Beijing – abundant oriental history and culture

Beijing – abundant oriental history and culture

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Attractions
Tiananmen Square

Constructed by Chairman Mao to project the might of the Communist Party, this square which is the world’s largest public square is made up of paved stones and surrounded by many
monuments such as the Chairman Mao Mausoleum, the Gate of Heavenly Peace, the Museum of Chinese history and the Great hall of the people. The square was the site of many a
military parade during the time of Mao’s Cultural Revolution. Millions thronged the square to pay respects to Mao on his demise in 1976. Today, the square is infamous for the brutal subjugation of the pro democracy protests by students in 1989.

The Forbidden City
The magnificent Forbidden City called ‘Gu Gong’ in Chinese was the imperial abode during the Ming and Qing dynasties. Construction on the Forbidden City began in 1407.

Fourteen emperors of the Ming Dynasty and ten emperors of the Qing dynasty presided over their subjects from here. Today the Forbidden City which is made up 9,999 buildings is known as the Palace Museum. This large cluster of buildings surrounded by a moat and a ten meter high wall covers 74 hectares. It lies to the north of Tiananmen Square. The Forbidden City was off limits to the rest of the world for over 500 years.

It is composed of lush halls, gardens and courtyards. The Forbidden City is divided into two sections the southern or Outer court was from where the emperor ruled the nation and the northern or Inner court was where he lived with his family. The palace has numerous Chinese artifacts and treasures and in 1987 it was listed as a World Cultural Heritage site by UNESCO. There is a continuous restoration process in place to combat the ravages of nature and time on the Forbidden City.

Beijing Aquarium
The Beijing Aquarium is the world’s largest inland aquarium. It has many unique attractions such as the shark aquarium where one can dive with the predators, an Amazonian rain forest area, coral reefs, whales and dolphins.

Summer Palace
The Summer Palace with its water bodies and gardens served as the royal retreat during the scorching summer months. The Summer Palace which has in its environs the Kunming Lake is a favored tourist attraction. The main building is called the Hall of Benevolence and Longevity. There is also a Long Corridor on the northern section which is covered with mythical paintings.

Lama Temple
The Lama Temple is Beijing’s largest temple. It is adorned with magnificent statues such as a 60 ft statue of Maitreya Buddha which has been carved out of a single tree in the Wanfu pavilion. The temple has gorgeous landscaped gardens, tapestries and frescos. It is a functional lamasery and is closed for prayers in the morning.

Underground City
This City consists of a network of bombproof tunnels which were constructed by the Chinese as Mao believed that a nuclear war with Russia would annihilate them all. There are 90 secret entrances to these tunnels located in shops which line Qianmen’s main street.

Drum Tower
The Drum tower was built in 1273. One can climb up the steep steps of the often destroyed and restored tower to take in the views of Beijing city. Mao and his cultural revolution almost destroyed the Drum Tower as it was viewed as a relic of China’s feudal past.

Behai Park
This is the largest and most well preserved imperial gardens in the center of Beijing. It has imposing pavilions such as the Five Dragon Pavillion, walk ways, the 27 meter long Nine Dragon Screen originally built to ward off Evil spirits and a large lake with an island in the center.

Temple of Heaven
The Temple of Heaven is a temple built during the Ming Dynasty rule in 1420. The son of the Emperor used to come here to pray for good harvests and other forms of divine intervention. The most spectacular edifice in the park which encompasses the Temple of Heaven is the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests which is on a marble three tiered terrace.

National Grand Theatre
The egg shaped Grand Theatre is Beijing’s newest attraction. Set to open on October 1st 2007 which is China’s National Day. The design of the egg shaped National Grand theatre is said be too modern and not in sync with the rest of the district. It was designed by French Architect Paul Andreu in 2001 and constructed at the cost of 2.7 billion Yuan. The Theatre has three grand halls including a 2,416 seat opera house 2,017 seat concert hall and 1,040 seat theatre which is surrounded by a man made lake.

Hotels
Major international hotel chains have a representation in Beijing. The China World Hotel now managed by the Shangri- La group of hotels is a leading hotel in Beijing. It has been renovated and today has its own metro stop in the adjoining shopping center. The shopping center called China World complex has stores selling hi-end wares, a large super market, a store selling fine wines and an ice rink. This hotel can be accessed online for rates and availability on www.shangri-la.com.

The Peninsula Palace Hotel in Beijing is yet another leading hotel in the city. The Hotel has been recently refurbished by renovation program which was completed only in 2005.

It has all the amenities expected in a modern hotel including free wireless internet and is renowned for its impeccable service. One can access www.peninsula.com to find out about room rates and availability .The St Regis is another opulent hotel in Beijing which has the best Italian restaurant in Beijing called Danieli’s. The Press Club which is a bar at the hotel counts as one of the trendy watering holes of the city.

Shopping
Shopping in Beijing is a delight. Beijing like other cities in China is a center for handicrafts and folk art. The four representative arts of Beijing are cloisonné, Ivory carving, jade carvings and lacquer wares. The city has four main commercial shopping districts called Wanfujing Street, Qianmem Street, Xidan Commercial Street and Dongsi Street. Wanfujing Street today houses many international brands and is likened to Champs Elysees in Paris. The Foreign Language Bookstore is located here as is Old Beijing Street. Old Beijing street is peppered with stores selling Chinese ink sticks and brushes used for Calligraphy, silk cloth, shoes, caps and local Chinese delicacies such as roasted pork, tea and deserts amongst other wares. Liulichung Street is a haunt for lovers of vintage as it is a locale to find antiques, jewelry, ancient calligraphies and paintings. Rong Bao Zhai is a 300 year old shop in the area and sells authentic Chinese art. Silk Alley near the US Embassy is yet another treasure trove for tourists who enjoy buying bags, shoes, handicrafts and sweaters here.

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