Beyond The City Center, Beijing
The Temple of Heaven is actually a complex of sacred buildings designed to symbolize heaven and earth. Key highlights are the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests and the Hall of the Vault of Heaven.
The Lama Temple, a finely preserved 18th C temple, was originally the residence of a prince. It was transformed and became the official seat of Lamaism in the capital.
Temple of the Source of Law
The Temple of the Source of Law, lies about 500m/1500ft to the east of the Jiujie Qingzhen Si Mosque, and dates originally from the year 645. It was not given its present-day name until 1734. The buildings consist of several halls, where many stone inscriptions are kept, the oldest of which dates back to the 7th C.In the course of history the temple was the scene of important events. For a time the Emperor Huizong (1100-56) was held captive here; and in 1173 an imperial examination took place here for the award of the highest offices of state; in 1289 the temple was converted into a special prison to hold the former minister Xie Fang. Under Qing rule (1644-1911) the temple served as botanical gardens.Today the temple is a place of worship although it is also the seat of the Buddhist academy, the most important educational establishment in China. The bell tower and the drum tower are situated in the first courtyard.
Opening hours: 8:30am-11:30am, 1:30pm-4:30pm; Closed: Wed
Hall of the Kings of Heaven
Displayed in the Hall of the Kings of Heaven, are the four kings of heaven (Tianwang Dian), a Maitreya statue, and a Weituo statue.
The Mahavira Hall (Daxiong Baodian) houses Buddhas of the present, past and future, represented in eighteen Luohan figures.
One of the most precious of objects belonging to the temple is a Han dynasty (25-220) ceramic statue in the Dabianjue Tang Hall.
Temple of the White Clouds
The famous Taoist Temple of the White Clouds lies about 2km/3.2mi to the west. It was built in 1227 on the order of Gengis Khan to honor the Taoist scholar Qiu Chuji (1148-1227) who had impressed him with his wisdom. Today it is the headquarters of the Taoist Association of China. Along its main axis, beyond an ornamental gate and the inner gate, four courtyards and halls are lined up. A guardian figure stands in the first hall, while the jade emperor, the highest deity of Taoism, is seated on his throne surrounded by the gods of stars and the heavens in the second. The third hall contains the figures of seven saints, and the fourth and final hall is a two-story mausoleum for Qiu Chuji (other name: Changchun). His bones are laid to rest underneath his statue on the ground floor, while the three pure ones, the highest gods in Taoist religion, are worshipped on the upper floor. The smaller halls of the western side courtyards are dedicated to mother goddesses - responsible for fertility, painless birth and the health of offspring - as well as to important Confucians and the sixty gods of the years - the birth years of the Chinese cycle of sixty years. In the monastery gardens, in the north of the complex, a terrace for ordination and two colorful murals can be found. The murals depict the Taoist pantheon and the eight immortals in the process of crossing the sea.
Immediately to the west of the Lama Temple, in a side alley spanned by ornamental gates, you get to the Confucius Temple. It was built in 1302 and restored in 1411. The great philosopher and teacher Confucius had a decisive influence on Chinese philosophy; his teachings dominated public and private life throughout centuries. This temple is one of the best known Confucius temples. Elaborate ceremonies to honor Confucius used to take place here in the 2nd and 8th months of the Chinese calendar, always before dawn break, under the leadership of the emperor or his deputy. The forecourt harbors 198 steles with inscriptions naming all 51,624 Confucian scholars who after 1416 successfully passed the highest examinations of the state until these were abolished in 1904.
Opening hours: 8:30am-5pm
Entrance fee in CNY: Adult ¥10.00
Typical Visit: 1 hour
Hall of Achievements
Hall of Great Achievements (Dacheng Dian) The main hall of the temple accommodates the shrines with the soul plaques of Confucius, his students and other Confucian philosophers. It also holds musical instruments and other ritual items that are used in the celebrations which take place on the large terrace in front of the hall. The side-halls hold an exhibition of Beijing's town history. In the far west of the complex are 198 steles which have been engraved with the complete text of the Confucian canon in the year 1794.
