and the one of the halls is dedicated to him. To today, the Monastery still serves its original religious purposes by housing a number of monks, including young adepts, all of which belong to the chuanzhen sect of the Taoism. The Monastery has also become the headquarters of the Taoist Association of China and it performs a number of traditional Taoist ceremonies for a crowd of believers and people who are interested several times a year. In the past, there also used to be a major three-day ritual including horse racing in the street but this practice has ceased a while ago.
Three parallel axes basically carry out the structure of the monastery with the most important structures on the central axis. There is a peaceful courtyard in the rear section off west and it contains an platform that resembles a miniature outdoor stage. A stone-lined pond spanned by a bridge with an oversize Chinese coin hanging from it is the first thing visitors see while entering the main entrance. It is said to be sign of upcoming good if one can hit the giant coin with a coin of the realm.
- -Golfing Clubs