Beijing’s Vanished City Wall

May 21st, 2015
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If you visited Beijing in 1950s, you would have seen the most beautiful and greatest walled capital city anywhere in the world! 24 km inner city wall, 28 km outer city, plus the walls for the imperial city and the forbidden city itself, four layers of the walls added up to the length of 60km with 16 huge gates, built in 1553.

Beijing City Wall Map

Beijing City Wall Map

Like the Great Wall of China, Beijing’s ancient city fortifications were also the massive military defense works dotted with gates, towers and circled by the city moats. Today almost all the city walls around Beijing have been demolished and left with very few relics to be remembered. The old Beijing, probably the most splendid capital at that time in the world, now only live in our dream. Having some basic knowledge of its old city wall helps you better appreciate the modern and fast developing Beijing on your Beijing tour.

Heap of excrement beside a city wall and a man with a wheelbarrow in the background. Photo by Frank Nicholas (American) on April 30, 1915.

 Photo by Frank Nicholas (American) on April 30, 1915.

Photo by Frank Nicholas (American) on April 30, 1915.

Heated Debate in 1950s over the demolition of the city fortifications
In 1957, after the “Beijing City Construction General Proposal Draft” was officially put forward, there had been quite some debates and discussions over the dismantlement of the city wall.  The noted Chinese architect – Liang Sicheng (20 April 1901 – 9 January 1972 ) was a leading advocate for keeping the walls.

In 1900, the Eight-Nation Alliance army torn apart the west section of the wall near Yongding Gate for the makeshift railway.

In 1900, the Eight-Nation Alliance army torn apart the west section of the wall near Yongding Gate for the makeshift railway

In 1900, the Eight-Nation Alliance army torn apart the west section of the wall near Yongding Gate for the makeshift railway

Liang said “Dismantling one gate tower is like cutting one  piece of my meat; demolishing a section of the wall like ripping off my skin”.  He once proposed a romantic and practical proposal. He suggested the building of a new city on the west of the old Beijing city with  the old city turned into a huge museum.

The southeast of Yongding Tower gate in 1901

The southeast of Yongding Tower gate in 1901

He also wanted to build the 40km long city wall ( inner city wall and outer city wall ) into a dimensional loop city park. On the top of the 10-meter wide city wall, built with flower beds planted with lilac, roses and more bushes; placed with round chairs. At a summer dusk, it is a nice place for thousands of people to cool down and take a break; in autumn, stand on the top and have a panoramic view of the city; corner towers can be tailored to house exhibition rooms, reading rooms, tea booths, a unique dimensional loop city park in the world!!

Photo by Donald Mennie (  England ) in 1920.

Photo by Donald Mennie ( England ) in 1920.

But the dream was broken with the central government at that time favoring the economic development and city reconstruction. unofficially reported that once Chairman Mao standing on the Tiananmen Tower said  that he would like to see more chimneys in the city.

Liang said that in 50 years people would regret about the dismantlement of the city fortifications in Beijing.

Beijing City Wall Relics 
Now there are only scattered preserved or restored sections of the city wall in Beijing with the longest part known as the Ming Wall Relics Park. The remnant city wall is about 1.5km in length, which has been transformed into a public park. The Ming Wall Relics Park is composed of two parts: the wall relics itself and the southeast corner tower of the former inner city in Ming and Qing Dynasties.

 Ming Wall Relics Park

Ming Wall Relics Park

The Arrow Tower and Zhengyang Gate south of Tiananmen Square have escaped the demolition. In the north of Beijing’s central axis, Deshengmen Tower is also a  good testament to the massive city fortifications in Beijing.

Arrow Tower south of Tiananmen Square

Arrow Tower south of Tiananmen Square

The glories of Old Beijing lasted into the twentieth century,  hope you can still enjoy having the dream and experience the marvels of the past beauties of Beijing that would have been the most beautiful capital city in the world.

Add-on

Xian City Wall
Pingyao City Wall

Any questions, just drop a line.

Top 10 Beijing’s most iconic views at night

May 16th, 2015
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Plan your Beijing tour? Beijing is the capital city of China that has seen huge change in the past 30 years. Many of Beijing’s impressive buildings such as Forbidden and Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests in Temple of Heaven  have existed for centuries.  Two decades ago there were no such modern architectures as the CCTV Headquarters by Rem Koolhaas and Ole Scheeren of OMA and no Giant Egg (The National Center for the Performing Arts) by French architect Paul Andreu.

