Beijing – China
Beijing (北京）literally means “the northen capital”. The city construction of Beijing has a history of over 800 years dated back to the year 1153 AD when the Jin Dynasty (1115-1234) built Beijing as its capital later named “Zhongdu”. Mongol armies seized Zhongdu in 1215. Kublai Khan rebuilt the city and gave it the Chinese (Han) name of Dadu or Great Capital as capital city called “Dadu” in Yuan Dynasty (1271 – 1368) (Beijing Vacation).
Beijing is the second largest Chinese city by urban population after Shanghai and is the nation’s political, cultural and educational center. It is home to the headquarters of most of China’s largest state-owned companies, and is a major hub for the national highway, expressway, railway, and high-speed rail networks. The Beijing Capital International Airport is the second busiest in the world by passenger traffic.
As the saying goes, one who fails to reach the Great Wall is not a true hero. Without visiting the Great Wall, no trip to this city or the country is complete. The Great Wall of China is a series of stone and earthen fortifications in northern China, built, rebuilt and maintained between the 5th century BC and the 16th century to protect the northern borders from Xiongnu attacks during various successive dynasties.
At the heart of this city is the Forbidden City, home to the emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties, the largest palace complex of the nation and the world. The Forbidden City also hosts the Palace Museum with imperial collections of Chinese art. The Forbidden City is, by any measure, a must-see site in this city.
Beijing has seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites – the Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace, Ming Tombs, Zhoukoudian, Great Wall, and the Grand Canal. Beijing hosted the 2008 Summer Olympics and was chosen to host the 2022 Winter Olympics, which will make it the first and only city to ever host both events.
The Forbidden City (紫禁城), also known officially as the Imperial Palace Museum, was originally constructed by the third Emperor of the Ming Dynasty, Emperor Yong Le, where 24 emperors once lived successionally. The palace was built between 1406 and 1420, but was burnt down, rebuilt, sacked and renovated countless times, so most of the architecture you can see today dates from the 1700’s and on wards.
The Forbidden City was the seat of Imperial power for 500 years, and is now a major tourist attraction in China. The total area of the complex is 183 acres, so it takes quite a while to walk through, especially if you want to have a close look at everything. All together there are 9,999 1/2 rooms in the Museum, not all of which can be visited.
To represent the supreme power of the emperor given from God, and the place where he lived being the center of the world, all the gates, palace and other structures of the Forbidden City were arranged about the north-south central axis of old Beijing.
For security the Forbidden City is enclosed by a 10-meter-high defensive wall, which has a circumference of 3, 430 meters. At each corner of the Forbidden City, there stands a magnificent watchtower, which was heavily guarded in the past. Around the city there is a moat as the first line of defense.
The museum carries out a south-to-north unidirectional itinerary. Visitors can only enter through the Meridian Gate (Wumen) and leave from the Gate of Divine Prowess (Shenwumen) or East Prosperity Gate (Donghuamen). Three to four hours is enough for touring the central axis; if you have interest in exploring more about the imperial palace, more time need to be spent in the west and east wings.
Among many historical ruins of the Great Wall in Beijing, the wall built during the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644) is the most often seen and best preserved, running over 342 miles (550 kilometers) and containing about 827 city wall platforms, 71 passes and countless towers. The famous sections include the Badaling, Huanghuacheng, Mutianyu, Jiankou, Gubeikou, Jinshanling, and Simatai.
Visiting the Great Wall is a delightful must for the first-time visitors to Beijing China. The Great Wall was built in different times and dynasties, largely constructed in the three dynasties – Qin Dynasty (221 B.C to 206 B.C); Han Dynasty (206 B.C.– 220 A.D ) and Ming Dynasty (1368 A.D – 1644 A.D). The most powerful Yuan Dynasty (1271 A.D – 1368 A.D) and the last Qing Dynasty (1644 A.D – 1911 A.D) did nothing about the building of the Great Wall since they were “barbarians” against whom the Great Wall of China had been built.
Currently there are 8 official locations of the Great Wall around Beijing open to visitors. The 8 chunks of the Great Wall include Juyongguan Pass Great Wall, Badaling Great Wall, Shixiaguan Great Wall, Huanghuacheng Great Wall, Mutianyu Great Wall, Gubeikou Great Wall, Jinshanling Great Wall and Simatai Great Wall. Each section of the Great Wall has its own geographic and construction features.
If you visit the Great Wall for the first time, basically you need to plan ahead to know when to visit, which section to visit and how to visit. You can either travel independently doing all the researching on your own or turn to a local travel agency such as Tour Beijing for arranging time-saving and hassle-free day trips to the Great Wall.
