FOREIGN LEGATION QUARTER
The former Foreign Legation Quarter ( subway Qianmen, Wangfujing or Chongwenmen), where the 19th-century foreign powers flung up their embassies, schools, post offices and banks, lay east of Tiananmen Sq. The entire district was transformed into a war zone during the famous siege of the legations as the Boxer Rebellion (1899-1901) reached its climax.
The best route into this area is by walking up the steps from Tiananmen Sq into Dongjiaomin Xiang ,once called Legation St. The green-roofed, orange brick building on the south side of the road at No 40 is the former Dutch Legation. Further along on your right stands the excellent Beijing Police Museum ,once the First National City Bank of New York. Rising a short walk up the road at No 34 is an imposing, red brick building with pillars, the former address of the Banque de L'lndo-Chine. The ghostly faded Chinese characters under the window on the right that proclaim 'Long live the mighty leader Chairman Mao' have recently been further scoured into oblivion, as have the faint characters 'Love live the mighty Chinese Communist Party' under the window on the left .
The domed building at 4a Zhengyi Lu, on the corner of Zhengyi Lu and Dongjiaomin Xiang, is the former Yokahama Specie Bank. North on the right-hand side of Zhengyi Lu was the former Japanese Legation, opposite the British Legation to the west, now occupied by the Ministry of State Security and the Ministry of Public Security. The grey building at No 19 Dongjiaomin Xiang is the former French post office, now the Jingyuan Sichuan Restaurant, near the former French Legation at No 15.
Backing onto a small school courtyard, the twin spires of the Gothic St Michael's Church (Dongjiaomin Catholic Church; rises ahead at No 11, facing the green roofs and ornate red brickwork of the former Belgian Legation.
North along Taijichang Dajie is a brick street sign embedded in the northern wall of Taijichang, carved with the old name of the road, Rue Hart. Located along the north side of Rue Hart was the Austro-Hungarian Legation, south of which stood the Peking Club, entered through a gate on Taijichang Dajie.
GATE OF HEAVENLY PEACE
Hung with a vast likeness of Mao, the Gate of Heavenly Peace : is a potent national symbol. Built in the 15th century and restored in the 17th century, the double-eaved gate was formerly the largest of the four gates of the Imperial Wall that enveloped the imperial grounds.
The gate is divided into five doors and reached via seven bridges spanning a stream. Each of these bridges was restricted in its use and only the emperor could use the central door and bridge.
Today's political coterie reviews mass troop parades from here and it was from this gate that Mao proclaimed the People's Republic on 1 October 1949. The dominat-ing feature is the gigantic portrait of the ex-chairman, to the left of which runs the dated slogan 'Long Live the People's Republic of China1 and to the right 'Long Live the Unity of the Peoples of the World'. The portrait of Mao was famously pelted with paint-filled eggs during the 1989 demonstrations and an attempt was made to set fire to it in 2007. Spares of the portrait exist and fresh ones were speedily requisitioned.
Climb up to great views of Tiananmen Sq and peek inside at the impressive beams and overdone paintwork. There is no fee for walking through the gate, but if you climb it you will have to buy an admission ticket. Security is intense with metal detectors and frisking awaiting visitors.
Sandwiched between the Gate of Heavenly Peace and Meridian Gate, Duan Gate (Duan Men; admission Y10; S 8.30am-4.30pm) was stripped of its treasures by foreign forces quelling the Boxer Rebellion. The hall today is full of tourist paraphernalia, but do steer your eyes to the ceiling, wonderfully painted in its original colours and mercifully free of slapdash cosmetic improvement.
The Front Gate : actually consists of two gates. The northerly gate, 40m-high Zhengyang Gate , Zhengyang Men), dates from the Ming dynasty and was the largest of the nine impressive gates of the inner city wall separating the Inner or Tartar (Manchu) City from the Outer or Chinese City. Partially destroyed during the Boxer Rebellion of 1900, the gate was once flanked by two temples that have vanished. With the disappearance of the city walls, the gate sits totally out of context. At the time of writing the upstairs interior was shut for revamping. Similarly torched during the Boxer Rebellion, the Arrow Tower ( Jian Lou) to the south also dates from Ming times and was originally linked to Zhengyang Gate by a semicircular enceinte, which was swept aside in the early 20th century. To the east is the former British-built Old Station Building (Lao Chezhan; Qian Men Railway Station), usually housing shops but shut at the time of writing.
GREAT HALL OF THE PEOPLE
On a site previously occupied by Taichang Temple, the Jinyiwei (the Ming-dynasty secret service) and the Ministry of Justice, the Great Hall of the People (Renmin Dahuita'ng; ; adult Y30, bag deposit Y2-5; hours vary, usually 8.30am-3pm; subway Tiananmen Xi), on the western side of Tiananmen Sq, is where the National People's Congress convenes. The 1959 architecture is monolithic and intimidating; the tour parades visitors past a choice of 29 of its lifeless rooms, named after the provinces that make up the Chinese universe. Also on the billing is the 5000-seat banquet room where US President Richard Nixon dined in 1972, and the 10,000-seat auditorium with the familiar red star embedded in a galaxy of lights in the ceiling. The Great Hall is closed to the public when the National People's Congress is in session.
CHAIRMAN MAO MEMORIAL HALL
Chairman Mao died in September 1976 and his Memorial Hall was constructed shortly thereafter on the former site of Zhonghua Gate , on the southern side of Tiananmen Sq.
The Chinese display an almost religious respect when confronted with the physical presence of Mao. You will be reminded to remove your hat and you can fork out Y3 for a flower to deposit at the foot of a statue of the erstwhile despot in the entrance hall if you wish, The Great Helmsman's mummified corpse lies in a crystal cabinet, draped in an unfashionable red flag emblazoned with hammer and sickle while impatient guards in white gloves brusquely wave the hoi polloi on towards further rooms and a riot of Mao kitsch - lighters, bracelets, statues, key rings, bottle openers, you name it. Don't expect to stumble upon Jung Chang signing copies of her Mao, the Unknown Story. At certain times of the year the body requires maintenance and is not on view. Bags need to be deposited at the building east of the memorial hall across the road from Tiananmen Sq (if you leave your camera in your bag you will be charged for it).