A great way to enjoy Beijing is to see it when night falls with changing skylines and dazzling neon lights. Spare one night for a dreamy night tour of Beijing. We’ve selected the top 10 most iconic night views in Beijing. Or you may have your own version of the most beautiful night scenes in Beijing.

360° Panoramic View of Beijing City from the hilltop in Jingshan Park
You may exit from the north gate of the Forbidden City and then cross the road in the front, you will see the south gate of Jingshan Park. For normal opening time, the enctrance fee is only RMB2. But during the Peony Festival from later April and May each each year, the enctrance is raised to RMB10 per person.

The hill in Jingshan Park is 42.6 meters at relative height and 88.35 high at sea level. Just scale the stairs all the way to the tower – Wanchu Pavilion perched on the hill in the park. Wanchu Pavilion is the highest point along the Beijing’s north-south axis, a good place to have a panoramic view of the capital’s downtown area:  CBD in the east;  Drum Tower and Bell Tower in the north;  Beihai Park in the west and the south is to the north gate of the Forbidden City.

The city of Beijing looks gorgeous seeing it change from dusk to sunset, and to the nightfall with bright neon lights around the city below.

Wanchun Pavilion

Wanchun Pavilion

The Iconic Night View of Beijing Central Business District (Manhattan in Beijing )
The landscapes – China World Hotel, CCTV New Office Tower and the bustling Chang’an Avenue and more – Beijing’s Central Business District ), and night view is dazzling, every minute making you intoxicated.

China Grill is one of the highest restaurants in Beijing and it is located on the 66th floor, Park Hyatt Beijing, No.2 Jianguomen Outer St., Chaoyang, Beijing where you can have a clear view of CBD. Recommended cuisines: Seafood platter, Appetizer bread, mashed Potatoes, Black pepper lobsters and more.

Beijing's Central Business District

Beijing’s Central Business District

The Palace
The Place is notable for its huge screen hanging on the ceiling in the middle with two rows of luxury buildings on its both sides. At night people walk around under the screen enjoy the space art, high technique and lighting. The Place is alao a place for luxury shopping and gourmet experience.

The Place is designed by Jeremy Railton. He is also the designer for the world largest electric screen in Las Vegas. The Place is located about 500 meters north of Guiyou Mansion or Silk Market Building. It is in the center of CBD (Central Business Center).

The Place

The Place

Bird’s Nest & Water Cube
Beijing National Stadium, billed as “Bird’s Nest”, is located in the center of Beijing Olympic Park. It was the site for the opening and closing ceremony for the Olympic Games in 2008. It was the place where Usain Bolt of Jamaica broke the world record by winning both the 100 and 200 gold medals at the Olympics.

National Aquatics Center, popular known as “Water Cube”, is located just beside Bird’s Nest. It is  “cube”” because of its semi-transparent “bubbles” spread out all over its surface with a shape very similar to the structure of “H2O”.

Water Cube

Water Cube

Qianmen Street
“qianmen” literally means “Front Gate”. Qiamen Street is located south of Qianmen Tower on the south of Tiananmen Square, hence the name of the street. Neon nights are dotted around the street, surreal atmosphere.

It is one of the last remnants of the business centers of old Beijing. It has been transformed into a modern commercial pedestrian street, the second walking street after Wangfujiang Street in the downtown shopping district Beijing.

Qianmen Street

Qianmen Street

Tiananmen Square
Tiananmen Square is oft-lauded as the largest public square of this kind in the world, a geological center of Beijing as well as a political barometer of China. Apart from the historical events and myths related to the square, Tiananmen Square has much to offer in terms of the significant buildings and solemn red flag raising and lowering ceremonies.

Visiting Tiananmen Square at different times of a day, you get different views of the square – Sunrise View of Tiananmen Square, Sunset View of Tiananmen Square. The awesome view comes when the night falls with sparkling lights dotting the buildings, towers and the ground.

North of Tiananmen Square is Beijing Tiananmen Tower ( Gate of Heavenly Peace ) . The tower sits on the platform which is a building with double-eaved roof and yellow-glazed tiles. It has five archways with the middle gate used as the passage for Ming and Qing emperors.

