The Middle Kingdom is said to have 5,000 years of culture and these are just the places to learn about the rich history of China, whether you're interested in religion, politics, warfare or peoples.
Once known as the "wild wall" for the extent to which nature had reclaimed it, the Great Wall at Huanghua (Huánghuā Chángchéng, 黄花长城) was partly renovated in 2005. However, it's still a long way from becoming anything like the super-touristy Badaling and, as such, Huanghua makes a great alternative Great Wall hike for those willing to do a bit of climbing. Like other sections of the Great Wall near Beijing, Huanghua snakes along mountain ridges, rising and falling with the peaks. On the site's..
Home to the biggest bell in China, the Great Bell Temple (Dàzhōng Sì, 大钟寺) was built in 1733 during the Qing Dynasty. The bell itself, known as the "King of Bells," was cast in 1405 during the rule of the Ming Emperor Yongle. Covered with Buddhist writings in Chinese and Sanskrit, the bell weighs a hefty 46.5 tonnes (51 tons) and is 6.75 m (22 ft 2 in) tall. It's rung 108 times—a lucky number—on special occasions such as the Chinese New Year. The legend behind this behemoth of a bell, tells that the emperor..
The Temple of Heaven (Tiāntán, 天坛), completed in 1420 during the reign of the Ming Emperor Yongle, was the most sacred space in which the emperor—also known as the Son of Heaven—performed the most important sacrifices and rites. The gods of earth, water, war, and civilian affairs were all honored, but it was the god of agriculture who received special attention. On the winter solstice, the emperor, after ritual fasts and purification, would beseech Heaven for bountiful harvests. The temple's layout reflects the..
Sitting well exposed to the glare of the sun, the summer experience at Potala Palace prompted the Seventh Dalai Lama (1708-1757) to have Norbulingka built, a summer palace for Lhasa’s governing officials. Each year in spring, a grand procession took the current Dalai Lama and government officials from Potala Palace to Norbulingka. Translating to “Jewel Park,” Norbulingka was centered around a walled garden and the favorite residence of the current Dalai Lama who had the New Summer Palace addition constructed as his own..
Beihai Park (Běihǎi Gōngyuán, 北海公园) lies just to the west of the Forbidden City and until 1925, it was considered part of the imperial complex and therefore off-limits to the masses. The heart of the park consists of three man-made lakes: Beihai (Běihǎi, 北海), Zhonghai (Zhōnghǎi, 中海) and Nanhai (Nánhǎi, 南海). The lakes are connected by the Jade Islet (Qióng Dǎo, 琼岛) which, along with the lakes, was created during the Jin Dynasty (1115-1234 AD), although the site's history as an imperial playground goes back even further..
Standing in the middle of Tian'anmen Square (Tiān'ānmén Guǎngchǎng, 天安门广场), one is confronted with overwhelming representations of China's past and present powers-that-be, cast in an immense space that dramatizes China's modern history in spectacular fashion. Standing on ground where the Emperor's high officials once did business in classical courtyards and halls, one now finds the world's largest public square, with Mao's Mausoleum, the Great Hall of the People and the Monument to the People's Heroes..
Once you've seen the Forbidden City, where all but two of fifteen Ming emperors lived, take a trip out to their final resting place, the Ming Tombs, or "Thirteen Tombs" (Shísān Líng, 十三陵). The third Ming emperor, Yongle (1402-1424), chose the site based on its excellent feng shui and the harmonic balance of wooded mountains to the north, rich dark earth and calm waters is as pleasant today as it must have been when chosen as the last resting place of emperors. Only three of the tombs are presently open to the public,..
Running along a Jundu Shan (Jūndū Shān, 军都山) ridge, this section of the Great Wall is particularly scenic, with its renovated watchtowers looking out over wooded hills that change with the seasons. Spring sees blossoming trees set against dark hills and budding green leaves; summer gives way to a lusher green carpeting the slopes and ridges; snow dusts the hilltops in winter; and autumn at Mutianyu (Mùtiányù, 慕田峪) is especially well-known for its colorful foliage. Located in Huairou Rural District..
Located on the southern slopes of the Western Hills (Xi Shan), about 16 km from downtown Beijing, Badachu Park (Eight Great Sites Park) is home to eight Buddhist temples and nunneries, some of which date back to the Sui Dynasty (581–619 AD). The eight temples are scattered across three wooded hilltops, with a stream running below them, crossed by five bridges. The park makes for a pleasant and convenient getaway in the warmer months, especially on weekdays, when the crowds are at a minimum. The eight Buddhist..
Any great wall needs at least one great pass and, by Chinese estimation (they ought to know), Juyong Pass (Jūyōng Guān, 居庸关) is one of three great passes punctuating the ancient defense line as it winds its way across northern China. The other two mark each end of the Great Wall, with Shanhaiguan to the east overlooking the Yellow Sea and Jiayuguan at the far western extremity of China's most famous—and the world's largest—landmark. The pass—a convenient 50 km (31 mi) north of Beijing—overlooks the 18..
Situated in the northern reaches of Beijing's mountainous and surprisingly wooded Huairou district, the Hongluo Temple Tourist resort comprises three main attractions: Hongluo Temple itself, Hongluo Shan (Red Spiral Shell Mountain) and a temple to Guanyin. The area as a whole makes for a pleasant escape from the chaos, polluted air and congestion of the city. Slopes and ravines covered in stands of bamboo, pines and hardwoods give way to numerous shrines, pagodas and Buddhist statues as well as the aforementioned temples. The mountain can be..
The Japanese Germ Warfare Experimental Base (Qīnhuá Rìjūn Dì Qī Sān Yāo Bùduì Yízhǐ, 侵华日军第731部队遗址) now shows little evidence of the atrocities of its recent past. Established in 1939 by Japanese troops to "research the capabilities of the soul and the endurance of the human body," the site is said to have witnessed the execution of over 3,000 POWs and the experimentation on 10,000 POWs and civilians from China, Korea, Mongolia, Britain and the former Soviet Union. Before the Soviets reclaimed the..