MONUMENT TO THE PEOPLE'S HEROES
North of Mao's memorial hall, the Monument to the People's Heroes (Renmin Yingxiong Jinianbei subway Tiananmen Xi, Tiananmen Dong or Qianmen) was completed in 1958. The 37.9m-high obelisk, made of Qingdao granite, bears bas-relief carvings of key patriotic and revolutionary events (such as Lin Zexu destroying opium at Humen in the 19th century, and Taiping rebels), as well as appropriate calligraphy from communist bigwigs Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai. Mao's eight-character flourish proclaims 'Eternal Glory to the People's Heroes'.
BEIJING POLICE MUSEUM: a fascinating expose of Beijing's police force. Learn how Beijing's first PSB college operated from the Dongyue Temple in 1949, and there's a welcome analysis of how the Beijing PSB was destroyed during the 'national catastrophe' of the Cultural Revolution. The museum covers grisly business: there's Wang Zhigang's bombing of Beijing train station on 29 October 1 980 and an explosion at Xidan Plaza in 1 968, while upstairs the museum gets to grips with morbid crimes and their investigations.
CHINA NUMISMATIC MUSEUM
This intriguing three-floor museum follows the technology of money production in China from the spade-shaped coins of the Spring and Autumn period to the coinage and paper currency of the modern day. Of particular interest to numismatists are the top-floor samples of modern Chinese paper renminbi, from the pragmatic illustrations of the first series to the far more idealistic third series (1962) and the fourth series dating from 1987, still adorned with the head of Mao Zedong.
CHINA NATIONAL MUSEUM
Housed in a sombre 1950s edifice and shut at the time of writing, this museum on the eastern side of Tiananmen Sq is routinely a work in progress. Prior to its latest overhaul, the most absorbing displays belonged to the bronzes and ceramics of the Selected Treasures of the National Museum of China, including the marvellous rhino-shaped bronzed zun (vessel) inlaid with gold and silver designs from the Western Han.
ZHONGSHAN PARK : west of the Gate of Heavenly Peace, has a section hedging up against the Forbidden City moat. Formerly the sacred Ming-style Altar to the God of the Land and the God of Grain (Shijitan) where the emperor offered sacrifices, this park is clean, tranquil and tidy, and a refreshing prologue or conclusion to the magnificence of the adjacent imperial residence.
WORKERS CULTURAL PALACE
Earmark the drearily named Workers Cultural Palace , the huge halls of the temple rern their roofs enveloped in imperial yelfcw H'" The effect is like a cut-price Forbidden Citv minus the crowds. Take the northwester exit from the grounds of the palace and find yourself just by the Forbidden City's Meridian Gate and point of entry to the palace.
IMPERIAL CITY MUSEUM
Devoted to the former Imperial City, this museum : is the centrepiece of a surviving section of the Imperial City wall, southeast of the Forbidden City, that has been converted into a picturesque park (residents were moved on). The park is decorated with a graceful marble bridge, rock features, paths, a stream, willows, magnolias, scholar trees and walnut trees.
Within the museum, a diorama reveals the full extent of the Imperial City and its yellow-tiled wall, which encompassed a vast chunk of Beijing virtually seven times the size of the Forbidden City. In its heyday, 28 large temples could be found in the Imperial City alone, along with many smaller shrines.
Tucked away retiringly east of the Forbidden City, the tranquil Imperial Archives : were the former repository of the imperial records, decrees, the 'Jade Book (the imperial genealogical record) and vast encyclopaedic works, including the Yongle Dadian and the Daqing Huidian. With strong echoes of the imperial palace, the courtyard contains well-preserved halls, the modern-Chinese
Wan Fung Art Gallery and further art galleries.
Beijing's ancient observatory , mounted on the battlement of a watchtower lying along the line of n old Ming city wall, originally dates back Kublai Khan's days when it lay north of th present site.
At ground level is a pleasant courtyard -erfect for simply parking yourself on a bench nd recharging - flanked by halls housing display8 (with limited English captions). A)SO within the courtyard is a reproduction-looking armillary sphere dating to 1439 that supported by four dragons. At the rear is an attractive garden with grass, sun dials and a further armillary sphere.
Climb the steps to the roof and an array Of Jesuit-designed astronomical instruments, embellished with sculptured bronze dragons and other Chinese flourishes - a unique alloy of East and West. The Jesuits, scholars as well as proselytisers, arrived in 1601 when Matteo Ricci and his associates were permitted to work alongside Chinese scientists, becoming the Chinese court's official advisers.
Instruments on display indude an azimuth theodolite (1715), an altazimuth (1673) and an ecliptic armilla (1673); of the eight on view, six were designed and constructed under the supervision of the Belgian priest Ferdinand Verbiest. It's not clear which instruments on display are the originals.
During the Boxer Rebellion, the instru-ments disappeared into the hands of the French and Germans. Some were returned in 1902 and others were returned after WWI, under the provisions of the Treaty of Versailles (1919).
MING CITY WALL RUINS PARK
Running the entire length of the northern flank of Chongwenmen Dongdajie is this slender park (Ming Chengqiang Yizhi Gongyuan; Chongwenmen Dongdajie; admission free; alongside a section of the Ming 'nner-city wall.
The restored wall runs for around 2km, rising up to a height of around 15m and interrupted every 80m with dun tdi (buttresses), which extend south from the wall to a maxi-mum depth of 39m.
The park extends from the former site of Chongwen Men (one of the nine gates of the inner city wall) to the Southeast Corner Watchtower. Its green- tiled, twin-caved roof rising up imperiously, this splendid Ming-dynasty fortification is punctured with 144 archer's windows. The highly impressive interior has some staggering carpentry: huge red pillars surge upwards, topped with solid beams. On the 1st floor is the excellent Red Gate Gallery ,say you are visiting the Red Gate Gallery and the Y10 entry fee to the watchtower is waived.
