You need to reserve at least a few days for your visit to Beijing, because there are so many attractions offered by the capital of China. Everyone will find something for himself - spirit of the old Beijing is present in palaces and temples, the metropolis is represented by skyscrapers, shopping malls, clubs and the Tian'an Men Square. Exclusive hotels adjacent to streets of the traditional hutongs, and the most popular means of transport is still a bicycle.
Beijing is one of the largest cities in the world. The name Beijing literally means the Northern Capital. The city population is of nearly 20 million people and is the administrative, political, educational and cultural center of the country. In the capital of China at every step tradition mixes with modernity, and it is like no other city, `China in a nutshell`. In the local restaurants you can taste all the dishes of Chinese kitchen, touch thousand years of history, see in the park thousands of Chinese practitioners of Tai Chi, go to the Beijing opera with its traditional acrobatic performances and also get to the club, where the Chinese young people dance to the music of the West. Pride of the town is of course its architecture. In Beijing, you can see the buildings in three styles: the imperial-era monuments, buildings from the fifties, sixties and seventies of the twentieth century as well as modern architecture. The former is so many that tourists during one stay are not able to see what every Chinese is proud of, as it is connected with the thousand-year tradition of their country.
The Forbidden City
One of the biggest attractions of Beijing is the Forbidden City (Gugong). It is located in the center of the largest and best-preserved palace complex in the world. Legend says that there were 9999 rooms and the hotel imperial has been built for over a dozen years by a million of people, and decorated by 100,000 craftsmen and artists. Palace complex consists of 980 buildings and is surrounded by 8 meters high curtain and a 6 meters deep and 52 meters wide moat. In the grand Forbidden City, which used to cover an area of 170,000 square meters, and is now 150 thousand square meters, high walls were effectively separate the imperial family and the court from their subjects. It also used to be called the Purple Forbidden City. This was due to the imperial color and symbol of the polar star, which, according to Chinese cosmology was the center of the universe.
The origins of the Forbidden City dates back to 1406. Then the Emperor Yongle (Zhu Di), the third emperor of the Ming Dynasty, began construction of the palace complex and moved the imperial capital from Nanjing to Beijing. Therefore he is called the architect of Beijing. The construction of the Forbidden City was completed in 1420, and since then for 500 years the imperial palace has been inhabited by 24 emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties. It must be remembered that during the Manchu invasion in the mid-seventeenth century, most of the buildings were destroyed, so that part of the building visited currently comes from the Qing Dynasty. It is worth noting that in the Forbidden City, and strictly speaking, in its architecture, motifs of three, five, seven and nine are repeated. It is resembled with Chinese harmony of yin and yang elements. Yang - masculine - was associated with the emperor, hence the numerous combinations of odd numbers. To visit the Forbidden City, you should book a lot of time, because there are more than one million museum objects and works of artistic craftsmanship. The main entrance to the Forbidden City runs through the Gate of Heavenly Peace. However the greatest attractions of the Forbidden City are architectural objects: the Gate of Supreme Harmony, the Palace of Supreme Harmony, the Palace of Keeping Perfect Harmony, the Palace of Heavenly Purity, the Palace of Beautiful Mind and the Nine Dragons Wall.
The Heavenly Temple
The Temple of Heaven (Tian Tian) is one of the largest Chinese temple complexes. Formerly in the temple there were celebrated praying for a good harvest in the coming year. Only the Emperor as the Son of Heaven could communicate with the gods on behalf of his people. For ordinary residents entrance to the temple was closed. The complex consists of several parts, which are connected by so-called the Red Bridge extending from north to south. The most important place of the complex is the Altar of Heaven, which is made of stone blocks arranged in concentric circles.
The Summer Palace
Vast areas of the Summer Palace (Yihe Yuan) also called the Garden of Harmony and Peace served emperors of the Qing Dynasty as a place of respite from the heat of the Forbidden City. The Palace gained its present shape by the Emperor Qianlong in the eighteenth century, who built it to celebrate the 60th birthday of his mother. However, the Summer Palace is the most reminded with the Empress Cixi, one of the most influential women in the history of imperial China, who rebuilt it twice after destruction in 1860 and 1902. The territory around the Summer Palace covers an area of 290 hectares, of which three-quarters is covered by lake. It consists of the palace pavilions, temples, hills and water. In total, there are over 3000 objects of diverse architecture. The best known of these is the Pavilion of Kindness and Longevity, the Garden of Virtue and Harmony, the Seventeen Arches Bridge and the Nephrite Belt Bridge. Garden which surrounds the Summer Palace is an example of Chinese Garden Architecture, where everything is settled according to a certain order to show the harmony.
The Tian'an Men Square
At the heart of Beijing's the Tian'an Men Square is located that is the Square of Heavenly Peace. This is one of the largest squares in the world, which can accommodate one million people. The square is surrounded by soc-realistic buildings from the fifties of the twentieth century and the Square of Heavenly Peace located in its northern part leads to the Forbidden City. The plan of Tian'an Men used to be the place of the country public speeches. Very often it was also a place of various demonstrations, worth to mention the one of students in 1989. On the square there are two buildings: the mausoleum of Mao Tse-tung, built in 1976, after his death, and the National Museum of Chinese History. In front of mausoleum there is the Monument of People's Heroes. There are 10 reliefs located on it that commemorate events from the period of the revolution. Every day at dawn at the Square national flag is pulled, which is lowered after dusk.
Traditional buildings of Beijing are hutongs. They are old, narrow alleys of the city extending generally from east to west. There are usually four-storey houses located by such street which surround a common courtyard Siheyuan. Although most of the hutongs disappeared along with the establishment of the Republic of China which focused on the modernity, still there is quite easy to find a typical Chinese hutong in a city. Most of them, however, come from the early twentieth century.
What else is worth seeing?
If after seeing the biggest attractions of Beijing tourists will still find time they necessarily should go to the Beijing opera for a typical Chinese opera. The performance consists not only of arias and dialogue, but also acrobatics and fights. You should also visit the Yuanming Yuan that is the Old Summer Palace, see the Big Bell Temple, the mosque by the street of Oxen, or the largest Taoist temple in Beijing that is the Temple of the White Cloud. Beijing is also, of course, a good starting point to visit the Great Wall.