China’s capital, and one of the most populous cities in the world, Beijing is simply brimming with cultural experiences and sights. The ancient city is China’s political and cultural center, and one of the Four Great Ancient Cities of China.
At the historical heart of mystical Beijing lies the Forbidden City, the enormous palace compound that was home to the emperors of the renowned Ming and Qing dynasties. For almost 500 years, it served as the home of emperors, as well as the ceremonial and political center of Chinese government, and remains the world’s largest surviving palace complex. The Forbidden City hosts the breath-taking Palace Museum, which contains exquisite imperial collections of Chinese art from the opus dynasties.
Surrounding the Forbidden City are several former imperial gardens, parks and scenic areas, notably Beihai, Shichahai, Zhongnanhai, Jingshan and Zhongshan. These places, particularly Beihai Park, are described as perfect masterpieces of elaborate Chinese gardening art, and are popular tourist destinations with tremendous historical importance for this ancient political hub.
In particular, Zhongnanhai has also been the political heart of various Chinese governments and regimes and is now the headquarters of the Communist Party of China. From Tiananmen Square, right across from the Forbidden City, there are several notable sites, such as the Tiananmen, Qianmen, the Great Hall of the People, the National Museum of China, the Monument to the People’s Heroes, and the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong. The Summer Palace and the Old Summer Palace both lie at the western part of the city; the former, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, contains a comprehensive collection of imperial gardens and palaces that served as the summer retreat for the Qing emperors.
Beijing is a major transportation hub, with dozens of railways, roads and motorways passing through the city, and the destination of many international flights to China. With the growth of the city in the wake of economic reforms, Beijing has evolved as the most important transport hub in the People’s Republic of China, and within the larger East Asian region. Encircling the city are five ring roads, nine expressways and city express routes, eleven China National Highways, several railway routes, and an international airport.