Permeated by a feast of spectacular sights, the centuries-old cultural spectacles in contrast with the ultra-modern marvels of architecture are a vision to China’s most architecturally divine capital, Beijing. Being the capital for more than 800 years, Beijing has been a dynamic place to discover the history and culture of the nation. Located to the northwest of the plains of northern China, near the western slopes of Yanshan Mountains, and sometimes referred to as Peking, the city of Beijing is a great place to explore the prestige of China’s cultural hub, dense road networks, and transport systems, and much more.

With no shortage of historical and modern structures, Beijing has some of the nation’s most insightful points of interest. Let’s look at some of these wonderful places!

1. The Forbidden City and Palace Museum

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Forbidden City ©Rose Garden Tours Travel Blog

Forbidden City, a sprawling complex of 980 buildings glorifies the ancient Chinese palatial architecture where the emperor of China served for 500 years. Recognized as a World Heritage site by UNESCO, the entire complex including the Palace Museum exemplifies the architecture of China. Divided into two parts, the outer court to the south is where the emperor exercised his authority over his subjects; the inner court to the north was the emperor’s residence. The 180-acre complex was forbidden to enter without the permission of the emperor. 

Today, one starts the tour of the complex at the Meridian gate and exits out of the gate of Divine Prowess or the East Prosperity gate. The collection at the Palace Museum houses more than a million artifacts of bronze wear, jade and time wear, ceramics, and paintings.

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Forbidden City ©Fun Life Crisis
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Reflecting architecture of Forbidden City ©Pinterest
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Palace Museum ©Wikipedia

2. The Temple of Heaven

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The Temple of Heaven © Flickr

A masterpiece of architecture amalgamated with the landscape, the Temple of Heaven is the holiest of the imperial temples in Beijing. Dating back to 1420, the temple incorporates an assortment of the most sacred elements of Beijing. The most elegant feature of the old temple is the surrounding lush green environment, and the shrines are laid out in two sections; the symbolization of heaven and earth is expressed in one rectangular section and the other in a semi-circular section. 

The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests is a brightly decorated hall with customary Chinese design of wood entirely without nails that sits on a three-tier marble terrace; it symbolizes the emperor with the representation of the dragon, and a phoenix stone on the plaque, with balustrades and a roof covered with 50,000 blue glazed tiles.

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The Temple of Heaven ©China-culture
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Interior of Temple of Heaven ©Culture trip

3. Tiananmen Square

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Tiananmen Square ©Architectural Review

Known as the Gate of Heavenly Peace, the Tiananmen Square houses the only two ancient gates left in the city of Beijing. Tiananmen Square is the world’s largest inner-city square built to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Chinese Republic. The gate was once the entrance to the imperial city along with the Monument to the people’s heroes, a tapering 38-meter tall obelisk built with 17,000 pieces of granite and marble. 

The gate of heavenly peace and the Zhegyangmen, or Qianmen, the southernmost gate into the Tiananmen Square symbolize the vast space and the historical Chinese revolution from 1919.

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Tiananmen Square ©History News Network
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Monument to the people’s heroes ©the Planet D

4. Beihai Park

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Beihai Park © Viator

The oldest surviving imperial gardens of Beijing were built in the 10th century located at a short distance from the Imperial Palace; the Beihai Park imitates architecture from around the country. The park is dominated by a huge white pagoda on the hilltop and the spectacular Hall of Enlightenment that houses a one-and-a-half-meter tall Buddha carved from a single block of white jade along with a large black jade vase from the early 12th century. 

Spread over more than 170 acres, and surrounded by the lake by an astonishing jade flower islet, the Beihai Lake acquires the towering White Dagoba and several other monuments such as the five dragon pavilion, nine-dragon screen wall to form the extent of the island.

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Beihai Park ©Bulgari Hotel
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Beihai Park ©Viator
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Beihai Park ©Pinterest

5. 798 Art Zone

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798 Art Zone, Beijing ©Tripadvisor

Built by East-German architects on the north-eastern outskirts of town, the 798 Art Zone began life as a Bauhaus-style military factory complex in the 1950s. An exuberant assemblage of avant-garde galleries along with sculptures, and murals mesmerizes oneself while walking through the streets as one feels in an alfresco art museum. 

Known as the Dashanzi Art District, the dedicated 798 art zone is a culmination of artists across China and is a hub of artistic endeavors that are growing into expansive areas of exploration.

