Beijing is home to some of the finest treasures of China’s imperial past. The UNESCO World Heritage sites of the Forbidden City; the Temple of Heaven; the Summer Palace and the Great Wall are absolute must-sees for any visitor to China.
The Forbidden City
The Forbidden City was home to the emperors of the Ming, and later, Qing Dynasties and housed several palaces, courtyards and buildings that were built to precisely to celestial requirements. The emperors were considered the sons of heaven and their residence seen as the center of the earth. Heavily guarded and fortified, the palace was strictly off limits to ordinary people and therefore became known as the Forbidden City.
The Temple of Heaven
Constructed around the same time as the Forbidden City, the architecture of the Temple of Heaven also represents heaven and earth and, like the Forbidden City, is built along a north/south axis. The emperors worshipped the Gods of Earth, Water, Agriculture, Society and Religion here. These days, the Temple of Heaven is in a lovely park, which makes a welcome retreat from the city’s busy streets.
The Summer Palace
The Summer Palace was a favoured retreat for the Imperial family during the hot Beijing summers. Originally laid out in the 12th century, the Palace buildings and gardens have been destroyed and rebuilt several times over the centuries but still remain a masterpiece of Chinese imperial design.
The Great Wall
The Great Wall of China is the stuff of legends and this section, about 80km northeast of Beijing, is one of the best preserved. There are several fortresses built into the wall at this section, which were used to store weapons and house the guards who helped defend the city against attacks from the north.