Things to do in Beijing

Amazing Things to See & Do In Beijing, China

Beijing is a modern and sprawling city in north China. Having served as the capital of the country for more than 800 years, Beijing is home to some of the finest remnants of China's imperial past. The interest of visiting Beijing is on one side to explore its glorious past, and on another side to feel its modernity as well as an odd combination of the two.

Have not got a clue where to start? These are the  Amazing Things To See & Do In Beijing, China.


#1 TIAN'ANMEN SQURE


Taejongdae Resort Park Busan

Tian'anmen Square is the largest famous world square, eclipsing Delhi's India Gate Complex and Warsaw's Parade Square, on its expansion in 1959. It fulfilled Mao's vision of being the largest square in the world for 17 years, until 1976, the year Mao died. It has been the second largest in a capital city, after Jakarta's, since then. It's now the sixth largest city square in the world (and the fourth largest in China [Dec. 2015]), at 440,000 square meters, and can hold about one million people for public celebrations or gatherings.

It was initially called Chengtianmen ('Carrying Heaven Gate'), which means to bear the edict and divine power of Heaven itself, as the Emperor, who used this gate, was believed to. In the eighth year of emperor Shunzhi's administration (1652), the gate was refurbished and called Tian'anmen ('the Gate of Heavenly Peace'). From then on nearly all important imperial celebrations and events, such as: the enthronement of an emperor, imperial weddings, the rite of the emperor going to battle, the famous "Imperial Edict Issued by the Golden Phoenix", the worship of Heaven and Earth and the worship of the five grains, have involved passing through this gate. The magnificent gate has five openings. During the Ming and Qing Dynasties, the passage in the middle leading to the Forbidden City was reserved for the emperor himself. The emperor went through the central passage on the way to the altars for rituals and other religious activities. High-ranking government officials and the empresses, concubines, princess and princesses could only enter the Forbidden City through the side passages, while ordinary subjects were absolutely forbidden to go inside the Forbidden City, hence its name.


#2. THE FORBIDDEN CITY


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The Forbidden City, situated in the very heart of Beijing, was home to 24 emperors of the Ming (1368–1644) and Qing (1644–1911) Dynasties. The construction of the grand palace started in the fourth year of Emperor Yongle of the Ming Dynasty (1406), and ended in 1420. In ancient times, the emperor was said to be a son of Heaven, and therefore Heaven’s supreme power was bestowed upon him. The emperors’ residence on earth was built as a replica of the Purple Palace where God was thought to live in Heaven. Names: Such a divine place was certainly forbidden to ordinary people and that is why the Forbidden City is so named. Originally called Zijin Cheng ('Purple Forbidden City'), in China now it is usually called Gugong (故宫 /goo-gong), the 'Former/Old Palace'..

To represent the supreme power of the emperor given from God, and the place where he lived being the center of the world, all the gates, palace and other structures of the Forbidden City were arranged about the north-south central axis of old Beijing. For security the Forbidden City is enclosed by a 10-meter-high defensive wall, which has a circumference of 3, 430 meters. At each corner of the Forbidden City, there stands a magnificent watchtower, which was heavily guarded in the past. Around the city there is a moat as the first line of defense. The Forbidden City covers an area of about 72 hectares (178 acres) with a total floor space of approximately 150,000 square meters (1,600,000 square feet). It consists of 90 palaces and courtyards, 980 buildings and 8,704 rooms.


#3 VIST THE GREAT WALL


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The Great Wall of China is one of the greatest sights in the world — the longest wall in the world, an awe-inspiring feat of ancient defensive architecture. Its winding path over rugged country and steep mountains takes in some great scenery.

There is also the Danubi Train that runs across the park for quick sight-seeing! The park might be a little out of the way from the rest of Busan city, but the stretching oceans and the beautiful blue hues of the sea will make your trip worthwhile.The Great Wall was not just a wall. It was an integrated military defensive system with watchtowers for surveillance, fortresses for command posts and logistics, beacon towers for communications, etc. In the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644), the Great Wall was reconstructed to be stronger and more sophisticated, due to better construction techniques being developed. The wall body: The Ming Great Wall usually had battlements 1.8 meters (6 feet) high with loopholes and crenels, and parapet walls 1.2 meters (4 feet) high. Flanking towers: Every 500 meters or less (1,640 feet) on the Great Wall there was a flanking tower allowing defenders to shoot arrows at attackers at the face of the wall. Fortresses were built at important/vulnerable access points (passes), such as Shanhai Pass Fortress, Juyong Pass Fortress, and Jiayu Pass Fortress. There were many archery windows and gates on the forts. The fortress gatehouses were the strongest and most impregnable structures on the Great Wall.


