A trip to Beijing, China wouldn’t be complete without visiting the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace, the Temple of Heaven, and Tiananmen Square. Each one adds to a visitor’s understanding of Chinese history and may lead to a desire to explore other places and periods in Chinese history. When time is a factor, this Beijing bucket list is a great beginning.
Great Wall of China
The Great Wall of China is a must see. Be prepared. Crowds may impede your progress, but if you’re able to climb steep and irregularly shaped stairs, you’ll quickly surpass the hordes of people that congregate at the base. Within a short period of time, one can capture spectacular views of the Jundu and Taihung Mountains and see why the wall has a notable history as a military stronghold. Keep in mind that photos may be obscured by frequent episodes of heavy smog. People who are unable to trek up the wall will still be able to appreciate the magnitude of the wall and the surrounding mountain ranges from the base area.
It is hard to describe the Forbidden City in just a few sentences. It is a massive place with multiple layers of history. In its peak, it was the home to an imperial household of more than 6,000 people, a palace guard that was close to that number, and eunuchs that numbered approximately 70,000. Foreigners who came to visit the emperor would have to pass through nine gates. Today, tourists will only have access to part of the original Forbidden City, but will be overwhelmed by the huge courtyards and impressive structures. Despite the enormous number of fellow tourists who clog all of the main attractions, a visit is essential to an understanding of Chinese history.
The Summer Palace is located less than 10 miles from central Beijing. The short journey is worth taking in order to get a glimpse of the imperial gardens and the former location of the emperors’ summer residence. A notable structure is the Long Corridor (Chang Lang). It spans a length of 728 meters and includes 273 sections. The covered walkway has upper beams that have more than 8000 paintings of birds, flowers, landscapes, and Chinese classical stories. Numerous other buildings are located adjacent to the prominent Kunming Lake that occupies the vast majority of the grounds. A boat ride will provide a panoramic view of the buildings along the shoreline.
Temple of Heaven
During the Ming and Qing Dynasties, the Chinese emperors would worship Heaven at this site. They would offer sacrifices to pray for good harvests and plentiful rains. An early morning visit will connect visitors with the local senior citizens who flock to the surrounding park setting. Some engage in exercise classes while others play cards or board games. A few entertain the tourists by playing musical instruments. While the original structures have been remodeled, the grandeur remains. If you’re interested in the Ming and Qing Dynasties, you shouldn’t miss the Temple of Heaven.
This historic landmark is located in the center of Beijing City. Tiananmen Square includes the Tiananmen Tower, the Monument to the People’s Heroes, the Great Hall of the People, and the Chairman Mao Zedong Memorial Hall. While Tiananmen has been the site of many historical events, the most famous one occurred in 1989 when the Western world watched as Chinese troops attacked pro-democracy protestors. Today, many of the facts surrounding the event still remain a mystery. Visitors should take a few moments to recall how the 1989 protestors ushered in a new era.
Before You Go
Before arriving in Beijing, It would be helpful to read about the places that you’re planing to visit. All of the places will require walking on uneven surfaces. A pair of comfortable walking shoes is a necessity. Pollution levels ebb and flow. Even if you don’t suffer from any respiratory diseases, you may be adversely affected. It is always wise to bring water. This is especially true when walking up the Great Wall.
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