Tiananmen Square (天安门广场) is the heartland of Beijing, acknowledged as the largest city-central square in the world. It is 500-meter wide from east to west and 880-meter long from south to north with a area of 44 hektares. The whole ground is paved with light granite slate disposed through special technology treatment. The flag-raising ceremony at sunrise and flag-lowering ceremony at sunset are the most magnificent rites.
Located at the center of Beijing City and the midpoint of Chang’an Avenue is the remarkable Tiananmen Square, where you can visit 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.
There are eight white marble sculptures on the monument seat: including a series of importanti history events, Such as Opium burning in Humen, Jintian Uprising. Wuchang Uprising. The May 4th Movement of 1919. the May 30th Movement of 1925, Nanchang Upring. War against Japan and Successful Crossing of the Changjiang River. Design of the tower represents perfect quintessence of socialism practical art and symbolizes Chinese revere and memory for reolution martyr.
Situated in the southeast of Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven（天坛）was used to be a complex of sacrificial buildings for the Ming and Qing emperors. It also has been one of the most holy places for the whole country from more than five centuries. It is the largest existing one in Beijing among several royal altars to Heaven, Earth, the Sun, the Moon and other deities or symbolic forces of Nature.
The Temple of Heaven Park is located in the Chongwen District, Beijing. Originally, this was the place where emperors of the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644) and Qing Dynasty (1644 – 1911) held the Heaven Worship Ceremony. It is China’s largest and most representative existing masterpiece among China’s ancient sacrificial buildings. First built in 1420, the 18th year of the reign of Emperor Yongle of the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644), it was enlarged and rebuilt during the reigns of the Ming emperor Jiajing and the Qing emperor Qianlong. In 1988, it was opened to the public as a park, showing ancient philosophy, history and religion. Its grand architectural style and profound cultural connotation give an insight into the practices of the ancient Eastern civilization.
The Temple of Heaven is considered the most holy of Beijing’s imperial temples. It has been described as “a masterpiece of architecture and landscape design”.
The Temple of Heaven has also been listed as World Cultural Heritage by UNESCO.
The Temple is divided by two encircling walls into an inner part and outer part. The main buildings lie at the south and north ends of the middle axis of the inner part. The most magnificent buildings are the Circular Mound Altar (Huanqiutan), the Imperial Vault of Heaven (Huangqiongyu) and the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest (Qiniandian) from south to north.
Situated in the Haidian District northwest of Beijing, Summer Palace (颐和园) is the largest and most complete existing royal garden, reputed as the royal garden museum, it is 9 miles (15 kilometers) from central Beijing. Being the largest and most well-preserved royal park in China, it greatly influences Chinese horticulture and landscape with its famous natural views and cultural interests, which also has long been recognized as ‘The Museum of Royal Gardens’.
Summer Palace covers an area of 290 hectares. Its predecessor was the Garden of Clear Ripples (Qingyiyuan) started in 1750 and burned down by the British and French allied troops in 1860.
Summer Palace mainly consists of Longevity Hill (Washoushan) and Kunming Lake. Covering an area of 290.8 hectares. Of which 3/4 is covered by water. Hill-and water- surrounded palaces, temples and garden buildings are divided into three areas: the palace area, with the Hall of Benevolence and Longevity (Renshoudian) as the center, where Cixi held court from behind a screen in most time of her late years;
The Summer Palace is one of the loveliest spots in Beijing. Not all the buildings are open to the public, but many are, and the others continue to enhance the park with their design and decoration, nestled into the landscape.
The arched bridges, pretty promenades, decorated corridors, and ‘breezeways’ (a hallway that allows the passage of a breeze between structures) lead visitors through ever-changing views and scenery.
Hutong now means a lane or an alley, formed by rows of siheyuan (a compound with buildings around a courtyard) where old Beijing residents lived. The word “hutong” originates from the word “hottog” which means “a well” in Mongolian, in ancient times villagers dug a well and then lived around it.
Hutong, as a symbol of Beijing, has its own style and structure than makes it a miracle in the world. Taking a bird’s eye view of Beijing, you will find a combination of Hutong and courtyards that board ordered with beautiful gardens, magnificent rocks, and ancient ruins. Hutong witnesses the development of Beijing, so they say where is where is a Hutong, where is a part of Beijing history.