#4 VISIT THE SUMMER PALACE


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The Summer Palace (Chinese Pinyin: Yí Hé Yuán), northwest of Beijing, is said to be the best preserved imperial garden in the world, and the largest of its kind still in existence in China. It is only a short drive (15 km) from central Beijing but seems like another world. The Summer Palace was initially built in 1750 by Emperor Qianglong. The architectural style of Summer Palace is to make others believe it is inartificial. It covers an area of 70 thousand square meters and holds over 3000 houses. In 1860 and 1900 it was destroyed by invaders and in 1912 it was rebuilt by the Government of Qing Dynasty. In 1924, it began to be open to tourists. The Summer Palace is one of the loveliest spots in Beijing. Not all the buildings are open to the public, but many are, and the others continue to enhance the park with their design and decoration, nestled into the landscape. The arched bridges, pretty promenades, decorated corridors, and ‘breezeways’ (a hallway that allows the passage of a breeze between structures) lead visitors through ever-changing views and scenery.

Most people find they need to spend at least half a day here, there’s so much to see and enjoy in the gardens, buildings, and waterways. You can take a 10 minute boat-ride to see an island temple, sit and watch a traditional Chinese performance in the restored theatre (one of the three great traditional theatres in China), or explore the recreated traditional shops by the river. The story goes, that former Emperors, or their concubines, used to enjoy 'pretend-shopping', as normally everything was bought for them. Just wandering round enjoying the different buildings and courtyards, or just taking in the views from one of the many vantage points is a pleasure. A visit involves plenty of walking, so wear comfortable shoes and protection from the weather (sun or rain) and be prepared to be enchanted. There are many pleasant spots along the way to pause and enjoy this much-loved summer retreat, as well as places to enjoy cool drinks and snacks.


#5 VISIT THE TEMPLE OF HEAVEN


SEA LIFE Aquarium Busan

The Temple of Heaven is considered the most holy of Beijing's imperial temples. It has been described as "a masterpiece of architecture and landscape design". The Temple of Heaven has also been listed as World Cultural Heritage by UNESCO.

The Temple of Heaven was built in the Ming Dynasty (AD 1420) by the emperor Zhu Di in the royal garden. Once a year, at winter solstice, the emperors came here to worship Heaven and to solemnly pray for a good harvest. Since his rule was legitimized by a perceived mandate from Heaven, a bad harvest could be interpreted as his fall from Heaven's favor and threaten the stability of his reign. So, it was not without a measure of self-interest that the emperor fervently prayed for a very good crop.

In line with the Confucianist revival during the Ming dynasty, the sacred harvest ceremony was combined with the emperor's worship of his ancestors. According to the Confucian pattern of social organization, just as the emperor respected his ancestors, so a younger brother should respect an elder brother, a wife her husband, a son his father, and a nation's subjects their ruler. Incorporating ancestor worship within the most solemn ceremony of the imperial ritual calendar indirectly reinforced the social philosophy that preserved the emperor's power.

The design of the Temple of Heaven complex, true to its sacred purpose, reflects the mystical cosmological laws believed to be central to the workings of the universe. Both the overall arrangement and the buildings themselves reflect the relationship between sky and earth, the core of understanding of the Universe at that time.

Hence, complex numerological permutations operate within its design. For example, because the number nine was considered to be the most powerful, the slabs forming the Circular Altar have been laid in multiples of nine.

Similarly, within the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest, the interior twenty-eight columns are divided into four central pillars to represent the seasons, twelve inner columns to represent the months, and twelve outer columns to represent the two hour sections that make up a day. There are many such examples of this intense numerology at play. Another interesting fact is that the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest is built completely without nails.


#6 THE HUTONGS


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The Beijing Hutongs (old lanes) have a very special place in the rich history and culture of Beijing.

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. Longer Beijing tours usually include a visit to a hutong area.

Hutong now means a lane or an alley, formed by rows of siheyuan (a compound with buildings around a courtyard) where old Beijing residents lived. The word "hutong" originates from the word "hottog" which means "a well" in Mongolian, in ancient times villagers dug a well and then lived around it.

It was recorded that during the Yuan dynasty a 36-meter-wide road was called a standard street, a 18-meter-wide one was a small street, and a 9-meter-wide lane was named a hutong. In fact, Beijing hutongs range from 40 centimeter to 10 meter wide. The longest has more than 20 turns.

Beijing hutongs are varied: in east-west or north-south direction, sloped, half or "blind hutongs", or cul-de-sacs.

The gray-tiled houses and alleys crossing with each other in identical appearance are like a maze, it is fun to walk through them but be careful not to get lost.

The name of a hutong represents its originlocation or history. It is in these gray-tiled long lanes that families play, buy goods, gossip, and connect. In Beijingers' eyes, hutong means a period of history, a cordial lifestyle and even an "encyclopedia of Beijing". Within the numerous hutongs are scattered the residences of famous personages. Laoshe, a well-known playwright is just one of them. Laoshe was born in a small lane, in the west of the city. The memories of his childhood were so dear to him and left such a deep impression that even after he'd been away from Beijing for more than 20 years, he still clearly remembered his birthplace, and made it the backdrop of his novel "Four Generations under One Roof".

