The Beijing Zoo (Běijīng Dòngwù Yuán, 北京动物园) can be hard on animal lovers. The zoo dates back to the last years of the Qing Dynasty, having opened its gates to the public in 1908 as Wansheng Yuan (Garden of 10,000 Animals), and a number of the cages don't appear to have been upgraded much, if at all, since then.
The exception: the Giant Panda House (Dàxióngmāo Guǎn, 大熊猫馆), where everybody's favorite endangered bamboo-eating cutie-pies live in relative luxury. Of course, the sight of bored pandas can be a disappointment, especially for little ones with visions of Kung Fu Panda dancing through their heads, so aim for the morning when they're more likely to be up and about.
The other 7,000-some animals (they've been working their way up to 10,000 after the Sino-Japanese War killed off nearly everything) lack the panda's star power and languish in rather dingy confines.
Located next to the zoo, the much newer Beijing Aquarium (Běijīng Hǎiyáng Guǎn, 北京海洋馆) goes a long way toward redeeming the zoo. Billed as the largest inland aquarium in the world, the exhibits are generally well designed, spacious and well maintained, and it's a great place to bring the kids—you can dive with sharks, explore a nicely done Amazon exhibit (teeming with pirhanas) and catch the antics of the dolphins in the aquatic mammal pavilion.
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