The lanes have their own layout and structure, and when viewed from the air the combination of the lanes and courtyards resemble a chessboard with delicate gardens, fine rockeries and ancient ruins this makes them a wonder in the world. Because of the cross interlacement of the lanes every houses connected to the other, making it easy for local people to keep in touch with their neighbors. Therefore, once one enters any of the lanes, one can feel the deep and warm relationships among people, which is rarely found in this modern world.
In the twisted lanes one can experience the life of the ancient Beijing people. The bathrooms and public toilets can be found in these lanes. Shops sell all kinds of goods that satisfy the local people’s daily needs. It is just like a community. Gossiping in these lanes is a common scene as it is the main way for people to strengthen their relationship. These lanes have witnessed the development of Beijing. Where there is such a lane, there is a story.
China’s National Stadium, or the Bird’s Nest, as it has become known, is the world’s largest steel structure and the most complex stadium ever constructed. It is “one of the key engineering marvels in the world today.”
The Bird’s Nest was designed by Swiss Architects, Herzog & de Meuron, and a Chinese Architect, Li Xinggang. The requirements for its design were that it had to be inspiring and be able to withstand an earthquake.
The stadium covers an area of about 258 thousand square meters (99.614 square miles), which can accommodate 80,000 fixed seats and 11,000 temporary seats. Its appearance was formed by big steel frames. Its top surface is saddle-shaped with the major axis of 332.3 meters (1,090 feet) and the stub axis of 296.4 meters (972 feet). The tallest point of the stadium is 68.5 meters (225 feet) above the ground and the lowest point is 42.8 meters (140 feet). The top is covered by semi-transparent air bubble film. This kind of material is waterproof and can make enough sunshine penetrate into the stadium. Owing to that, the lawns in it can grow well.
Usain Bolt of Jamaica broke the world record by winning both the 100 and 200 gold medals at the Olympics; at the Water Cube (the National Aquatics Centre), Michael Phelps of America makes history with 8 Gold Medals in Beijing!
A visit to the Beijing Olympic Green sitting at the north end of the Beijing city’s axis is an eye-opener for your Beijing trip.
Fragrant Hill is especially famous for the maple leaves. When autumn comes, the maple leaves blossom so that the mountain is on fire. The best time to enjoy the autumn colors is about the middle of October. Fragrant Hill Red Leaves Festival takes place in the middle of October each year. The maple leaves usually keep blossoming for about one month. The area is a popular park all the year through for its imperial architecture, temples and memorials.
Situated in the east part of western hills, 28 kilometers (17 miles) northwest of the city, it is very large, made up of hills and forest covering 160 hectares (395.4 acres). Both its natural sceneries and cultural relics are abundant. Xianglu Peak (Incense Burner Peak), 557 meters (1827.4 feet) high, is its highest peak.
A way to see the area easily is to go up the mountain by cable car. There is a cable line that goes up from the northern gate to the top of the censer peak. It is divided into three stations.
Wangfujing is one of the most famous shopping streets, not only in Beijing but in all of China.
It is anchored by large upscale shopping malls at each end of the pedestrian mall. The street is a shopper’s paradise, filled with shops selling paintings and traditional Chinese arts and crafts, trendy boutiques and upscale chain stores as well as restaurants serving everything from McDonald’s cuisine to Peking Duck.
The north end of the pedestrian mall heats up in late afternoon and evening for the night food market. Dozens of food stands sell everything from fried scorpion and snake kebobs to the less exotic pork and chicken kebobs, dumplings (pot stickers) fruit and congees (bean puddings). Wandering from stand to stand, it’s possible to put together a fun and inexpensive meal.
Jingshan Park is situated in the city center, it is a beautiful royal landscape garden. Covering an area of 230,000 square meters (about 57 acres), the park stands on the central point of the south-north axis of the city and faces the north gate of the Forbidden City. It is found on Jingshan Hill, which was originally named Wansui Hill (Long Live Hill), Zhen Hill or Meishan Hill (Coal Hill). The mid summit of the hill is the highest point in Beijing. Looking from the peak, the visitor is able to get a full and clear view of the Forbidden City.
The hill has five summits, and on each summit there is a pavilion, built in 1751. In every pavilion, there was originally placed a copper Buddha statue which represented one of the five tastes-sour, bitter, sweet, acrid and salt. It is a pity that they were all lost during the warfare of 1900. Among the five pavilions, the Wanchun Pavilion (Ten Thousand Spring Pavilion), on the middle of the five summits, sits at the hill’s central point of the city. It is a perfect place to appreciate the full view of the city. From this pavilion, visitors are able to see the resplendent and magnificent Forbidden City in the south, the dignified Bell and Drum Towers in the north, as well as Beihai Park and White Dagoba Temple in the west.
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