Niujie Qingzhen Si Mosque
The Niujie Qingzhen Si Mosque, (Beijing's oldest and largest), lies in an Islamic quarter in the southwest of the city, about 2km/1mi to the west of the Temple of Heaven. It was built by two Arabs in 995. Throughout the three periods Yuan, Ming and Qing (13th-19th C), it underwent several alterations. Since 1949 it has been repeatedly restored. On this site of at least 6000 sq.m/7176 sq.yd there are several buildings: the prayer hall, the Bangge Lou (minaret), a six-cornered moon observatory tower the Wangyue Lou, and two pavilions with numerous steles, where Chinese and Arabic inscriptions are engraved. The buildings of tiles and wood correspond externally to the classic Chinese style, whereas their interiors are Arab.
This observatory was built between 1437 and 1446. It lies in the east of the city near the station quarter, and was continuously in use until 1929. Among the existing instruments is a celestial globe (1669-73) and an armillary globe (1754) both of which are noteworthy. Most of the instruments on the terrace were designed by the Jesuit missionary Ferdinand Verbiest.
The zoo lies in the northwest of Beijing. It has about 7000 animals of 400 species, including the Manchurian tiger and the snub-nosed monkey. The panda house is well worth a visit.The Beijing Zoo has animals from Africa, the Americas, India and Europe, along with the giant panda, red-crowned crane and Pere David's deer - all unique to China.
North of the Lama Temple stands this well-preserved Confucian place of worship where during the summer solstice the emperor would bring large sacrifices of food and drink for Earth. Earth is said to have Yin qualities and thus be the opposite of Heaven. This is reflected in the design: it is oriented northwards, laid out as a square, and the color of Earth, yellow, as well as even numbers are used. The complex was built in 1530. At its center is the two-tier Fangze Tan sacrificial terrace which is situated in a similarly square walled area, surrounded by a square moat. Adjoining to the south is the Huanqi Si Hall which holds the spirit plaques of the Earth spirits, as well as plaques for the Four Oceans and the Five Sacred Mountains and of the previous emperors. Other buildings are the Shenku courtyard adjoining the altar in the southwest, where ceremonial tools are kept, as well as Zhagong, the Palace of Fasting northwest of the altar to which the emperor withdrew the day before the sacrifices in order to prepare and cleanse himself. Today, the Palace of Fasting holds a wax figure museum.Since 1984 the area was converted into a park with a center for the aged.
Taoranting Gongyuan Park
Already in the 3rd C BC there were human dwellings on this site, situated to the west of the Temple of the Vault of Heaven. A park was laid out here by the time of the Liao period (947-1125). During the Yuan period (1271-1368) the Monastery of Goodness and Pity (Cibei An) was built here, and in 1695 Jiang Zao, the civil servant, had the Taoran Ting Pavilion built next to it. This pavilion was named after a poem by Bai Juyi (772-846), as was the park. In the Qing period (1644-1911) the park was ready to be opened to the public and became a favorite meeting place for poets. It was extensively modernized in 1952.The monastery and pavilion are situated between the two lakes in the park. Two Buddhist columns (1099 and 1131) can be seen in the inner courtyard of the monastery, also a Guanyin stele from the year 1663. To the southwest are two pavilions dating from the Qianlong period (ruled 1735-96) which were brought here in 1954.
Museum for Chinese Architecture
The largest of the imperial altar complexes, after the Vault of Heaven, is situated west of it, opposite Beijing's north-south axis (access from the north). Here the emperor used to open the farming season in spring by personally ploughing eight furrows. The main part of the grounds has now built up within the last few decades. Of the buildings that are preserved only the Hall of the Year Gods (Taisui Dian) and its adjacent buildings can be visited. The largest hall of the complex, it is covered in black-glazed tiles. Here the emperor sacrificed to the god of the current year and asked for a good harvest. Today it houses the Museum of Chinese Architecture. Models, drawings and photographs bear witness to types and changes of styles, but also document the building of bridges and other constructions.
Lu Xun Bowuguan Museum
The Lu Xun Bowuguan Museum lies not far from the Temple of the White Pagoda. On display are the diaries, letters, manuscripts and one of the only examples of the complete works of the poet Lu Xun. The exhibition is divided into four sections which relate to different periods of the poet's life: childhood and education including the first translations (1881-1909), travel and the early works (1909-1927), the Shanghai period (1927-1936), and the influence of his work.The house where Lu Xun resided from 1924-26 is situated next to the museum. It has been preserved in its original style, including the furniture.
Yuanton Baodian Hall
The Yuanton Baodian Hall is very noteworthy. Dedicated to Guanjin, the temple is now the headquarters of the Chinese Buddhist Society.
