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A national symbol and historical monument, the Tiananmen Gate is the central heartbeat of the bustling capital, Beijing. Meaning the 'Gate of Heavenly Peace', the Tiananmen Gate was first erected in during the reign of the Ming Dynasty in 1420. Serving as the gateway to the Forbidden City, the gate features two regal lion statues meant to ward off evil spirits. Grand ceremonies, rituals and political speeches have taken place here over the centuries and thus it serves as an integral part of the nation.
Tiananmen Square is one of the largest public squares in the world. The square is surrounded by a cluster of massive buildings including Tiananmen Gate, The Forbidden City, the Great Hall of the People, The Monument of the People's Heroes and the Mao Ze Dong Mausoleum. The original square was built in 1651, though it has undergone extensive expansion since then. The square has figured in many historical events; Mao Zedong announced the founding of the People's Republic there in 1949, and in 1989 the area was the site of the famous Tiananmen Square Protests, a pro-democracy movement that ended in the deaths of many civilians. Today, visitors can walk through the square and learn more about its turbulent history. Â
The National Museum of China is the result of a merger of two smaller entities. Bringing together the former National Museum of Chinese History and the National Museum of Chinese Revolution, this mega-plex of a museum is a must visit when in Beijing. The National Museum of China is located on the East side of Tiananmen Square, across from the Great Hall of People. Here visitors will find vast collections of both history and art spanning the ages with numerous exhibits dedicated to cultural relics, Chinese history, artwork and much more. Best of all, this enchanting museum is free with a valid form of identification.
This massive mausoleum and memorial hall was built at Tiananmen Square, the center of Beijing (and metaphorically of the whole of China), shortly after Mao Zedong's death in 1976. For nearly 30 years Mao Zedong was the center of the Chinese universe, and he is certainly still revered today by many. The lines that file into the building and pass his glass sarcophagus are long but fast-moving, and visitors often get the feeling that they are being whisked away before they can get a good look at the Great Helmsman, fueling rumors that what is on display is a wax impersonation.
Helping to ease the flow of visitors to the Forbidden City, the Meridian Gate acts as its primary entrance. Visitors travel from the south to north as the explore this vast complex. This particular gate features five distinct arches and is the largest structure in the entire complex towering 37 meters (125 feet) into the air. Historically, the gate offered five different doors, one for the emperor, three for the top scholars of the era and one for ministers and officials. The gate and entire complex was believed to be built along the Meridian, because the emperor's believed themselves to be the sons of the universe and therefore should live at the center of it.
One of Beijing's greatest gems, the Forbidden City is a national treasure. Constructed in 1420, this must-see historical attraction was once the imperial residence for both the Ming and Qing Dynasties. It is called the forbidden city because no one was allowed to enter or leave the city without the emperor's permission. The sprawling complex contains over 70 structures with more than 9000 rooms containing priceless artifacts and relics. The palace was turned into a museum during the early 20th Century and offers great insight into China's past. While throngs of visitors come through each day, the royal gardens area is surprisingly calm and quiet. Enter this giant complex through the impressive Tiananmen Gate.
The Palace Museum, which is now the largest museum in China, was once the home of 24 different emperors. It is located in the center of Beijing and the Forbidden city. With 70 halls and 9,000 rooms, it is hard to imagine being able to see all of the museum's treasures in one trip. This incredible establishment offers up a journey through China's history and is a must-see during your stay in Beijing. Check out the museum's website for an extensive virtual tour of their pieces, which range from calligraphy to furniture; doing so may help you to determine which parts of this huge museum you would most like to spend your time in during your visit.
Situated in the heart of the capital, the National Art Museum of China (NAMOC) is one of the largest art museums in the nation. It is dedicated to exhibiting, collecting and researching modern and contemporary Chinese art. The museum was constructed between 1958 and 1962, and renovated in 2004 through 2005. Spread over an area of 30,000 square meters, it is divided into 21 exhibition halls, NAMOC has a collection of over 100,000 ancient and contemporary Chinese and Western artworks, including folk arts, puppets, kites, embroidery and lacquer ware.
The impressively large Beijing Museum of Natural History includes an aquarium, an evolution hall and an animal kingdom exhibit. The museum is famous for its weird and creepy halls of evolution. Here, you will find robotic dinosaurs, stuffed animals, fossils, skeletal remains, and pickled human torsos, as well as Siamese twins. If the torsos are too much, then stick to the smaller jars containing various body parts. Many exhibits have English captions.
The Rear Lakes are three lakes: the Front Lake (Shicha), the Rear Lake (Houhai) and the Jishui Lake, with Houhai being the largest. The Houhai neighborhood surrounding the lake is known for its exciting nightlife and the many alleyways hiding trendy restaurants, bars like the famous No Name Bar and stores. Particularly popular with expatriates and young professionals, the Houhai area has become a bohemian-like retreat that is always buzzing with activity. The lake itself sees a lot of activity, especially in the summer when the denizens of Beijing can be found boating in the water.
The Confucius Temple is a beautiful temple with several courtyards and halls. Created during the Yuan Dynasty in 1302, the temple celebrates the philosopher Confucius. There are several myths and stories about the temple, including a tree that can tell when someone is good or bad. The adjoining museum reviews the life of Confucius and how his philosophies influenced the world today as we know it.
The Capital Museum is a seven floor museum that features artifacts, architecture and art from throughout Beijing. Tucked away in the restored Confucius Temple, the museum was designed with a combination of modern and classic architecture, including an archway from the Ming Dynasty. With over 5,000 cultural relics, interactive displays and modern technological aspects of the building, its easy to see why the museum is so popular. The exhibits are described in both Chinese and English making it accessible and informational for various visitors. Visitors need to book an advance reservation and when they arrive at the museum they can pick up their free tickets.