TEMPLE OF HEAVEN PARK
A paragon of Ming design, the main hall of the Confucian Temple of Heaven (Tiantan Gongyuan; Tiantan Donglu; admission park/through ticket low season Y10/30, high season Y15/35, audio tour available at each gate Y40; S park 6am-9pm, sights 8am-6pm; subway Chongwenmen or Qianmen) is set in a walled 267-hectare park with a gate at each compass point. The temple - the Chinese name actually means 'Altar of Heaven' so don't expect burning incense or worshippers - originally served as a vast stage for solemn rites performed by the Son of Heaven, who prayed here for good harvests, and sought divine clearance and atonement.
Seen from above, the temple halls are round and the bases square, shapes respectively symbolising heaven and the earth. Further observe that the northern rim of the park is semicircular, while its southern end is square. The traditional approach to the temple was from the south, via Zhaoheng Gate ( Zhaoheng Men); the north gate is an architectural afterthought.
The 5m-high Round Altar (Sii;Yuanqiu; admission Y20) was constructed in 1530 and rebuilt in 1740. Consisting of white marble arrayed in three tiers, its geometry revolves around the imperial number nine. Odd numbers possess heavenly significance, with nine the largest single-digit odd number. Symbolising heaven, the top tier is a huge mosaic of nine rings, each composed of multiples of nine stones, so that the ninth ring equals 81 stones. The stairs and balustrades are similarly presented in multiples of nine. Sounds generated from the centre of the upper terrace undergo amplification from the marble balustrades (the acoustics can get noisy when crowds join in).
The octagonal Imperial Vault of Heaven was erected at the same time as the Round Altar, its shape echoing the lines of the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests. The hall contained tablets of the emperor's ancestors, employed during winter solstice ceremonies.
Wrapped around the Imperial Vault of Heaven just north of the altar is the Echo Wall (IsO Wit; Huiyinbi; admission Y20). A whisper can travel clearly from one end to your friend's ear at the other - unless a cacophonous tour group joins in (get here early for this one).
The dominant feature of the whole complex is the standout, recently restored Hall of Prayer I for Good Harvests (Qinian Dian; admission Y20), an astonishing structure with a triple-eaved umbrella roof mounted on a three-tiered marble terrace. The wooden pillars support the ceiling without nails or cement - for a building 38m high and 30m in diameter, that's quite an accomplishment. Built in 1420, the hall was hit by a lightning bolt during the reign of Guangxu in 1889 and a faithful reproduction based on Ming architectural methods was erected the following year.
NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM
The main entrance hall to the overblown, creeper-laden Natural History Museum : is hung with portraits of the great natural historians, including Darwin and Linnaeus. Escort kiddies to the revamped dinosaur hall facing you as you enter, which presents itself with an overarching skellybone of a Mamenchisaurus jingyanensis - a vast sauropod that once roamed China - and a much smaller protoceratops.
Some of the exhibits, such as the spliced human cadavers and genitalia in the notorious Hall of Human Bodies, are flesh-crawlingly graphic.
BEIJING PLANNING EXHIBITION HALL
Housed in a long, grey boxlike building suitably out of character with its surroundings, this little-visited exhibition hall (Beijing Shi Gmhua Zhanlanguan; takes particular pains to present Beijing's gut-wrenching, hutong-feUing metamorphosis in the best possible light. English labelling is scarce; the only exhibits of note are a detailed bronze map of the town in 1949 - ironically the very year that sealed the fate of old Peking -and a huge, detailed diorama of the modern metropolis. The rest of the exhibition is a paean to modern city planning and the unstoppable advance of the concrete mixer.
In its bid to have more museums than any where else on the planet, Beijing may have opted for some curious exhibitions (why a Watermelon Museum and a Beijing Tapwater Museum but no Cultural Revolution Museum?) but this small museum is one of the few places you can see traditional Chinese carvings under one roof. Seek out the gateway from Jiangxi with its elaborate architraves, and examine old drum stones, Buddhist effigies, ancient pillar bases and carved stone lions.
BEIJING UNDERGROUND CITY
By 1969, as the USA landed men on the moon, Mao had decided the future for Beijing's people lay underground. Alarmist predictions of nuclear war with Russia dispatched an army of Chinese beneath the streets of Beijing to burrow a huge warren of bombproof tunnels. The task was completed Cultural Revolution-style - by hand - and was finished in 1979, just as Russia became bogged down in Afghanistan instead.
A section of tunnels enticingly known as the Beijing Underground City can usually be explored; it was shut at the time of research, but hopefully should have reopened by the time you read this. English-language tours guide you along parts of this mouldering warren, past rooms designated as battlefield hospitals, a cinema, arsenals, other anonymous vaults and portraits or Mao Zedong. There's even a rudimentary elevator, floodproof doors and a ventilation system to expel poisonous gasses. Look out for engravings of workers toiling at their endeavour and uplifting quotes from Mao. Most of the tunnels are around 8m below ground, so it's cold and very damp (leaking overhead pipes don't help) and sections at greater depths are flooded. Clad in combat gear, guides wave down dark and uninviting tunnels, revealing unexpected destinations: one leads to the Hall of Preserving Harmony in the Forbidden City, another winds to the Summer Palace, one heads to an airport, while yet another reaches Tianjin (a mere 130km away), or so the guide insists. If ail such tunnels in China were added together, they would be longer than the Great Wall, the guide may add. A detour to an underground silk factory concludes the trip - pass On the pricey duvet covers and pillowcases and make for the door. Emerging from the exit, head east and take a peek down the first alley on your right - Tongle Hutong -one of Beijing's narrowest.
So called because it was off limits for 500 years, the Forbidden City; subway Tiananmen Xi or Tiananmen Dong) is the largest and best-preserved cluster of ancient buildings in China. It was home to two dynasties of emperors, the Ming and the Qing, who didn't stray from this pleasure dome unless they absolutely had to.