Many famous operas and dramas are based on the themes of the life in the hutongs, and a drama by the Beijing People's Art Theatre, such as "Teahouse" or "Small Hutong" in the evening would complement a visit there. Beijing still has about 400,000 residential siheyuan now, mainly distributed over the East, West, Xuanwu, and Chongwen districts. When urban construction threatens the existence of the hutongs, Beijingers become worried. The municipal government has earmarked a number of them for protection. Below is a list of famous Hutongs in Beijing.


#7 WATCHING THE BEIJING OPERA


As one of the classic art forms of imperial China, Beijing Opera is a staple of cultural tradition in the modern era. Reflecting the opulence and dramatic storytelling from as far back as the mid Qing Dynasty (late 18th century), the actors and actresses keep the history of China alive with their vivid costumes and lilting voices. . 

Beijing Opera is a synthesis of stylized action, singing, dialogue, mime, acrobatic fighting and dancing to represent a story or depict different characters and their feelings of gladness, anger, sorrow, happiness, surprise, fear and sadness. The characters may be loyal or treacherous, beautiful or ugly, good or bad. Their images are always vividly manifested in bright costumes that show the styles of ancient China.

The traditional operas consist of mainly tales of preceding dynasties, important historical events, emperors and empresses, ministers and generals, geniuses and great beauties. They represent stories from the ancient times to Yao, Shun, Yu, the Spring and Autumn Period, the Warring States Period and the dynasties of Qin, Han, Sui, Tang, Song, Yuan, Ming, Qing. 

Some of the newer operas were adopted from literature and classical novelsduring the rise of communism. These are all very well known among the public but may not be an accurate account of history, as with art styles around the world. 

Some of the popular Stories during the history are:


#8 WANGFUJING SHOPPING STREET


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Wangfujing is one of the most famous shopping streets, not only in Beijing but in all of China.

It is anchored by large upscale shopping malls at each end of the pedestrian mall. The street is a shopper's paradise, filled with shops selling paintings and traditional Chinese arts and crafts, trendy boutiques and upscale chain stores as well as restaurants serving everything from McDonald's cuisine to Peking Duck.

Take time to wander through Beijing Department Store, at one time a dowdy place to shop by foreign standards but popular with middle-class Chinese of decades past. Renovated in recent years, Beijing Department Store is now trendy and upscale, rivaling almost anything you'll find in Manhattan. Still displaying a wide variety of merchandise, the store remains ever popular with Chinese shoppers.

Just up the street from the Beijing Department Store is another Wangfujing landmark: the Foreign Languages Bookstore. The store sells books, art supplies, videos and CDs on several floors, but the street level is the place to buy coffee table books about China in a variety of languages as well as cookbooks and books to help you learn the Chinese language.

A day might not even be enough to cover the entire shopping centre. Shinsegae is almost like a gigantic outlet mall, with tons of branded items going at whopping discounts. Tired after lots of shopping? It is said that the spa services within the mall are affordable.


#9 BEIJING ROAST DUCK


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Beijing roast duck or Peking Duck (北京烤鸭 běijīng kǎoyā /bay-jing kaow-yaa/) is the epitome of Beijing cuisine and if you had to choose just one dish to try whilst in the capital, this would be it. The dish is mostly esteemed for the thin, crispy skin, with authentic versions of the dish serving mostly skin and little meat. Whilst sauces and accompaniments will vary between restaurants (the most common being scallion and cucumber) it is difficult to go wrong with roast duck in Beijing.

A lot of restaurants offering this dish will carve the duck beside your table. If you eat at one of Beijing’s more famous duck restaurants it will also be accompanied by a short demonstration on the correct way to assemble a Peking Duck wrap using chopsticks. Whilst this may take some time to master, rest assured that the wraps don't need to be well constructed to be delicious.


#10 JIAOZI-CHINESE DUMPLINGS


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There is a lot of myth and mystery surrounding the history of Jiaozi (饺子 jiǎozi /jyaow-dzuh/) and the dish has long been a part of Chinese folk tradition. Whilst they are popular throughout Asia, a plate of Jiaozi with a soy sauce, vinegar and chilli dip is synonymous with Northern Chinese cuisine.

Traditional recipes contain minced pork, ginger and leek, however you can find restaurants that offer all types of different meat and vegetable fillings.

Jiaozi is another dish that can be found anywhere across Beijing and whilst there are a number of better-known dumpling restaurants and chains, some of the tastiest dumplings (and most interesting experiences) can be found in smaller, less conspicuous family eateries where dumplings are the only thing on the menu. At these restaurants you can often sit and watch the next batch of dumplings being rolled and filled as you eat.

 


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