The area around Beijing offers a variety of sights and attractions.
The Thirteen Ming Tombs are the final resting place for thirteen of the sixteen emperors of the Ming Dynasty, as well as empresses. Each tomb was designed by the emperor who resides within it.
The Summer Palace is China's largest park, with over 700 acres. It was originally designed in the 12th C, but has been burned or destroyed periodically. It was most recently restored in the first half of the 1900s.
The Tanzhe Si Temple was built in its present form in the 14th C. Of particular note is the exquisite temple pond.
The "Excavations of Peking Man" is an important archeological site where significant discoveries have emerged over the years.
Temple of the Consecrated Altar
This temple, situated 35km/22mi to the west of Beijing at the foot of the Ma'anshan Mountain, dates from 622. However, nearly all the buildings were reconstructed during the Qing period (1644-1911). The stone altar in the main hall was made during the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). In the 11th C the monk Fachun lived here; his urn is kept today in one of the two pagodas on the mountain slope. South Chinese influence can be detected in the temple.The main hall of the complex is the Daxiong Baodian, behind which stands the Pavilion of the Thousand Buddhas (Qianfo Ge) with innumerable Buddha statuettes on its walls. Consecration of monks used to take place here on the three-story white stone terrace.The steles in front of the Mingwang Hall are among the oldest monuments in the complex; they date from the Liao period (907-1125) and the Yuan period (1271-1368). The complex owes its fame in particular to the five century-pines, which all bear their own name; the pagoda pine, the pine of the reclining dragon, the shaking pine (when a branch is touched the whole tree shakes), the obliging pine and the nine-dragon pine.
Marco Polo Bridge
The Marco Polo Bridge which lies 8km/5mi to the southwest of Beijing was erected between 1189 and 1192 by the Emperor Shizong.Marco Polo crossed this bridge in 1276 and referred to it as Pulisangin in his work ''Millions''; Sangin could be a rough transliteration of the name Sanggan, the upper reaches of the river Yongding, over which this bridge runs. Puli is possibly taken from the Persian word ''pul'' (bridge).In 1444 and 1698 the bridge was repaired after it had been partly destroyed by floods.On the July 7th 1937 the Japanese artillery attacked the Chinese troops stationed here and in so doing started the Sino-Japanese War which lasted for eight years.The 235m/771ft long and 8m/26ft wide bridge is supported by eleven arches, and has 280 side columns decorated with lion sculptures in the balustrades, which have brought fame to the bridge.At the eastern end of the bridge is a massive stele with an inscription by Emperor Kangxi: ''Morning moonlight over the Lugou bridge'', (Lugou being the old name for the Yongding river).
The Eastern Qing Tombs contain the bodies of five Qing emperors along with empresses and various other relations.
The Gouya rocks are three steeply rising peaks, the highest of them at 1500m/1641ft. They are situated 10km/6mi to the northwest of the Ming tombs. The majority of the 72 temples which were established in this area between the 14th and the 19th C have unfortunately been destroyed. The area still attracts many tourists because of its natural beauty - narrow paths winding through rocks and shrubs, mountain springs, rare birds and many other attractive features.
15km/9.5mi to the west of theTemple Where the Clouds Dwell, on the banks of the Juma River, is a favorite spot for day trippers. This area is known for its picturesque valleys and unusual rock formations; its beauty is often compared to that of Guilin.
Temple Where the Clouds Dwell
The Temple where the Clouds Dwell consists of five courtyards with six main halls and numerous other buildings. It is situated 75km/46mi to the southwest of Beijing. The buildings were originally constructed over 1300 years ago, but they were destroyed during the war in the 1930s and 40s, since when they have been rebuilt. In the nine grottoes to the northeast of the temple are 4195 stone tablets dating from the 7th C to the 17th C. They are inscribed with Buddhist inscriptions. A further 10,000 tablets, also with Buddhist inscriptions, were buried in the 12th C to the south of the temple. The 30m/98ft high pagoda to the north of this site also dates from before the 12th C; the four smaller dagobas nearby were constructed during the Tang period (618-907).
Grotto of the Clouds and Waters
The Grotto of Clouds and Waters, richly endowed with stalagmites and stalactites, is hidden on the slopes of the Shangfangshan about 50km/31mi to the southwest of Beijing. The well-lit grotto has been open to the public since 1980.
Western Qing Tombs
The second necropolis of the Manchu emperors, 120km/74mi to the southwest of Beijing, is smaller than the Eastern Qing Tombs. Buried in the fourteen tombs are four emperors, and 72 members of the family including wives, concubines, sons and daughters. The reason for laying out of two dynastic tomb sites was that the emperor Qianlong made a law which meant that fathers and sons could not be buried in the same graveyard.The fourteen mausoleums and the temple buildings belonging to them reflect the strict rules of the feudal hierarchy. The tombs of the emperors and empresses are larger than those of the concubines and princesses; the former have red roofs and the latter have green roofs.