In former ages the price for uninvited admission was instant execution; these days Y40 will do. It's value for money, considering the pint-sized Shaolin Temple in Henan will set you back Y100. Allow yourself a full day for exploration or several trips if you're an enthusiast.
Guides mill about the entrance, but it's preferable to opt for the funky automatically activated audio tour instead (Y40). Until a few years ago the Forbidden City was controversially home to a branch of Starbucks, but a local cafe has dislodged it. Restaurants, toilets and even a police station can be found within the palace grounds. Wheelchairs (Y500 deposit) are free to use, as are strollers (Y300 deposit).
Many halls have been repainted in a way that conceals the original pigment; other halls such as the Hall of Mental Cultivation (Yangxin Dian; ) and the Yikun Palace are far more authentic and delightfully dilapidated. Despite the attentions °f restorers, some of the hall rooftops still sprout tufts of grass.
The palace's ceremonial buildings lie on the north-south axis, from the Meridian Gate in the south to the Divine Military Genius Gate the north.
Restored in the 17th century, Meridian Gate 18 a massive portal that in former times was reserved for the use of the emperor. Across the Golden Stream, which is shaped to resemble a Tartar bow and is spanned by five marble bridges, is the Gate of Supreme Harmony (Taihe Men), overlooking a massive courtyard that could hold imperial audiences of up to 100,000 people.
Raised on a marble terrace with balustrades are the Three Great Halls (San Dadian), which comprise the heart of the Forbidden City. The imposing Hall of Supreme Harmony (Taihe Dian) is the most important and the largest structure in the Forbidden City. Built in the 15th century, and restored in the 17th century, it was used for ceremonial occasions, such as the emperor's birthday, the nomination of military leaders and coronations.
Inside the Hall of Supreme Harmony is a richly decorated Dragon Throne (Longyi) where the emperor would preside (decisions final, no correspondence entered into) over his trembling officials. Bronze shuigang (vats) -once full of water for dousing fires - stand in front of the hall; in all 308 shuigang were dotted around the Forbidden City, with fires lit under them in winter to keep them from freezing over (hopefully the flames did not accidentally start larger conflagrations).
Behind the Hall of Supreme Harmony is the smaller Hall of Middle Harmony (Zhonghe Dian)that served as a transit lounge for the emperor. Here he would make last-minute preparations, rehearse speeches and receive close ministers.
The third hall, which has no support pillars, is the Hall of Preserving Harmony (Baohe Dian), used for banquets and later for imperial examinations. To the rear is a 250-tonne marble imperial carriageway carved with dragons and clouds, which was moved into Beijing on an ice path. The emperor was conveyed over the carriageway in his sedan chair as he ascended or descended the terrace.
The basic configuration of the Three Great Halls is echoed by the next group of buildings, smaller in scale but more important in terms of real power, which in China traditionally lies in the northernmost part.
The first structure is the Palace of Heavenly Purity (Qianqing Gong), a residence of Ming and early Qing emperors, and later an audience hall for receiving foreign envoys and high officials.
Immediately behind rises the Hall of Union (Jiaotai Dian) and at the northern end of the Forbidden City is the 7000-sq-metre Imperial Garden (Yii Huayuan), a classical Chinese garden of fine landscaping, rockeries, walkways and pavilions among ancient and malformed cypresses propped up on stilts. Just before the Chengguang Gate (Chengguang Men; Map pi38) as you approach the Shenwu Gate is a pair of bronze kneeling elephants, whose front legs bend in anatomically impossible directions.
The western and eastern sides of the Forbidden City are the palatial former living quarters, once containing libraries, temples, theatres, gardens and even the tennis court of the last emperor. Many of these now function as museums with a variety of free exhibitions on everything from imperial concubines to scientific instruments, weapons, paintings, jadeware and bronzes.
The Clock Exhibition Hall (Zhongbiao Guan; admission Y10) is one of the unmissable highlights of the Forbidden City. Located in the Fengxian Hall (Fengxian Dian), the exhibition contains a fascinating array of elaborate timepieces, many of which were gifts to the Qing emperors from overseas. Many of the 18th-century examples are imported through Guangdong from England; others are from Switzerland, America and Japan. Exquisitely wrought, fashioned with magnificently designed elephants and other creatures, they all display an astonishing artfulness and attention to detail. Standout clocks include the 'Gilt Copper Astronomy Clock', equipped with a working model of the solar system, and the automaton-equipped 'Gilt Copper Clock with a robot writing Chinese characters with a brush'. The Qing court must surely have been amazed by their ingenuity. Time your arrival for 11am or 2pm and treat yourself to the clock performance in which choice timepieces strike the hour and give a display to wide-eyed children and adults.
Also look out for the excellent Hall of Jewellery (Zhenbao Guan; admission Y10; S 8.30am-4pm summer, to 3.30pm winter), tickets for which also entitle you to glimpse the Well of Concubine Zhen (Zhen Fei Jing), into which the namesake wretch was thrown on the orders of Cixi, and the glazed Nine Dragon Screen (Jiulong Bl). The treasures on view are fascinating: within the Hall of Harmony (Yihe Xuan) sparkle Buddhist statues fash gold pagoda glittering with precious stones, followed by jade, jadeite, lapis lazuli and crystal pieces displayed in the Hall of Joyful Longevity (Leshou Tang). Further objects are displayed within the Hall of Character Cultivation (Yangx'mg Dian). The Changyin Pavilion (Changyln Ge) to the east was formerly an imperial stage.BEIHAI
Entered via four gates, Beihai Park (Beihai Gongyuan; admission Y5, through ticket high/low season Y20/15; S 6.30am-8pm, buildings until 4pm; subway Tiananmen Xi, then bus 5), northwest of the Forbidden City, is largely a lake. The park is a relaxing place to stroll around, rent a rowing boat, and watch calligraphers practising characters on the paving slabs with brush and water, with couples cuddling on benches come evening.
