Beijing ( “bei” means north and “jing” means capital), or know as Peking by westerners in the past, has a history of more than 3000 years. As the political, cultural, and educational centre of China today, it has been the capital of one of China’s ancient kingdoms since 1045 BC. Beijing is now the city that holds the most World Cultural Heritage recognized by the UNESCO.
Sights in Beijing
The Forbidden City/ The Palace Museum
The Forbidden City, also known as the Palace Museum and Gu Gong in Chinese, lies at the city centre of Beijing, and once served as the imperial palace for 24 emperors during the Ming and Qing Dynasties ( 1368 – 1911 ). It was first built throughout 14 years during the reign of Emperor Chengzu of Ming (1368-1644). Ancient Chinese Astronomers believed that the Purple Star ( Polaris ) was in the centre of heaven and the Heavenly Emperor lived in the Purple Palace. The Palace for emperor on earth was called the Purple City. It was forbidden to enter without special permission of the emperor. Hence its name “ The Purple Forbidden City”. In 1987, it was listed as a World Cultural Heritage Site by UNESCO, the Palace Museum is now one of the most popular tourist attractions world-wide.
The Great Wall
The Great Wall of China is one of the attractive places among tourists. It is located on the north of Beijing in Yanqing county, 70km from Beijing. The total length of the Great Wall is 21196.18km. It has a long history of more than 2000 years and became a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO in 1987. It was mostly built during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). The Great Wall has 9 different parts: the nearest to Beijing is Badaling. Be minded, this place is crowded.
The Summer Palace
It is located in Haidian district of the northwest of Beijing, 15km from downtown area. It was constructed by the time of Qing Dynaster (1644-1911) and become a luxurious royal garden for royal families to rest and entertain. Like most of the gardens of Beijing, it could not elude the rampagesof the Anglo-French Allied Force and was destroyed by fire. According to historical documents, with original name as “Qingyi Garden” (Garden of Clear Ripples), the Summer Palace (Yiheyuan) was renamed after its first reconstruction in 1888. It was also recorded that Empress Dowager Cixi embezzled navy funds to reconstruct it as a resort in which to spend the rest of her life. In 1900, Yiheyuan suffered another hit by Eight-Power Allied Force and was repaired in the next two years. After the success of the 1911 Revolution, exactly in 1924 it was open to the public. It ranked amongst the World Heritage Sites by UNESCO in 1998, as well as one of the first national tourist spots in China.
The Old Summer Palace
The Old Summer Palace is known as the Ruins of the Yuanmingyuan (the Garden of Perfection and Light). It is located northwest of Beijing and to the east of the present-day Summer Palace. The Garden was first constructed in the year of 1709 during the reign of the Emperor Kangxi of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). Over the next 150 years of the Qing Dynasty, this Garden was expanded to be a large-scale Chinese emperors’ private pleasure garden, covering a total area of 350 hectares. The Old Summer Palace is often associated with the European style palace built of stone. In Qing Dynasty of China, it was a royal palace of emperors and missionaries coming from Europe called as “the Garden of the Gardens”.
Locating at the centre of Beijing city, it is the world largest city square which was built in Ming Dynasty of China in 16th century. Tiananmen, which means “the gate of heavenly peace” in Chinese, had already become a national symbol of China for most of Chinese people. Apart from the square itself you can see the Tiananmen Tower, Monument to the People’s Heroes, Great Hall of the People, Chairman Mao Zedong Memorial Hall and see the national flag raising ceremony. Thousands of people come to the square every day. It is the must place to visit in Beijing City.
Prince Gong’s Mansion
It is Beijing’s largest and the best preserved Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) prince mansion and it is located at Qianhai Xiejie to the north of Shichahai. The mansion was the residence of Heshen (a Manchu politician in Chinese history, famous for his ability of corruption). He was the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defense in the years of Qianlong, the most prosperous stage of Qing Dynasty. In 1850s, the mansion was bestowed on Prince Gong. “Gong” means to respect and to be deferential, and his real name was Aisin Gioro Yixin (a Manchurian family name and a Chinese first name). it was an honourable character conferred upon the prince by his elder brother, the emperor.
Shichahai (The Three Rear Lakes)
Shichahai is a famous scenic area in the northwest part of Beijing, that includes three lakes (Qianhai, meaning Front Sea; Houhai, meaning Back Sea and Xihai, meaning West Sea), surrounding places of historic interest and scenic beauty, and remnants of old-style local residences, Hutong and Courtyard. It’s also famous for bars. Shicha Lake has a history of about 700 years from the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368). It assumed its present name in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Strolling along its shoreline, the visitor can appreciate the lake’s glimmering blue water, its graceful weeping willows, its twisting railings and the flower-and-tree-covered central island. Pleasure boats are available for rowing and the banks are amply provided with shady places to rest. A swimming area in the lake is open every summer. In Chinese Zhongyuan festival, there are celebrations of the Buddhist Ghost Festival, as well as the Taoism ones.
Ming Dynasty Tombs
It is located in 50 km on the northwest from Beijing City. At the foot of Tianshou Mountain there is the Ming Tombs Scenic Area, where lie the mausoleums of thirteen emperors of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Since 1409 when Zhu Di, the first emperor of the Ming Dynasty in Beijing, built his Changling Tomb here, the succeeding twelve emperors had their resting places built around Changling during the next 230 years, covering a total area of over 120 square kilometres. This is the best-preserved mausoleum area with the most emperors buried. Every year millions of tourists come to the site to appreciate its long history and palatial architecture.
Xiangshan Park (Fragrance Hill)
Frangrance Hills park is located in the east part of Western Hills, in 28km on the northwest of Beijing city. It is very large, made up of hills and forest covering 400 acres. Both its natural sceneries and cultural relics are abundant. Xianglu Peak, literally Incense Burner Peak, 1830 feet high, is its highest peak. Fragrant Hills Park or Xiangshan park was first built in 1186 in the Jin Dynasty (1115-1234) and later expanded in the Yuan and Ming Dynasties. This place is considered one of the 10 best sceneries in Beijing, where, especially, in fall you can see very beautiful trees with red maple-leafs. The best season of visiting is October. It is worth going there.