"Imperial city of Chinese treasures" Beijing by cheezecake_deli

Beijing Travel Guide: 6,598 reviews and 16,752 photos

The centre of the universe...

Beijing is a city that has gone by other names - Yanjing, Dadu, Khanbaliq and, as recent as a century ago, Beiping. Inhabited for thousands of years, it is located at the northern boundary of the traditional Han Chinese world - indeed, it has been, at times, outside the control of the Chinese altogether (for instance, as the capital of the Mongol state of Jin in the 13th century). Despite this, it has played a central role in Chinese politics since the Yuan dynasty, and even the Communist party moved their seat of government here after establishing the PRC. Much of the cultural heritage of Beijing, such as the Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven and both Summer Palaces, date from the Ming and Qing dynasties, 500+ years that saw much grand building work in the city. As the capital city, Beijing's importance in modern Chinese history also cannot be understated. It was to Tiananmen Square that the Red Guards flocked, in the 1960s, to listen to Mao and it was here, in 1989, that a bloody suppression of popular protest was made in front of the world's cameras. Beijing has moved on from that notorious event, to a rollercoaster ride in the new millennium: orchestrating a booming economy, building for the Olympic Games, and managing increasing competition from other Chinese cities (chiefly Shanghai, Hong Kong and Guangzhou).

A veritable treasure house...

Beijing should be on the itinerary of every traveller to China, at least once and preferably several times. It is a veritable treasure house of imperial Chinese architecture and art, but is also a modern city of skyscrapers, ring roads and subways. The city may seem slightly alienating at first - you're more likely to notice the 10-lane traffic, incessant noise and pollution - but scratch below this surface and there is a whole world of Chinese treasures to be discovered. There is easily enough to see in a week, but, to really appreciate all that is on offer in Beijing and around, you will need weeks, if not a lifetime. My advice is not to be too ambitious: choose what you want to see in the time that you have, everything else will just have to wait for the next trip! Unlike, say, Shanghai or Hong Kong, the main highlights of Beijing are definitely cultural, so it helps if you have some basic knowledge of Chinese history.

A lot to see and to do...

Top 5 sights:
1. The Temple of Heaven
2. The Forbidden City
3. The Summer Palace (Yiheyuan)
4. The Great Wall of China
5. Prince Gong's Mansion

Heck, there's so much more:
6. The hutongs
7. Jingshan Park
8. Beihai Park
9. The Ming tombs
10. Tiananmen Square

  • Last visit to Beijing: Jun 2005
  • Intro Updated Mar 22, 2006
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