The through ticket includes the Round City, Yong'an Temple, the White Dagoba and other sights.
The site is associated with Kublai Khan s palace, which was the navel of Beijing before the creation of the Forbidden City. All that remains of the Khan's court is a large jar made of green jade in the Round City (Bw Tuancheng), near the southern entrance.
Dominating Jade Islet on the lake, the 36m-high White Dagoba was originally built in 1651 for a visit by the Dalai Lama, and was rebuilt ui 1741. You can reach the dagoba through the Yong'an Temple.
Xitian Fanjing, situated on the northern shore of the lake, is an excellent temple (admission included in park ticket). The first hall, the Hall of the Heavenly Kings takes you past Milefo, Weituo and the four Heavenly Kings. The Dacizhenru HaU dates to the Ming dynasty and contains three huge statues of Sakyamuni, the Amithaba
Buddha and Yaoshi Fo (Medicine Buddha)-The nearby Nine Dragon Screen a Sm-high and 27m-long spirit wall, is a glimmering stretch of coloured glazed tiles.
LAMA TEMPLE :is Beijing's most enthralling Buddhist temple: beautiful rooftops, stunning frescoes, magnificent decorative arches, tapestries, incredible carpentry, tantric statues and a great pair of Chinese lions.
The most renowned Tibetan Buddhist temple outside Tibet, the Lama Temple was converted to a lamasery in 1744 after serving as the former residence of Emperor Yong Zheng.
The final temple hall, Wanfu Pavilion (Wanfu Ge) contains a magnificent 18m-high statue of the Maitreya Buddha in his Tibetan form, clothed in yellow satin and reputedly sculpted from a single block of sandalwood. Each of the Bodhisattva's toes is the size of a pillow. Behind the statue is the Vault of Avalokiteshvara, from where a diminutive and blue-faced statue of Guanyin (Goddess of Mercy) peeks out. The Wanfu Pavilion is to the Yansui Pavilion (Yansui Ge), which encloses a huge lotus flower that revolves to reveal an effigy of the longevity Buddha.
An intriguing conclusion to the temple is the collection of bronze Tibetan Buddhist statues within the Jietai Lou. Most effigies date from the Qing dynasty, with languorous renditions of Green Tara and White Tara, exotic tantric pieces, and figurines of the fierce-looking Mahakala.
The street outside the temple entrance heaves with shops piled high with statues of Buddha, talismans, Buddhist charms and keepsakes, picked over by pilgrims. Exiting the temple and walking east along Xilou Hutong brings you to the former Bailin Temple at the bend in the alley; it now houses offices, and visitors were not being admitted when last checked.
CONFUCIUS TEMPLE & IMPERIAL COLLEGE
Summed up by its semifossilised cypresses and silent bixi (mythical tortoiselike dragon), the arid and recently restored Confucius Temple is coated with a permanent film of dust. Some of Beijing's last remaining pdilou bravely survive in the hutong outside (Guozijian Jie), while the sculpted brood of bixi lie sheltered in newly repainted pavilions. At the rear is a numbing forest of 190 stelae (stones or slabs decorated with figures or inscriptions) recording the 13 Confucian classics, consisting of 630,000 Chinese characters.
Like everywhere in town, skeletons lurk in the temple cupboard and a terrible footnote lies unrecorded behind the tourist blurb. Beijing writer Lao She was dragged here in August 1966, forced to his knees in front of a bonfire of Beijing opera costumes to confess his 'antirevolutionary crimes', and beaten. The much-loved writer drowned himself the next day in Taiping Lake.
West of the Confucius Temple is the Imperial College (Guozijian), where the emperor expounded the Confucian classics to an audience of thousands of kneeling students, professors and court officials - an annual rite. Built by the grandson of Kublai Khan in 1306, the former college was the supreme academy during the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties. On the site is a marvellous glazed, three-gate, single-eaved decorative archway, called a lii,r pdifang (glazed archway). The Biyong Hall beyond is a twin-roofed structure with yellow tiles surrounded by a moat and topped with a gold knob.
The surrounding streets and hutong harbour a great selection of cafes and small shops so take time to browse the immediate vicinity in low gear.
Mitels Cosmologically juxtaposed with the Temple of Heaven and Beijing's other altars, Ditan Park (Ditan Gongyuan; admission Y2, altar Y5; S6am-9pm), east of Andingmenwai Dajie, is the Temple of the Earth. The park's large altar is square in shape, symbolising the earth. At the Chinese New Year, a temple fair is staged inside the park. Within the park, the art gallery One Moon displays thoughtful contemporary Chinese art from a 16th-century temple hall, a funky meeting of the Ming and the modern. If visiting the art gallery on its own, the entrance fee to the park should be waived.
With its priceless views, Jingshan Park (Jingshan Gongyuan), north of the Forbidden City, was shaped from the earth excavated to create the palace moat. The hill supposedly protects the palace from the evil spirits - or dust storms - from the north (the billowing dust clouds in the spring have to be seen to be believed).
Clamber to the top for a magnificent panorama of the capital and an unparalleled overview of the russet roofing of the Forbidden City. On the eastern side of the park a locust tree stands in the place where the last of the Ming emperors, Chongzhen, hung himself as rebels swarmed at the city walls.
ST JOSEPH'S CHURCH
One of the four principal churches in Beijing, St Joseph's Church is also called the East Cathedral. Originally built in 1655, it was damaged by an earth-quake in 1720 and rebuilt. The luckless church also caught fire in 1807, was destroyed again in 1900 during the Boxer Rebellion, and restored in 1904, only to be shut in 1966. It has been fully repaired and is now a more sublime feature of Wangfujing's commercial face-lift, illuminated at night. A large square in front swarms with children playing, while Chinese models in bridal outfits pose for magazine covers.