Tiananmen Square

Tiananmen Square

View Night of  Forbidden City Turret and Moat
Though not allowed to enter Forbidden City for a night view, people still have the opportunity to see Forbidden City’s night beauty.  You may walk to the moat along on the northern wall of Forbidden City. The night view of the turrets of Forbidden City is stunning with traditional buildings coated with lights.

Forbidden City Turret and City Moat Night View

Forbidden City Turret and City Moat Night View

 The National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA)
It is one of the 4 most important landmarks in Beijing. The egg-shape theatre is absolutely worth having a glimpse. It was designed by French architect Paul Andreu. Construction started in December 2001 and the inaugural concert was held in December 2007.

The total cost for its construction is said to be over RMB 3 billion. The theatre has total 5473 seats with each seat costing about half million! The exterior of the theater is a titanium accented glass dome that is completely surrounded by a man-made lake. It just likes like an egg cut half.

National Center of Performing Arts Night View

National Center of Performing Arts Night View

Shichhai Night View
“Shichahai”, literally “Ten Temple Lake”, actually refers to a large historical area (147 hectares) including the present three lakes – Houhai (Back Lake), Qianhai (Front Lake) and Xihai (West Lake) in the north of the central Beijing.

There used to be 10 temples in the area, hence the name of “Shichahai”. Some of the temples are still there, including Guangji Temple, Huitong Temple, Huoshen Temple, Guangfu Guan ( a taoist temple ), etc.

Acclaimed as “Historical and Cultural Scenic District” by the municipal government of Beijing in 1992, Shichahai has become one of the much-visited place equivalent of other highlights in Beijing such as Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace and the Great Wall of China.

Shichahai is a place where modernity meets tradition – historical hutongs and courtyards; trendy bars and restaurants. It is also a scenic area with willow lined lakes – boating in summer and skating in winter.

Shichahai is a delight to explore either on foot or by bike. You’ll need 2 0r 3 hours to savour the picturesque Shichahai which is often referred to as “Houhai” by foreign visitors.

Shichahai in different seasons or even at different times of a day give you different views and activities. Shichahai at night is most attractive with great fun – neon lights, crowded and bustling, stuffed with all manner of bars, restaurants, stalls and gifts shops. It is an entertaining place to browse. In a word, Shichahai is an ideal hangout on your Beijing night tour no matter.

Shichahai Night View

Shichahai Night View

The Red-lantern Night View of Gui Jie
The over-1000 meter Guijie ( Gui Jie) is located between Dongzhimen Subway Station of Line 2 and Bexinqiao Subway Station of Line 5. So you may walk from Dongzhimen Station or Beixinqiao Station to the brilliant food street with Beixinqiao being closer.

Gui Jie ( Ghost Street 簋街) is an almost 24-hour food street with numerous eateries on both sides. It is quite popular with local Beijing people, expats, tourists, etc. Almost all the restaurants here are decorated in red – red store-front plaques, red lanterns and red lights with great vibe, a great place for friends, families and couples all to meet for dinner here.

The bright red lanterns hanging at the restaurant fronts and over sidewalks pose stunning views at night, an interesting iconic night view in Beijing.

GuiJie Night View

GuiJie Night View

Add On
Beijing Night Tour
Beijing Evening Shows

Any questions, just drop a line.

7 not-to-be-missed UNESCO sites in Beijing

April 26th, 2015
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UNESCO World Heritage Centre annually selects places of special cultural or physical significance with  universal value to humanity by putting them on the World Heritage List aimed at protecting them for future generations to see, touch and appreciate. Beijing is a city with a total  of 7 heritage sites listed in the UNESCO List. This is evidence of Beijing’s splendid culture and long history, an important part of the total 47 UNESCO sites in China, making Beijing one of the most visited destinations in China.

Planning your Beijing tour? Interested in knowing which are the 7 UNESCO sites in Beijing? Here is the list of the 7 UNESCO sites in Beijing.

Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian 周口店北京猿人遗址
Located  42 km south-west of Beijing, Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian is home to the remains of Sinanthropus pekinensis, who lived in the Middle Pleistocene and remains of Homo sapiens sapiens dating back to 18,000–11,000 B.C along with various objects. The site is an essential reminder of the prehistorical human societies of the Asian continent,  an testament to the process of evolution. It was added to the UNESCO List in 1987.

Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian

Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian

The site was discovered and explored in 1921 by the Swedish geologist J. G. Anderson. In 1926, a cave of hominid teeth  and a whole skull were explored by the Chinese archaeologist Pei Wen Zhong. Later Some 100,000 objects, including rough chipped stone tools, heat-affected stones, burnt bones, ash deposits, etc., as well as fossilized grains, were found.

Admission: 30 Yuan
Add: Zhoukoudian, Fangshan District, Beijing
Opening hours: 8:30 a.m  – 4:40 p.m.(all year round)
How to get there
Public bus: Take Bus 917 from Tianqiao Bus Terminal and get off at Fangshan (房山), then change for the local bus 38 and alight at the site of Peking Men.

Great Wall of China 长城
The original section of the Great Wall of China goes back as early as 220 B.C., under China’s first Emperor  Qin Shi Huang, who ordered the construction of  the sections of earlier fortifications. Later the fortifications were joined together to form a united defence project against invasions from the nomadic north. The Construction went on till the Ming dynasty (1368–1644).  The total 22,000 km long Great Wall of China was included as the site of UNESO Cultural Heritage in 1987 for its superb military architecture, technology and art of ancient China.

Great Wall of China

Great Wall of China

The Great Wall around Beijing is an essential part of the Great Wall of China, mostly built in the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644), and The most powerful Yuan Dynasty (1271 A.D – 1368 A.D) and the last Qing Dynasty (1644 A.D – 1911 A.D) did nothing about the building of the Great Wall since they were “barbarians” against whom the Great Wall of China had been built, supposed to keep them from invading and looting.

Now having a Great Wall Tour has become a must for visitors coming to Beijing for the first time. If you visit the Great Wall for the first time, basically you need to plan ahead to know when to visit, which section to visit and how to visit. You can either travel independently doing all the researching on your own or turn to a local travel agency.

Badaling Great Wall       Shixiaguan Great Wall    Juyongguan Great Wall

Forbidden City 故宫 
Located in the heart of Beijing, the north of Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City was the Chinese imperial palace from the Ming dynasty to the end of the Qing dynasty (1368 – 1911), home to  14 Ming and 10 Qing emperors over the following 505 years.The Forbidden City, now known as the Palace Museum has about 1000 rooms and landscaped gardens,  a priceless testament to Chinese civilization during the Ming and Qing dynasties. It was declared UNESCO Heritage site in 1987 for its masterpieces in the development of imperial palace architecture in China.

Forbidden City

Forbidden City

Note: Monday is still open during Chinese Public Holidays
April 1st – October 31 ( 8:30 – 17:00 )  Admission: 6 Yuan
Last Entry at 16:10
Tickets sold until 16:00

November 1st – March 31 (8:30 – 16:30)   Admission: 40 yuan
Last Entry at 15:40
Tickets sold until 15:30

By Subway ( to south gate ):  Take Line 1 abd get off at Tian’an men East or  Tian’an men West
Check Forbidden City Travel Tips for more information.

Summer Palace 颐和园
Located 10km in the northwest of Beijing, Summer Palace was once the largest imperial garden in Beijing.  It is a vast expanse of lakes, gardens and palaces dominated by Longevity Hill and the Kunming Lake.  It was orginally built in 1750, largely destroyed in the war of 1860 and restored on its original foundations in 1886.

It was inscribed as UNESCO Heritage site in 1998  for its masterpiece of Chinese landscape garden design, a harmonious ensemble of outstanding aesthetic value.     Check How to Visit Summer Palace for more information.

Summer Palace

Summer Palace

High Season (From April 1 to Oct. 31)    Admission: 30 Yuan
Open: 6:30
Tickets stop selling at 18:00;
Close: 20:00

Low Season (From Nov. 1 to Mar. 31 next year)  Admission: 20 Yuan
Open: 7:00
Tickets stop selling at 17:00;
Close: 19:00

How to get to Summer Palace by subway

1. Subway Line 4:
Take subway line 4 to the northest direction and get off at the last but one of Beigongmen (北宫门) and exit from Exit D and walk to the west, soon you will see the north gate ( Beigongmen Gate )to Summer Palace 颐和园 (entrance fee:RMB30) on your left side.