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798 Art Zone, Beijing © Tripadvisor
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798 Art Zone, Beijing © Tripadvisor
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Mural at 798 Art Zone, Beijing © Tripadvisor

6. The Lama Temple (Yonghe)

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The Lama Temple © Pinterest

Built in 1745, the Lama Temple, also known as the Yonghe temple complex preserves its glory as of the symbolic temples from the imperial dynasty with the discipline and principle of Lamaism. The Hall of the Kings of Heaven houses the statue of Buddha surrounded by four kings with symbolic objects (toad, sword, snake, and shield), and the protector of Buddhism, Weituo holds an iron staff. 

The temple complex embraces the tradition of Buddhism in several features of the structures that are housed in the complex such as the Pavilion of the Four-Tongued Stele, the Hall of the Buddhist wheel; along with the teaching hall of the monastery where presides the six-meter-tall statue of Buddha, two thrones, and sacred manuscripts, and a pavilion of four thousand fortunes that houses an 18-meter-high sandalwood statue of Buddha.

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The Lama Temple ©Veltra
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Inside the Lama Temple ©Flickr

7. The Summer Palace

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The Summer Palace ©China discovery

Spread over more than 700 acres, dating back to the 12th century, gasconading a 700-year-old man-made lake along with beautiful gardens, the Summer Palace is a masterpiece of imperial and traditional Chinese architecture and home to the Qing Dynasty. Nestled on Kunming Lake in northwest Beijing, with the immaculate gardens, and 17-arched bridges and surrounded by long corridors, the Summer Palace is a sight for beautiful architectural features. 

The western-styled marble ship, the Hall of well-being and longevity, reminiscing courtyards, and the Hall of happiness and longevity glorify the architecture of the Summer Palace.

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Arrival pavilion at the Summer Palace © China discovery
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Courtyards at the Summer Palace ©Lonely Planet
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Marble ship at the Summer Palace ©Lonely Planet

8. The Temple of Confucius

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The Gateway of Beijing Temple of Confucius © Pinterest

Built in 1302, the ornamental gates of Confucius Temple spanning the alley have been dedicated to the philosopher and teacher, Confucius whose learning inspired the public and private lives of people for centuries. The Hall of great achievements is dedicated to the scholars of Confucius with inscriptions naming 51,624 scholars along with 198 steles housing in the forecourt. The stone tablets in the courtyard and the rituals of music and dance depict the ancient culture and tradition of the nation.

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The Beijing Temple of Confucius © TripHobo
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The Beijing Temple of Confucius © Global Times

9. Great Wall of China

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The Great Wall of China ©Britannica

The most historic structures of China dating back to the 16th century stand eight meters high nestled on a hill with a panorama of hills and valleys that astonishes oneself with surrounding nature.

10. Badaling Great Wall & Mutianyu Great Wall

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Badaling Great Wall ©Global Times

The closest wall from Beijing is located 70 kilometers away where structural sections from earlier eras are seen. Many of these structures date back to the 6th century along with a series of fortifications representing the historical significance of ancient and imperial China. 

Built in the Ming Dynasty, the Great Wall runs for 8,850 kilometers from east to west. One-fourth of the length embodies the natural barriers such as bridges and the mountain ridge while the remaining seventy percent is the existing constructed wall. Designated as a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1987, the Great Wall portrays the history of Chinese kingdoms and traditional architecture.

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Mutianyu Great Wall ©Global Times

11. Jingshan Park

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Jingshan Park © Pinterest

Originally an imperial garden laid over 23 hectares, the Jingshan park was converted to a public park with a towering 43-meter high mountain from where one can overlook panoramic views of the Forbidden City and the white pagoda of the Beihai Park from its grounds. Also known as the Coal Hill Park, it was once a place where coal was stored for the Ming emperors when the man-made hill was being constructed in 1416 along with the construction of the Imperial Palace. 

The gardens and walkways of the park consist of an old acacia tree, and it was believed that it was this very tree where the last Ming emperor had hung himself. With a planted area of 1,300 square yards, the park has the biggest peony rose garden in Beijing.

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Pavilion at Jingshan Park © China discovery
Pavilion at the top of the hill at Jingshan Park © Encircle Photos

References

  1. Planetware [Online]

Available at: www.planetware.com

  1. The Planet D [Online]

Available at: https://theplanetd.com/things-to-do-in-beijing/

  1. Trip.com [Online]

Available at: www.trip.com/blog/must-see-attractions-in-beijing

Author

Abha Haval is an Architect who has a vivid imagination of this world. She believes that every place has a story to tell and is on a mission to photograph the undiscovered whereabouts of various cities and narrate the story of its existence.

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