DRUM TOWER & BELL TOWER
Repeatedly destroyed and restored, the Drum Tower originally marked the centre of the old Mongol capital. The drums of this later Ming-dynasty version were beaten to mark the hours of the day. Stagger up the incredibly steep steps for impressive views over Beijing's hutong rooftops. Drum performances are given every half-hour from 9am to 1 1.30am and 1.30pm to 5pm.
Fronted by a stele from the Qing dynasty, the Bell Tower originally dates from Ming times. The Ming structure went up in a sheet of flame and the present structure is a Qing edifice dating from the 18th century. Augment visits with drinks at the Drum & Bell Bar
Both the Drum and Bell Towers can be reached on bus 5, 58 or 107; get off at the namesake Gulou stop.
CHINA ART GALLERY
The China Art Gallery has a range of modern paintings and hosts occasional photographic exhibitions. The art on display is often typical of mainstream Chinese aesthetics (safe subject matter) and anyone expecting testing artwork may be disappointed, but works from overseas collections are more compelling. The absence of a permanent collection means that all exhibits are temporary. There are no English captions, but it's still a great place to see modern Chinese art and, maybe just as importantly, to watch the Chinese looking at art. Take trolley bus 103, '04, 106 or 108 to Meishu Guan bus stop (on Wusi Dajie).
Beijing's surviving temple brood has endured slapdash renewal that regularly bur-les authenticity beneath casual restoration . This rickety shrine Lumicang Hutong; admission Y20, audioguide , musical performances held 4 times daily; subway Jianguornen or Chaoyangmen) is thick with the flavours of old Peking, having largely eluded the Dulux treatment. You won't find the coffered ceiling of the third hall (it's in the USA) and the Four Heavenly Kings have vanished from Zhihua Gate ( Zhihua Men), but the Scriptures Hall encases a venerable Ming-dynasty wooden library topped with a seated Buddha and a magnificently unrestored ceiling, while the highlight Ten Thousand Buddhas Hall ( Wanfo Dian) is an enticing two floors of miniature niche-borne Buddhist effigies and cabinets for the storage of sutras. Its caisson ceiling currently resides in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Creep up the steep wooden staircase (if it is open) at the back of the hall to visit the sympathetic effigy of the Vairocana Buddha seated upon a multipetalled lotus flower in the upper chamber, before pondering the fate of the 1000-Armed Guanyin that once presided over the Great Mercy Hall at the temple rear.
CREATION ART GALLERY
This compact, intimate gallery near Ritan Park displays a small and intimate selection of very accomplished paintings, with several composed by gallery owner, Li Xiaoke. Subject matter tends towards modern renderings of landscapes and tra-ditional subject matter. Prices start from around US$800.
SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY MUSEUM
Some items at this museum are showing their age, but kids can run riot among the main hall's three floors of hands-on displays. Watch industrial robots perform a flawless taichi sword routine, follow a Maglev train gliding along a stretch of track or test out a bulletproof vest with a sharp pointy thing. You could spend half the day working through the imaginative and educational displays in the main hall, but if you want to make a real go of it, Hall B (astrovision theatre) and Hall C (Children's Scientific Entertainment Hall) offer extra diversions for boffins, young and old. English captions throughout.
Dedicated to Tai Shan, one of China's five Taoist mountains;, the Dongyue Temple : is a fascinating experience. The temple is actively minded by Taoist monks attending to a world entirely detached from the surrounding steel and glass high-rises. Dating to 1607, the temple's marvellous pdifang (memorial archway) lies to the south, divorced from its shrine by the intervention of Chaoyangmenwai Dajie.
Stepping through the entrance pops you into a Taoist Hades, where tormented spirits reflect on their wrongdoing and atonement beyond reach. Take your pick: you can muse on life's finalities in the Life and Death Department or the Final Indictment Department. Otherwise, get spooked at the Department for Wandering Ghosts or the Department for Implementing IS Kinds of Violent Death. English explanations detail each department's function.
The huge Daiyue Hall (Daiyue Dian) is consecrated to the God of Tai Shan, who manages the 18 layers of hell. Visiting during festival time, especially during the Chinese New Year and the Midtumn Festival, sees the temple at its most colourful.
POLY ART MUSEUM
This excellent but expensive museum :has well-presented exhibits of Shang- and Zhou-dynasty bronzes as well as carved contemplative stone Buddhist effigies sculpted between the Northern Wei and Tang dynasties.
This disused and sprawling electronics factory found a new lease of life several years ago as the focus for Beijing's feisty art community. Wander the former factory workshops and peruse the artwork on view at its highlight galleries, White Space Beijing , Beijing Tokyo Art Projects (Beijing Dongjing Yishu Gongcheng; 8457 3245; 10am-6.30pm) and Art Scene Beijing or admire.
WHITE CLOUD TEMPLE
Founded in AD 739, White Cloud Temple is a lively, huge and fascinating temple complex of numerous shrines and courtyards, tended by distinctive Taoist monks with their hair twisted into topknots. As with many of China's temples, the White Cloud Temple has been repeatedly destroyed and today's temple halls principally date from Ming and Qing times. Drop by the White Cloud Temple during Chinese New Year and be rewarded with the spectacle of a magnificent miaohul (temple fair). Worshippers funnel into the streets around the temple in their thousands, lured by artisans, street performers, wushu (martial arts) acts, craftsmen, traders and a swarm of snack merchants. Near the temple entrance, a vast queue snakes slowly through the gate for a chance to rub a polished stone carving for good fortune.
To find the temple, walk south on Baiyun Lu and cross the moat. Continue south along Baiyun Lu and turn into a curving street on the left; follow it for 250m to the temple entrance.
COW STREET MOSQUE
Dating back to the 10th century, this Chinese-styled mosque : is Beijing's largest and was the burial site for several Islamic clerics. Surrounded by residential high-rises, the temple is pleasantly decorated with plants and flourishes of Arabic. Lookout for the main prayer hall (only Muslims can enter), women's quarters and the Building for Observing the Moon (HHtit; Wangyuelou), from where the lunar calendar was calculated.