Altar of the Moon
The Altar of the Moon can be seen in the direction of evening, that is in the western suburb, from old Beijing. This, the smallest of Beijing's imperial altars, was built in the year 1530. Because of the Moon's yin qualities, the square terrace of the altar has to be entered via six steps and, because of its westerly orientation, from the east so that sacrifices can be directed towards the west. Apart from the altar terrace, the halls where the plaques of the spirits of the Moon and the stars and various ceremonial items are kept have also been preserved.
Temple of the Five Pagodas
On the other side of the Nanchang River, north of the zoo, the main building of the Zhenjue Si temple dating back to the 15th C remained standing. It is a diamond throne stone pagoda adorned with numerous bas-reliefs constructed in the Indian style. On its high base five smaller pagodas were built after which the temple is now named. The Beijing Museum of Stone Inscriptions can now be found here which holds numerous Latin-Chinese tomb stones of Jesuits who worked in Beijing during the 18th and 19th C.
China's military history of the last 3000 years is portrayed with paintings, models, historical photographs and battle plans in the monumental sino-stalinist building (northwest of the Temple of the White Clouds) - pre-modern times on the second upper floor of the left west wing, the wars of the 20th C in the entire east wing. Opposite the entrance is the large hall of armaments where weapons of the present day, including tanks and airplanes, are exhibited.
Temple of the White Pagoda
To the west of the Temple of Universal Brotherly Love stands this temple with its 50m/164ft high white pagoda. It dates from the end of the 11th C, and was restored between 1270 and 1271 by Kublai Khan (advised by a Nepalese architect). It burned down several years later, however, and was not rebuilt until 1457. During its restoration in 1978 numerous religious artifacts and scrolls were found in the tip of the pagoda and these are now on display in the temple.
Xu Beihong Museum
The painter Xu Beihong (died 1953) is famous mainly for his traditional ink drawings of horses which have been imitated many times since. Xu studied in Paris and also used different western painting techniques. The museum was completed in 1983. It is situated south of the underground station Jishuitan and holds 1200 of the artist's paintings and more than 10,000 paintings by other artists which he had collected.
The Southern Cathedral is situated in the Xuannei Dajie. The present building was reconstructed in 1904 in the style of the church which was erected in 1650 (with financial support from the emperor) by the German Jesuit Johann Adam Schall von Bell. It stands on the site of the residences of the missionary Matteo Ricci. Regular church services, which many foreigners attend, are held here.
Purple Bamboo Park
Already in Yuan times (1271-1368), three lakes were dug out here and water was taken from them down the Changhe Canal to Beijing. In 1577 the Wanshou Si temple estate was laid out in the northwest of the park. Today it accommodates a small art museum (Beijin Yishu Bowuguan).
Temple of the Great Bell
In the Temple of the Great Bell, which lies to the north of the third circular road is a collection of 160 old bells, including one of the largest in world. This bell is 6.75m/22ft tall, has a diameter of about 3.5m/11ft, and weighs 46.5 tonnes. It was molded from bronze during the rule of Emperor Yongle (1402-24). The body of the bell has been engraved with Sutra texts amounting to 220,000 characters.
Altar of the Sun
In the former eastern suburb, in the direction of the rising sun, in Ritan Park is a square altar terrace dating back to 1530. Here the emperors brought sacrifices for the Sun during the spring equinox.
The Drum Tower which is situated about 2km/3.2mi north of the Imperial Palace dates from the year 1420. At night, drums were beaten here to announce the changing shifts of the night guards.
Temple of Universal Brotherly Love
The Temple of Universal Brotherly Love (not accessible) lies in the Fuchengmennei Dajie. The original building dates back to the 12th C and was completed in 1457. In the 1930s it was destroyed by fire, and was gradually rebuilt.
The Bell Tower looms north of the Golou tower. This bell tower also dates back to 1420 and its chimes informed the city's residents of the hour.
Antique Street was originally the location of a glass factory during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). Today it is a culturally rich street that attracts visitors from around the world. Stores carry ancient literature, antiques, stone inscriptions, calligraphy and paintings, as well as western and eastern instruments.
Beijing Capital International Airport
Beijing Capital International Airport is located 26km from the city center. It opened in 1999 and offers updated facilities. The airport is serviced by a large number of international carriers.