Over the centuries, Beijing has endured the effects of war and revolution,
extensive industrialisation and a building upsurge to satisfy the
demands of a growing, modern city. Skyscrapers dwarf colourful temples
and the intimate courtyards of the hutongs, ande traffic moves at
a snail's pace along the streets surrounding peaceful parks. Beijing
was once a walled city but little remains today apart from the grand
Tiananmen and Qianmen gates, situated
at either end of Tiananmen Square. The imposing
square houses the Great Hall of the People, China’s
parliament, the Mao Tse Tung Memorial Hall,
where the body of Chairman Mao lies, and the Monument to
the People’s Heroes, an obelisk depicting significant
events of the revolution.
Beijing’s main attractions are listed below, however the city
and its environs are culturally and historically rich. If time permits,
it is worth visiting the Old Observatory. Founded
by Kublai Khan, it is presently a museum with a huge collection
of Ming and Qing dynasty bronze astronomical instruments. The Beijing
Zoo, is the world famous home of the giant
pandas and is well worth a visit.
Outside the centre, most visitors go to Badaling
(see Excursions) to walk on the Great Wall but
another area is Mutianyu, to the northeast of the
city, which has fabulous views. It is worth including Zhou
Kou Dian (Peking Man Site), 48 kilometres (30 miles) southwest
of Beijing, the site where 200,000 and 500,000 year old skulls were
found in 1929. The original fossils were misplaced during World
War II, however there is an interesting museum with many implements
and animal bones dating from that period.
There is not a walk-in tourist office in Beijing however information
can be acquired from two main travel agencies, the China
International Travel Service and the China Travel
China International Travel Service
Tel: (10) 6601-1122 or 8292.
Web site: www.cits.net
China Travel Service (CTS)
2 Beisanhaun East Road
Tel: (10) 6462-2288.
For information and emergencies there is a 24-hour tourist telephone
hotline (tel: (10) 6513-0828).
There are no tourist passes offered in Beijing.
Situated at the heart of cosmopolitan Beijing – the location
of many historic events – Tiananmen Square was refurbished
during the first half of 1999, to prepare for the fiftieth anniversary
celebrations of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.
There are now two green areas, trees and subtle ground-level lighting.
Attractions include the Chairman Mao Memorial Hall, where Mao Tse
Tung’s preserved body is displayed, the Museum of the Revolution
and the Great Hall of the People.
Subway Qian Men and several buses.
Tuesday-Sunday 08:30-11:30, plus 14:00-16:00 Tues and Thursday (Chairman
Mao Memorial Hall); daily 08:30-15:30 (Museum of the Revolution);
varies for Great Hall of the People.
Free (Chairman Mao Memorial Hall); RMB30 (Museum of the Revolution);
RMB30 (Great Hall of the People).
Constructed in the 15th century, the Forbidden City (or Palace Museum)
is a sprawling complex with courtyards, pavilions, halls, and gardens,
which once housed 24 emperors from the Ming and Qing dynasties.
Today it houses a huge collection of priceless relics, including
paintings, bronzes and ancient pottery, and is one of many UNESCO
World Heritage Sites in the city.
Tel: (10) 6513-2255.
Web site: www.dpm.org.cn
Transport: Subway Qian Men.
hours: Daily 08:30-17:00 (10 Apr-14 Oct); 08:30-16:30 (15
Just south of Tiananmen Square, the Temple of Heaven (situated within
Temple of Heaven Park), is China’s biggest temple complex,
constructed in the 15th century and used for praying by the emperor
to request good harvests. The architecture is exquisite and the
roofs are adorned with blue glazed tiles. The grounds of this UNESCO
World Heritage Site also boasts the Echo Wall, which carries the
Tian Tan Lu (north gate entrance)
Tel: (10) 6702-8866.
Opening hours: Daily 08:30-17:30;
daily 06:00-20:00 (park).
Northeast of the city, the Lama Temple, constructed in the late
17th century, was a centre of learning for the Yellow Hat sect of
Tibetan Lamaism. Presently, there are approximately 70 monks (or
lamas) in residence. The temple is a series of halls, linked by
courtyards. An impressive 18 metre (59 feet) Maitreya, carved out
of a single sandalwood tree, stands in the furthermost hall, and
is accessible to the public.
Yonghe Gong Dajie
Tel: (10) 6904-4494.
Opening hours: Daily 09:00-16:30.
Tower and Bell Tower
Every Chinese city at one time had drum and bell towers which were
used to inform citizens of the time of day and to declare curfews.
The Beijing Drum Tower, in the north section of the city, was originally
constructed in the 13th century and reconstructed in approximately
1420 when the Bell Tower was originally built. The towers, which
are very different in style, offer excellent views of Beijing.
Di’an Men Wai Dajie
Opening hours: Daily 09:00-17:30.
Admission: RMB10 each.
Beihai Lake sprawls over almost half of the 67-hectare (168-acre)
Beihai Park and is a popular location for skating in winter and
boating in summer. Qiong Hua Island (Jade Flowering Island), situated
at the southern end of the lake, can be reached by an arched marble
bridge and houses a Tibetan Buddhist shrine (the White Dagoba) and
the Temple of Eternal Peace.
Transport: Subway Tiananmen Xi.
Opening hours: Daily 06:00-21:00 (park); daily
09:00-16:00 (halls and temples).
RMB5 (park); RMB10 (park and temples).
Just to the north of the Forbidden City, Jingshan contains a hill,
known as Coal Hill, which boasts amazing views of the golden rooftops
of the imperial buildings. 1 of the 5 pavilions on the summit –Wan
Chun Ting (Pavilion of Ten Thousand Springs) – was once the
highest point in the city.
Jingshan Qian Jie
Transport: Subway Tiananmen
Xi or Tiananmen Dong.
Opening hours: Daily
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