Replete with an air of monastic reverence, this bustling temple east of Cow Street Mosque was originally constructed in the 7th century. Now the China Buddhism College, the temple follows a typical Buddhist layout, but make your way to the fourth hall for its standout copper Buddha seated atop four further Buddhas, themselves atop a huge bulb of myriad effigies. Within the Guanyin Hall is a Ming-dynasty Thousand Hand and Thousand Eye Guanyin, while a huge supine Buddha reclines in the rear hall.
This fantastic-looking new museum contains excellent galleries, including a mesmerising collection of ancient Buddhist statues and a lavish exhibition of Chinese porcelain. There is also an interesting chronological history of Beijing, an exhibition dedicated to cultural relics of Peking Opera, a Beijing Folk Customs exhibition and displays of ancient bronzes, jade, calligraphy and paintings. Seven daily screenings of 'Glorious Beijing' are held in the Digital Theatre.
The huge regal encampment of the Summer Palace in the northwest of Beijing is one of the city's principle attractions and requires at least half a day of your time.
Teeming with tour groups from all over China and beyond, this opulent dominion of palace temples, gardens, pavilions, lakes and corridors was once a playground for the imperial court. Royalty took refuge here from the summer heat that roasted the Forbidden City. The site had long been a royal garden and was considerably enlarged and embellished by Emperor Qianlong in the 18th century. He marshalled 100,000 labourers to deepen and expand Kunming Lake , and reputedly surveyed imperial navy drills from a hilltop perch.
Anglo-French troops left their mark, damaging the buildings during the Second Opium War (1856-60). Empress Dowager Cixi commenced a refit in 1888 with money earmarked for a modern navy; the marble boat at the northern edge of the lake was her only nautical -albeit unsinkable - concession.
Foreign troops, incensed by the Boxer Rebellion, had another go at roasting the Summer Palace in 1900, prompting further restoration work. By 1949 the palace had once more fallen into disrepair, eliciting a major overhaul.
Glittering Kunming Lake swallows up three-quarters of the park, overlooked by Longevity Hill ( Wanshou Shan). The principal structure is the Hall of Benevolence and Longevity ( Renshou Dian), by the east gate, housing a hardwood throne and attached to a courtyard decorated with bronze animals, including the mythical qilin (a hybrid animal that only appeared on earth at times of harmony). Unfortunately, the hall is barricaded off so you will have to peer in.
An elegant stretch of woodwork along the northern shore, the Long Corridor is trimmed with a plethora of paintings, while the slopes and crest of Longevity Hill behind are adorned with Buddhist temples. Slung out uphill on a north-south axis, the Buddhist Fragrance Pavilion (and the Cloud Dispelling Hall are linked by corridors. Crowning the peak is the Buddhist Temple of the Sea of Wisdom), tiled with effigies of Buddha, many with obliterated heads.
Cixi's marble boat sits immobile on the north shore, south of some fine Qing boathouses. You can traverse Kunming Lake by ferry to South Lake Island where Cixi went to beseech the Dragon King Temple for rain in times of drought. A graceful 17-arch bridge spans the 150m to the eastern shore of the lake.
Towards the North Palace Gate, Suzhou Street is an entertaining and light-hearted diversion of riverside walkways, shops and eateries designed to mimic the famous Jiangsu canal town.
The Summer Palace is about 12km northwest of the centre of Beijing. Take the subway to Xizhimen station (close to the zoo), then a minibus or bus 375; the nearest light rail station is Wudaokou (then take bus 331 or a taxi). Other useful buses here include 331 and 801 (both from the Old Summer Palace) and 808 from the Qianmen area. You can also get here by bicycle; it takes about 1V4 to two hours from the centre of town. Cycling along the road following the Beijing-Miyun Diversion Canal is pleasant, and in warmer months there's the option of taking a boat ( 8836 3576; Houhu Pier; 1 way/return incl Summer Palace admission Y70/100) from behind the Beijing Exhibition Center near the zoo; the boat voyages via locks along the canal.
PRINCE GONG'S RESIDENCE
Reputed to be the model for the mansion in Cao Xueqin's 18th-century classic Dream of the Red Mansions, this residence is one of Beijing's largest private residential compounds. Get here ahead of the tour buses and enjoy one of Beijing's more attractive retreats, decorated with rockeries, plants, pools, pavilions, corridors and elaborately carved gateways. Arrive with the crowds and you won't want to stay. Performances of Beijing opera are held regularly in the Qing-dynasty Grand Opera House in the east of the grounds .
MIAOYING TEMPLE WHITE DAGOBA
Buried away within a delightful hutong maze, the Miaoying Temple slumbers beneath its distinctive, pure-white Yuan dynasty dagoba. The Hall of the Great Enlightened One glitters splendidly with hundreds of Tibetan Buddhist effigies.
In other halls reside a four-faced effigy of Guanyin (here called Parnashavari) and a trinity of past, present and future Buddhas. Exit the temple and wander the tangle of local alleyways (one bemusingly called Green Pagoda Alley) for earthy shades of hutong life. Take bus 13, 101, 102 or 103 to Baita Si bus stop (near Baitasi Lu) or take the subway to Fuchengmen and walk east.
A pleasant spot for a stroll among the trees, grass and willow-fringed lakes, Beijing Zoo is chiefly notable for its pandas (if Sichuan is not on your itinerary), even if the remaining resident menagerie is cooped up in pitiful cages and enclosures. The polar bears pin all their hopes on graduating to the Beijing Aquarium in the northeastern corner of the zoo.
Boats to the Summer Palace depart from the dock (8838 4476) every hour from 10am to 4pm May to October .
Getting to the zoo is easy enough; take the subway to Xizhimen station. From here, it's a 15-minute walk heading west or a short ride on any of the trolley buses.
