Forbidden City (Palace Museum)
Lying at the city center and called Gu Gong in Chinese, it was the imperial palace for twenty-four emperors during the Ming and Qing dynasties. It was first built throughout 14 years during the reign of Emperor Chengzu in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Ancient Chinese Astronomers believed that the Purple Star (Polaris) was in the center of heaven and the Heavenly Emperor lived in the Purple Palace. The Palace for the emperor on earth was so called the Purple City. It was forbidden to enter without special permission of the emperor. Hence its name 'The Purple Forbidden City', usually 'The Forbidden City'.
You are likely to see this attraction on your way to the Forbidden City or one of the other attractions which surround it. Tiananmen Square is named after the Tiananmen Gate (Gate of Heavenly Peace) constructed in 1415 which once marked the entrance to the Imperial City and stands on the northern edge of the square. At the other end of the square is the Zhengyangmen Gate (also known as Qianmen). The square is centrally located along the north-south axis of the city and is surrounded by some of the city’s most important landmarks. The square is one of the largest in the world covering 440,500m². The square was originally established in 1651 and has undergone several expansions over the years. Today it is about 4 times its original size and can hold up to a million people
This is one of the oldest royal gardens in the world and one of the largest in the country covering over 171 acres. The park was originally established in 938 during the Liao Dynasty and was restored and renovated in subsequent dynasties. The park was first opened to the public in 1925. The design of the park was inspired by the emperor’s desire to find the elixir of life which was said to be kept by gods at a place with three mountains on the edge of the sea. So the park was created with a large lake and three “mountains.” The lake covers more than half the park and contains Jade Flower Island. The park has exquisite gardens, palaces, temples, a maze, cave, pavilions and the lake with an ornate bridge crossing to Jade Flower Island where the beautiful White Dagoba rises. If you visit early in the morning you can see the locals practicing tier martial arts and exercising. It is possible to rent paddle boats on the lake. In the winter the lake becomes a skating rink.
Great Wall of Badaling
The Great Wall can be visited at several access points along the length of the Wall. This particular one, the Badaling section is the most popular section for tourist; it is the best preserved section; the most complete; close to downtown Beijing (70km) and easily accessed using public transport. The biggest draw card to this section of the Great Wall is that it is easier to “climb” than other parts of the wall. To reach the top of the wall (the parapets) you can take stairs or a convenient cable car. Badaling also has some equipment to help seniors and the disabled to get to the top. This section of the Wall was built in 1504; the highest point is 1,015 meters above sea level; it is about 7.8 meters high and 6 meters wide. Badaling runs for 12km. There are 43 watch towers at Badaling although the restored section is 3.74km and has 19 watch towers. Badaling is divided into a north section and south section. The northern section is where the visitor facilities are including the cable car. You could also walk down once you have finished your visit or take a toboggan (pulley) ride. In the southern section there are fewer crowds but only a cable car going between Back Mountain and #4 South Tower. The Wall can be visited year-round if you don’t mind the crowds and heat in summer or the cold and snow in winter. The best times to visit are April, May, September and October. Badaling is under an hour from the Ming Tombs and is often combined in the same day trip.
The Ming Tombs are closer to the Badaling Great Wall than the city of Beijing (50km away) so they are often included in a Great Wall visit. The tombs (Ming Shishan Ling) are a group of mausoleums for 13 emperors of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). They are located at the picturesque foot of Tianshou Mountain in a region called the Ming Tomb Scenic Area. Zhu Di was the first emperor of the Ming Dynasty to be buried here and over the course of the next 230 years other emperors had their tombs built around Zhu Di’s mausoleum. The tomb site covers 120km² and is one of the best preserved tomb areas in the world.