City Center, Beijing

Beijing City CenterBeijing City Center

The historic city center which dates from the Ming dynasty (14th-17th C) has largely preserved its original appearance. Traces of the medieval city which was divided into two parts can still be seen. It joined the four points of the compass and consisted of the northern city formerly known as the Tartar city which was laid out on a regular rectangular pattern. This section was defended by a 20km/12mi long wall with nine gates (two in the east, three in the south, and two in the west and north sides). The south city was surrounded by a 14km/9mi city wall with seven gates.

The two city walls were completely destroyed, but two of the old gates are preserved - the ''Qian Men'' behind Mao's Mausoleum and the ''Desheng Men'' in the north of the forbidden city.

Imperial Palace

Imperial Palace / Forbidden CityImperial Palace / Forbidden City
The Forbidden City is Beijing's most famous tourist attraction and most important building. It dates to the 13th C and has been the residence of 24 Ming and Qing emperors.

North Lake Park

North Lake ParkNorth Lake Park
North Lake Park dates to the 10th C, making it one of Beijing's oldest imperial gardens. The park, enclosed by a wall, is now a popular recreational area.

Tian'anmen Square

Tian'anmen SquareTian'anmen Square
Tian'anmen Square is the largest, and perhaps the most famous, square in the world. It can hold a million people and has been the location of important demonstrations.

Imperial College

Beyond the Confucius Temple is the former Imperial College, where the city library is housed today. It was founded in 1287 by Kublai Khan. The college maintained its educational pre-eminence until 1900 when it was closed. The college masters included various Qing emperors including Shunzhi, Kangxi, Yongzheng and Qianlong. The college's students were selected from amongst the best candidates to have passed the imperial examinations at district (Xiucai) and province (Juren) level. A three-year course of studies had to be followed by a practical year in a government office. After a final examination students could look forward to employment as a state official.

Piyong Hall

In the Piyong Hall, the Imperial College's main building, the emperor held his lectures. The practically square shaped building (width: about 18m/59ft) dating from 1784, is surrounded by a small round lake which is edged with a finely cut marble balustrade. The roof is covered with yellow-glazed tiles and has a double ledge.

Yilun Tang Hall

The Yilun Tang Hall in the north of the Imperial College complex, also built under the Yang dynasty (1271-1368) was the college library.

Coal and Viewing Hill

The coal and viewing hill lies exactly opposite the North Gate of the Imperial Palace. It was named ''coal hill'' (Meishan), because under the Ming emperors (1368-1644) coal was stored at the foot of this hill. In 1416 during the construction of the Imperial Palace, the dumping of rubble from the old city wall and large quantities of soil from excavation of the moat surrounding the Imperial Palace, made the low natural mound soar in height. At the foot of the hill in the southeast grows an old acacia which the last Min emperor was supposed to have used on 17th March 1644 to hang himself.

Pavillion of Eternal Spring

Under Emperor Qianlong who reigned from 1735 to 1796, pavilions were built on the five hilltops, and these still remain standing today. The middle and highest of them is called the Pavilion of Eternal Spring (Wanchung Ting). From this pavilion a picturesque view of the city center and the Imperial Palace can be enjoyed. To the Chinese it is therefore also known as the Hill of the Beautiful View.
At the southeastern foot of the hill is the old acacia on which the last Ming emperor reportedly hanged himself on March 17th 1644.

Sun-Yat-sen Park

This popular park, lying southwest of the Imperial Palace, was opened to the public in 1914. In 1928 it was renamed the Sun-Yat-sen Park. Emperor Yongle had the Sheji Tan altar built in the park grounds in 1421. From then onwards the emperors made sacrifices here twice-yearly, in the springtime to bring a good harvest and in the autumn for thanksgiving. The altar still stands and is situated in the center of the park. The Xili Ting Pavilion in the south of park once housed the ceremonial chamber.
The white gate was originally dedicated to the memory of Baron von Ketteler, who was assassinated in the Boxer Rebellion. However, following the German defeat in the First World War, the inscription was changed to ''Justice Triumphs'' and later to ''Defend the Peace''. This was written by Guo Moruo.

