5 Must-See Sites in Beijing

the great wall of mystery

Photo credit: Damian Bere / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Great Wall of China
The incredible Great Wall of China is one of the 5 Must-See Sites in Beijing and is one of the most unique places on Earth to visit. It is a series of stones and earth fortifications that have been built and rebuilt between the 16th century BC and the 16th century.

The Great Wall rises and falls with the contours of the mountains spanning westwards, crossing nine provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions over 6,700 kilometres (4163.19 miles).

The Great Wall was a means of protecting the northern borders of the Chinese Empire from the nomadic peoples of the northern steppe. For self-protection, rival kingdoms built walls around their territories, laying the foundation for the present Great Wall.
The Great Wall is made up of walls, passes, watchtowers, castles and fortresses. From east to west, the sections at Shanhaiguan, Jinshanling, Mutianyu, Badaling and Jiayuguan have become popular tourist attractions and are included in most guided tours to China.

Most of The Great Wall that we see today dates back to the Ming Dynasty. The best-preserved and most imposing section is at Badaling in Beijing. This section, located at the head of the Juyongguan Pass, is made of large blue bricks and has an average height of 7.8 metres. Five to six horses can be ridden abreast along it. At regular intervals there is an arched door giving access to the top of the wall. The walls feature regular lookout holes, window embrasures and castellated crenels. Beacon towers for passing on military information also appear at fixed intervals. All of these emphasize the important role of the Great Wall in military defense.

The Great Wall was included in the World Cultural Heritage List in 1987 as one of the most magnificent ancient defense structures in the world.

the forbidden city

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The Forbidden City
The Forbidden City, also known as the Imperial Palace or the Palace Museum, was where the emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties lived and executed their administration. It is now open to the public as a palace museum and where can experience the great traditional palace architecture, view ancient imperial treasures and learn of the legends and anecdotes of the imperial family and its court.

The Forbidden City is the largest and best-preserved mass group of palaces in China. The palaces are fully walled on four sides by 10-metre-high walls which extend 760 metres (0.47 miles) from east to west and 960 metres (0.6 miles) from north to south. It has 720,000 square metres (72 hectares) of courtyards, pavilions, great halls, flourishing gardens and nearly 10,000 rooms. Built by tens of thousands of people, it took over 14 years and 32 million bricks to complete.

The complex consists of three parts: the outer court where the emperor received high officials and administered state affairs; the inner court where the emperor, empress and concubines lived; and the private Imperial Garden for the imperial family to entertain and relax.

The Forbidden City is the main tourist attraction in the Chinese capital of Beijing. It is one of the most visited ancient sites in the world and tours here offer great insight into Chinese history.

The Forbidden City was declared by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1987 and holds the title of the world’s largest preservation of wooden structures from the ancient world.

Beijing - Tiananmen Square

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Tiananmen Square
Tours around China will all include Tiananmen Square and it most certainly makes the list of 5 Must-See Sites in Beijing.  The square, named for its Gate of Heavenly Peace (Tiananmen), contains the monument to the heroes of the revolution, the Great Hall of the People, the National Museum of China and the Chairman Mao Zedong Memorial Hall (containing Mao’s embalmed body).

Tiananmen Square is the front gate of the Forbidden City, the gate leading to the supreme power in imperial times. The tower over the gate was used for grand ceremonies in the Ming (1638-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties. In modern China, it is also a symbol of power. From the tower of Tiananmen, on October 1, 1949, Chairman Mao Zedong proclaimed the founding of the People’s Republic of China.

A massive demonstration for democratic reform, initiated there by Chinese students in April 1989, was brutally repressed on June 3 and 4. It was initiated to demand the posthumous rehabilitation of former Communist Party Chairman Hu Yaobang. The government was tolerant until after his funeral after-which Deng Xiaoping denounced the protests. The demonstrators were joined by workers, intellectuals and civil servants, until over a million people filled the square. General Secretary Zhao Ziyang expressed sympathy, but lost out to Deng, who supported the use of military force. Martial law was declared on May 20. The protesters demanded that the leadership resign, but the government answered on June 3–4 with troops and tanks, killing thousands to quell a “counterrevolutionary rebellion.” Zhao was dismissed and a number of the student leaders were arrested.

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The Summer Palace
The Summer Palace lies in the northwestern outskirts of Beijing and is said to be the best preserved imperial garden in the world. Occupying an area of 290 hectares, the park consists mainly of a hill, called Longevity Hill and a lake, Kunming Lake, with halls, towers, galleries, pavilions, bridges and islands dotted all over the grounds. The gardens blend southern China-style garden architecture with northern China’s natural landscapes. The Summer Palace is one of the most popular sites in Beijing and is part of the majority of China tours for visitors.

In December 1998, UNESCO included the Summer Palace on its World Heritage List. It declared the Summer Palace an “outstanding expression of the creative art of Chinese Landscape Garden Design, incorporating the works of humankind and nature in a harmonious whole.”

The Summer Palace was initially called the Garden of Clear Ripples in 1750. Artisans reproduced the Garden Architecture styles of various palaces in China. In its history, the palace complex has withstood two major attacks – during the Anglo-French allied invasion of 1860 and during the Boxer Rebellion, in an attack by the eight allied powers in 1900. The garden survived and was rebuilt in 1886 and 1902. In 1888, it was given its current name.

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The Temple of Heaven
The Temple of Heaven is a complex of Taoist buildings situated in southeastern Beijing. The Emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties (1368-1911) visited the complex annually when they prayed to Heaven for good harvests. It is regarded as a Taoist temple, although Chinese Heaven worship, especially by the reigning monarch of the day, actually pre-dates Taoism.

The temple complex covers an area of 270 hectares, about three times the size of the Forbidden City. The main buildings in the park were built in 1420 during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and were constructed to facilitate the worship of heaven and the earth. The complex was extended during the reign of Emperor Jiajing in the 16th century and was renovated in the 18th century by Emperor Qianlong.

The Temple of Heaven is a masterpiece of architecture and landscape design which simply and graphically illustrates a cosmogony of great importance for the evolution of one of the world’s great civilisations. Its symbolic layout and design had a profound influence on architecture and planning in the Far East over many centuries.

The Temple is part of the attractions that are included in most travel packages to China.

The temple was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1998.