Beijing - The Military Museum

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The Military Museum
The Military Museum is a modest-sized museum and a great place to see fighter jets, tanks, weapons and to learn about the history of China’s revolutions. The museum is comprised of two four-story wings and a main building of seven stories topped with the gilded emblem of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army and occupies a total area of 60,000 square metres.

The first floor is devoted to the Second Revolutionary Civil War (1927-1937), the second floor to the War of Resistance Against Japan (1937-1945) and the third floor to the Third Revolutionary Civil War (1945-1949). The exhibits showcase the 28 years from the founding of the Chinese Communist Party in 1921 to the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949.

Liulichang Ancient Culture Street
This hideen gem is an historic street from Imperial China with a wonderful selection of writing brushes, ink stones, paintings, artifacts, ancient books, calligraphy and handicrafts. The Liu LiChang Street is a great alternative where guided tours rarely venture. There is a fine collection of mainly small antique shops – specialty stores for examining ancient calligraphy brushes and ink wells.

The history of Liulichang can be traced back to Liao Period (907-1125) when it was a small village. During the Yuan Dynasty (1206-1368), a kiln was established here,  specialising in glazed tiles. The kiln later became one of the official Five Kilns of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

Some original shops have been restored and the current Liulichang has been expanded to be a pedestrian street. It has a rich collection of Chinese folk arts and cultural products, traditional teahouses, wine shops and authentic restaurants.

The Temple of Confucius
The Temple of Confucius in Beijing was initially built in 1302 and additions were made during the Ming and Qing dynasties. It covers a total area of 22,000 square metres (5.4 acres) and is the second largest temple constructed for Confucius. The sites is often overlooked but only five minutes from the famous and highly popular Lama Buddhist Temple. Though Confucianism is not strictly a religion it is a philosophy and very important in understanding Chinese beliefs today.

Beijing - The Confucius Temple

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Today, the temple is a haven of tranquility, a pleasant sanctuary, away from Beijīng’s often congested streets, with ancient cypress and juniper trees (one of the cypress trees is over 700 years old), halls, pavilions and stone steles. The temple is connected with the Imperial College next door which was built in 1306, several years after the construction of Confucius Temple. The college was constructed right next to the temple in accordance with Chinese tradition where a temple is always to the left of a school.

Beijing, Tiantan, Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest

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“Long Corridor” Outside the Temple of Heaven Hall of Prayer
Tours around China include a visit to the Temple of Heaven, but often lead you to the South Gate entry. Here you will visit the altar, the prayer tablet vaults, Echo Wall and the Hall of Prayer and go back to that entrance, where you would miss the opportunity to see Chinese locals at rest and play. By entering from the East Gate, you will discover a huge garden frequented by locals who come to dance, listen to Chinese music, exercise and congregate by sitting on low walls along the covered “Long Corridor” where they play cards, dominoes, sing, sew and sell souvenirs. This offers a unique insight into the lives of the Chinese people and how they use the popular tourist attractions in their home town.

Beijing - Temple of Heaven Hall of Prayer

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The English Corner
The English Corner is located on the campus of Renmin University and is used as a place of gathering for students, scholars and visitors alike. Renmin University gatherings are both large and influential, with the event drawing diverse crowds, with attendees ranging in age from five to over seventy, and majority being college students or in their twenties. The event is host to patriots, dissidents, scholars, students, and casual observers. Chinese students and workers come in good numbers to meet foreigners on a China holiday, with whom they can practice their English.

Beijing - The Hutong

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The Hutong
Named after Beijing’s famous alleyways and traditional neighbourhoods , a friendly gang of local Chinese and ex-pats introduce visitors on China holidays to the delights of Chinese culture, cooking and a good selection of guided walking tours. This offers a unique opportunity to have an authentic Chinese experience, whilst strolling around the area or taking a rickshaw ride.

The alleys give a wonderful glimpse into yesterday’s world, the old way of life and traditional Beijing culture and highlight the dramatic changes the rest of Beijing has undergone.

Beijing - Park Life

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Park Life
Beijing is dotted with a large number parks, but most have strict rules and whistles start blowing as soon as you even think about setting foot on the grass.
There are, however, a few diamonds to be found among the city’s lesser-known parks where visitors can lay back and relax. For a lazy afternoon, try the Canal Park by the northeast corner of the Second Ring, across from MOMA. Here, you’ll find a lovely stretch of water lined with reeds, flowers and a boardwalk.

After dark, the lush greenery and bridges of Haidian’s Beitucheng Xilu Park come to life with locals gathering to dance, sing traditional songs, play instruments and spin tops. Bring your best rendition of a revolutionary hymn or just lay back on the grass and soak it all in.

Blissfully removed from the tacky lights and PA-blasted amateur karaoke of Houhai, the newly renovated north gate of Xihai Park is a getaway in the centre of the city. Down from the tree-shaded boardwalk, where old men gaze intently over their fishing poles, lies a new rock garden just perfect for an escape in the middle of town.

They’re not unicorns, but the mythical long-antlered Milu deer once driven to extinction in China have been re-introduced into south Beijing’s Nanhaizi Milu Park. Follow the herds and enjoy the nature reserve in imperial style at what used to be the royal hunting grounds.

Jingshan (“Prospect Hill”) Park is an artificial hill built as an imperial garden just north of the moat surrounding the Forbidden City. Jingshan Park offers some magnificent views of Beijing and of the Forbidden City (it’s hard to imagine how big this is without seeing it from above). Two lakes abut the hill in the park, and you will commonly find Beijing residents singing, dancing and playing games in its grounds.

Beijing - Summer Palace

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Old Summer Palace
Like Jingshan Park, Beijing’s Old Summer Palace is a less visited attraction situated nearby a far more frequented one – namely, the Summer Palace more ordinarily visited by tourists and vacationers who are part of guided China tours.

The Kangxi Emperor began construction of the Old Summer Palace in 1707 to be the home of his son, the future emperor. Expansions and improvements were made nearly continuously between then and 1860, when in retaliation for the Chinese torture and murder of British and Indian captives during the Second Opium War the British ordered the destruction of the Palace.

Today it remains in its destroyed state, unrestored, futuristic 21st century city.

Ancient Observatory
In Chinese lore, the number eight is the luckiest of all numbers and, at the Ancient Observatory constructed in the early 15th century by the Ming Dynasty, you will find exactly eight ancient astronomical instruments on display which may interest visitors on an all inclusive holiday to China.

For a short, interesting side trip and a look at Chinese science from half a millennium ago, the Ancient Observatory offers a lot that most travellers never know to see.