OLD SUMMER PALACE
Northwest of the city centre, the original Summer Palace, northeast of the Summer Palace, was laid out in the 12th century. Resourceful Jesuits were later employed by Emperor Qianlong fashion European-style palaces for the gardens, incorporating elaborate fountains and baroque statuary. During the Second Opium War, British and French troops destroyed the palace and sent the booty abroad. Much went up in flames, but a melancholic array of broken columns and marble chunks remain.
Trot through the southern stretch of hawkers and arcade games to the more subdued ruins of the European Palace in the Eternal Spring Garden (Changchun Yuan) to the northeast. Alternatively, enter by the east gate, which leads to the palace vestiges. The mournful composition of tumbledown palace remains lies strewn in a long strip; alongside are black-and-white photos displaying before and after images of the residence. It's here that the Great Fountain Ruins, considered the best-preserved relic, can be found.
West of the ruins you can lose your way in an artful reproduction of a former maze called the Garden of Yellow Flowers .
The gardens cover a huge area - some 2.5km from east to west - so be prepared for some walking. Besides the ruins, there's the western section, the Perfection and Brightness Garden ,and the southern compound, the 10,000 Spring Garden.
To get to the Old Summer Palace, take minibus 375 from the Xizhimen subway station, or take the subway to Wudaokou subway station. Minibuses also connect the new Summer Palace with the old one, or a taxi will take you for Y10.
FRAGRANT HILLS PARK
Easily within striking distance of the Summer Palace is the Western Hills (Xi Shan), another former villa-resort of the emperors. The part of the Western Hills closest to Beijing is known as Fragrant Hills Park (Xiangshan Gongyuan; admission Y10; 5 7am-6pm).
You can either scramble up the slopes to the top of Intense-Burner Peak ( Xlanglu Feng) or take the chairlift (1 way/return Y30/50; S 9am-4pm). Beijingers love to flock here in autumn when the maple leaves saturate the hillsides in great splashes of red.
Near the north gate of Fragrant Hills Park is Azure Clouds Temple, which dates back to the Yuan dynasty. The Mountain Gate Hall contains two vast protective deities: 'Heng' and 'Ha'. Next is a small courtyard containing the drum and bell towers, leading to a hall with a wonderful statue of Milefo: it's bronze, but coal black with age. Only his big toe shines from numerous inquisitive fingers.
The next hall contains statues of Sakyamuni and Bodhisattvas Manjushri, Samantabhadra and Avalokiteshvara (Guanyin), plus 18 luohan (Buddhists, especially a monk who has achieved enlightenment and passes to nirvana at death); a marvellous golden carved dragon soars above Sakyamuni. The Sun Yatsen Memorial Hall behind contains a statue and a glass coffin donated by the USSR on the death of Sun Yatsen.
At the very back is the marble Vajra Throne Pagoda where Sun Yatsen was interred after he died, before his body was moved to its final resting place in Nanjing. The Hall of Arhats contains 500 luohan statues.
To reach Fragrant Hills Park by public transport, take bus 360 from the zoo or bus 318 from Pingguoyuan underground station.
BEIJING BOTANIC GARDENS
Located 2km northeast of Fragrant Hills Park, the well-tended Botanic Gardens (Beijing Zhiwiiyuan; admission Y5; E 6am-8pm), set against the backdrop of the Western Hills, make for a pleasant outing among bamboo fronds, pines and lilacs. The Beijing Botanic Gardens Conservatory (admission Y40) contains 3000 different types of plants and a rainforest house.
About a 15-minute walk north from the front gate (follow the signs) near the Magnolia Garden is the Temple of the Reclining Buddha (Wofb Si; admission Y5; 8am-5pm). First built in the Tang dynasty, the temple's centrepiece is a huge reclining effigy of Sakyamuni weighing in at 54 tonnes, which 'enslaved 7000 people' in its casting. On each side of Buddha are sets of gargantuan shoes, gifts to Sakyamuni from various emperors in case he went for a stroll.
To get here take the subway to Pingguoyuan then bus 318, bus 333 from the Summer Palace or bus 360 from Beijing Zoo.
( 0 Votes )
|< Prev||Next >|
Top 10 Most Interest
We start with a visit the Imperial Citadel, where 13 emperors of Nguyen Dynasty used to work and liv...
Hue Full day city tour Code: HUIFULL You will be picked up from your hotel by your guide, who wi...
My Grandma's Home Cooking Add: 57 Ngô Quyền, An Hội, Minh An, Tp. Hội An, Quảng Nam, Vietnam Tour ...
Tra Que Water Wheel Code: HA-CK06 Cost: 28 usd/person (includes chef, lunch, bicycle, english spe...
Hoi An Gioan Cooking Class Code: HA-CK 05 Tour cost: US$40 per person Included: Market trip (30 ...
Hoi An Eco Cooking class Code: HACK- EC03 Highlight : * Try to make a rice paper* Learn how ...
Thuan Tinh IslandCOOKING TOUR TOUR PRICE: $30 / pax. 4 Course Vietnamese Food Cooking C...
Green Bamboo Cooking Classes Code: CK -GB01 Exclusive small class size (2–12) Start 8 am &...
Hoi An & Da Nang Full day Code: HA-DAD1 Duration: 8 hours We will discover the city of Hoi An ...
Cham Island 1 day 08:00: depart from your hotel to go to Cua Dai wharf where guests embark on the s...
Hue city tour a half day & boat tripFriday, 17 March 2017 08:07
Hue Full day city tourWednesday, 15 March 2017 09:41
My Grandma's Home CookingWednesday, 15 March 2017 08:54
Tra Que Water Wheel cooking classWednesday, 15 March 2017 08:46
Hoi An Gioan Cooking ClassWednesday, 15 March 2017 08:32
Hoi An Eco Cooking classWednesday, 15 March 2017 02:23
Hoi An: Thuan Tinh Island - Cooking classWednesday, 15 March 2017 01:59
Hoi An: Green Bamboo Cooking School & CafeWednesday, 15 March 2017 01:45
Hoi An & Da Nang Full dayTuesday, 14 March 2017 08:14
Cham Island 1 dayTuesday, 14 March 2017 07:53