2. Subway Line 10
Take subway line 10 to Bagou station at the end of Line 10, and then get a taxi from outside the station to the New Palace Gate (新建宫门). Or you may just walk for about 1.5km from Bagou Station to the New Palace Gate. Get off Bagou Station, follow your nose, you will meet a river, then turn right and walk along the river bank till the New Palace Gate of Summer Palace. If confused upon which way to go upon leaving the subway, just follow the crowd.

Temple of Heaven 天坛
The Temple of Heaven (Tiantan) is located in the southeast of central Beijing. It was an imperial Sacrificial Altar in Beijing visited by the emperors in Ming and Qing dynasties for praying for good harvest annually.  It was originally built from 1406 to 1420 during the reign of the Yongle Emperor, who had the construction of the Forbidden City in Beijing. Check How to Visit Temple of Heaven for more information.

Temple of Heaven

Temple of Heaven

It is an ensemble of religious buildings and landscape gardens. The Temple of Heaven was listed as UNESCO World Heritage in 1998 for its masterpiece of architecture and landscape design which simply and graphically illustrates a cosmogony of great importance for the evolution of one of the world’s great civilizations.

Gate:6:00-22:00
The main buildings inside the park
From March 1 to June 30: 8:00 – 17:30
From July 1 to October 31: 8:- 18:00
From November 1 to February 28: 8:00 – 17:00
Entrance Fee: 15 yuan ( high season ) and 15 yuan (low season)
Kindly reminder: Through tickets selling is stopped at 16:00

Get to Temple of Heaven by subway:  Take subway line 5 and get off at East Temple of Heaven Station  (Tiantan Dongmen Station ) and take exit A. The East Gate entrance is right there. For the public buses to the east gate, you may try bus 6, 35, 36, 39, 41, 43.

Ming Tombs 明十三陵
Located around 43km northwest of central Beijing, the Ming tombs are a group of mausoleums built in Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644). The Ming Tombs in Beijing are collectively known as the Thirteen Tombs of the Ming Dynasty since there are totally thirteen Ming emperors buried here.

Ming Tombs

Ming Tombs

After the construction of the Imperial Palace (Forbidden City) in 1420, the Yongle Emperor, the third emperor in Ming Dynasty started to chooset his burial site and built his own mausoleum. His successive emperors had their tombs in the same place.  The site of Ming Tombs is added to UNESCO World Heritage in 2003 for their cultural and architectural tradition and their integration into the natural environment.  Check out How to Visit the Ming Tombs for more information.

Entrance Fees:
Changling Tomb: RMB 30 (November.01 – March. 31); RMB 45 (April. 01 – October. 31) Dingling Tomb: RMB 40 (November.01 – March. 31); RMB 60 (April. 01 – October. 31) Zhaoling Tombe: RMB 20 (November.01 – Machr. 31); RMB 30 (April. 01 – Oct. 31)
Sacred Way: RMB 20/30)
Opening Hours:
Changling Tomb: 08:30 – 17:30 Dingling Tomb: 08:30 – 18:00 Zhaoling Tomb 8:30 – 17:30
Sacred Way: 8:30 – 18:00
Tickets stop selling about half a hours before the tombs are closed
How to get to Dingling Tomb:  Take the Bus 872 from  Deshengmen Bus Terminal

Grand Canal 大运河
The Grand Canal Hangzhou is the final section of the Grand Canal ( China ), also known as Beijing-Hangzhou (Jinghang) Grand Canal.

It is oft-lauded as the earliest and longest artificial waterway in the world starting from Beijing in the north and ending at Hangzhou in the south for a total length of 1776 km.  It is the world’s largest and most extensive civil engineering project prior to the Industrial Revolution.

One relics site of the Grand Canal in central Beijing

One relics site of the Grand Canal in central Beijing

On June 22, 2014, the Grand Canal was listed as the site of UNESCO World Cultural Heritage. It is the 46th world heritage in China including 27 sections and 58 elements of the Grand Canal with a length of 1011 km. The world heritage crowned Grand Canal covers 6 provinces, 2 municipalities and 25 prefecture-level cities.

Any questions,  just drop a line.