Stele Pavilion

In the Stele Pavilion near the Sun-Yat-sen Park can be seen an 18th C stele which originally stood in the Garden of Perfection and Light (Yuanmin Yuan).

Culture Park of the Workers

The Culture Park of the Workers, which lies to the southeast of the Imperial Palace, was originally the Imperial Temple of Ancestors, constructed by order of Emperor Yongle in 1420. Today it is open to the public for leisure and cultural activities. Film and theater performances, exhibitions, concerts and sporting activities all take place here.
From the south gate the actual temple compound is entered through a three-arched gate and through the Daji Men gate. Three halls are placed one in front of the other. In the First Hall (Taimiao) ceremonies of ancestor worship took place. In the Middle Hall (Zhongdian) were kept the rolls of honor of deceased emperors - the rolls were brought out only for ceremonies which took place in the First Hall - and the Rear Hall (Houdian) forms the conclusion of the temple area.

National Art Gallery

The largest art gallery in town, opposite the north end of the shopping street Wangfujing, was built to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the founding of the state in the year 1959. It shows exclusively temporary exhibitions - sometimes several running concurrently - in which current Chinese art and occasionally foreign works of art predominate. Artists are able to hire the rooms and sell their works. Apart from oil paintings and ink drawings, photographs, calligraphies, lacquer works as well as ceramics and other sculptures are exhibited.

Legation Quarter

East of Tian'anmen Square a few important witnesses to the imperialist era remain along Dongjiaomin Niang Street (formerly Legation Street), Zhengyi Lu (formerly Rue Meiji) and Taijichang Jie roads (formerly Rue Marco Polo). Following the Second Opium War, England and France had won the right to establish permanent embassies in Beijing, this was the area where the first diplomats' quarter of the capital appeared. The original buildings, however, were destroyed in the year 1900, during the Boxer Rebellion. Afterwards the quarter was almost completely rebuilt.
The Chinese were not allowed to live here, and Chinese policemen were not admitted.
In its center is the French cathedral St Michel with its two towers built in the neogothic style. To the north of it the house of the former Peking Club remains intact; opposite to the south the buildings of Belgian Embassy still stand, the only one to have preserved its original appearance. On the north side of westbound Legation Street is a gate which belonged to the French Embassy; west of it is the old post office of the quarter. The old building at the corner of Zhengyi Lu was built as a branch of the Yokohama Species Bank. Along Zhengyi Lu one can still see the gate that once belonged to the Japanese Embassy - Beijing Town Hall now stands in these grounds - as well as buildings of the British Embassy, built in the Chinese style. Further west along Dongjiaomin Xiang, opposite the new building of the Supreme Court, are old bank buildings as well as the former French hospital on the right beyond the next crossroads.

Zhihua Si Temple

This Buddhist temple hidden in the alleyways to the north of the International Hotel dates back to the year 1444 and is one of the most important original building complexes from the Ming period in the old town. In the first courtyard are the bell and drum tower. Next comes the main gate, behind which the main hall rises. Beyond the next (third) courtyard is the building that is of the greatest historical importance, in art, in the complex, the two-story Tathagata Hall (Rulai Dian), named after the statue of the transcendental Buddha (5 Tathagata) which is housed here. The hall is also known as "10,000 Buddha Hall" because of the numerous small Buddha figurines (originally about 9000) whose shrines adorn the walls. The pictures date from the time of the temple's construction. The magnificent middle part of the paneled ceiling was sold to the USA by monks in the 1930s.

Hall of Imperial Longevity

In the north of the park complex around coal hill is the Hall of Imperial Longevity (Shouhuang Dian), also built by the Emperor Qianlong.

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