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Temple of Heaven
Summer Palace
Ming Tombs
The Great Wall
Peking Man Site
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Forbidden City

The Forbidden City (Pinyin: zǐjìnchēng ; 紫禁城), also known as the Palace Museum (Pinyin: gùgōng; 故宫), was the residence of the emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties. It is the best preserved imperial palace in China and the largest and most complete ancient palatial structure in the world.

This unparalleled ancient architectural masterpiece situated exactly in the heart of the municipality. The construction of the grand palace started in the fourth year of Emperor Yongle of the Ming Dynasty (1406) and ended in 1420. The Forbidden City covers an 720,000 sq meter (7,800,000 sq ft) and consists of 90 palaces and courtyards, 980 buildings and 8,704 rooms.. The three major halls, the three palaces of the inner court, and the imperial garden are all placed on the central axis to symbolize the supreme power of the emperor. Other buildings are built on both sides of the north to south axis symmetrically. The axis extends from the Forbidden City to the Yongdingmen Gate in the south and to the Drum Tower and the Bell Tower in the north. There are unique and delicately structured towers on each of the four corners of the wall. The Forbidden City is divided into two parts. The southern section or the Outer Court was where the emperor exercised his supreme power over the nation. The northern section or the Inner Court was where he lived with his royal family.

Halls: Here are the three major Halls at the Outer Courtyard where emperors exerted their supreme power and held their imperial ceremonial events.

  • Hall of Supreme Harmony (Pinyin: Tai He Dian; 太和殿): Emperors held grand ceremonies to mark accessions, weddings, declaring wars as well as announcing the successful candidates in the imperial examinations.
  • Hall of Central Harmony (Pinyin: Zhong He Dian; 中和殿): Emperor came to rest here and receive respects from his officials before presiding over grand ceremonies in the Hall of Supreme Harmony. 
  • Hall of Preserved Harmony (Pinyin: Bao He Dian; 保和殿): Emperors gave banquets to princes, dukes and ministers of minor nationalities at Chinese New Year eve.


  • Palace of Celestial Purity (Pinyin: Qian Qing Gong; 乾清宮):  It has the horizontal inscribed board with wordings 正大光明 above the imperial throne. Emperor Kangxi started the system of writing the name of the selected successor on a testament and hid it behind the board of 正大光明.
  • Hall of Mental Cultivation (Pinyin: Yang Xin Dian; 養心殿): Emperor Yongzheng of Qing Dynasty moved his offices and residence here. Ruling Behind the Curtain happened in the east room of Yang Xin Dian where Empress Dowager Cixi took charge of the state affairs behind the curtain when the emperors Tongzhi, Guangxu or Fuyi was young. And she ruled China over half a century in late Qing Dynasty in this way.
  • Palace of Terrestrial Tranquility (Pinyin: Kun Ning Gong; 坤寧宮): It was the empresses' chamber in the Ming dynasty. The two east side-rooms were the emperor's bridal chamber. Qing Emperors Kangxi, Tongzhi and Guangxu were all married in this Palace.


  • Tiananmen Gate
  • Gate of Celestial Purity
  • Meridian Gate
  • Gate of Divine Military Genius
  • East Flowery Gate
  • West Flowery Gate

Inside the Palace Museum, which is also the largest and most important art museum in China, there are hundreds of thousands of works of art and treasures from the collections of many emperors in the dynasties of China's ancient history. Listed by UNESCO as a World Cultural Heritage Site in 1987, the Palace Museum is now one of the most popular tourist attractions worldwide.

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The Palace of Heavenly Purity (Pinyin: Qian Qing Gong 乾清宮) is a double-eaved building, and set on a single-level white marble platform. It is connected to the Gate of Heavenly Purity to its south by a raised walkway. In the Ming Dynasty, it was the residence of the Emperor. However, beginning from the Yongzheng Emperor of the Qing Dynasty, it became the Emperor's audience hall. A caisson is set into the roof, featuring a coiled dragon. Above the throne hangs a tablet reading "Justice and Honour" (Pinyin: zhèngdàguāngmíng; 正大光明).

Dragon pavement is at the back of the Hall of Preserved Harmony (Pinyin: Bao He Dian). It is the largest stone carving in the palace: 16.75 m long, 3.07 m wide and 1.7 m thick. It weighs 200 tons and was carved out of a huge natural stone in the early Ming Dynasty. It took 10,000 men to cut and transport it.
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御景亭- Temple on an artificial hill of karstic limestone in Imperial Garden, containing pillars of conglomerate. The branch-interlocked cypresses trees symbolize  love of couples: 在天愿作比翼鸟,在地愿为连理枝。天长地久有时尽,此恨绵绵无绝期.
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The Gate of Divine Might, the northern gate. The lower tablet reads "The Palace Museum" (故宫博物院).

The sloping ridges of building roofs are decorated with a line of statuettes led by a man riding a phoenix and followed by an imperial dragon. The number of statuettes represents the status of the building — a minor building might have 3 or 5. The Hall of Supreme Harmony has 10, the only building in the country to be permitted this in Imperial times.

Temple of Heaven

Building out of an awe of the universe, worship ritual architecture is of great significance in an emperor's plan for the capital. The Temple of Heaven or the Altar of Heaven (Pinyin: tiāntán; 天坛), the outcome of that intention, stands out as the grandest and best preserved of China's worship ritual architecture constructed from 1406 to 1420 during the reign of the Yongle Emperor, and completed together with the Forbidden City in the same year. It then was extended during the reign of the Jiajing Emperor in the 16th century. The Jiajing Emperor also built three other prominent temples in Beijing, the Temple of Sun (日坛) in the east, the Temple of Earth (地坛) in the north , and the Temple of Moon (月坛) in the west. It was visited by the Emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties for annual ceremonies of prayer to Heaven for good harvest.

The design of the Temple was to stress the vastness and sublimity of the heaven and thus represent its supremacy in both its overall layout and every single building. Concentric double walls separate the Temple of Heaven into the inner and outer temples, resembling the Chinese character hui(回). The corners of the double walls in the south are rectangular, while those in the north are round, representing a philosophical idea of "round heaven and square earth", which comes from the ancient Chinese understanding of the universe and the relationship between heaven and earth.

Three principle structures lie along the primary north-south axis of the site:

  • The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests (祈年殿) is an impressive three-tiered wooden structure that sits on a tri-level marble plinth with 36 meters in diameter and 38 meters tall, The original building was burned down by a fire caused by lightening in 1889. The current building was re-built several years after the incident. The hollow interior is magnificently decorated and contains a large ceremonial throne facing south.
  • The Imperial Vault of Heaven (皇穹宇) is a single-gabled circular building, built on a single level of marble stone base. It is surrounded by a smooth circular wall, the Echo Wall, named for its acoustical properties, permits a whisper spoken at one end to be heard from the other. The Triple Echo Stones in the courtyard return various numbers of echos depending on the stone one stands on.
  • The Circular Mound Altar (圜丘坛) is an empty three-tiered plinth that rises from a square yard. Constructed in 1530 and rebuilt in 1740, it is built of white marble. The number of stones in the various tiers are all multiples of three--a prevailing numerological theme at TiantanThanks to the design of the altar, the sound of the prayer will be reflected by the guardrail, creating significant resonance, which was supposed to help the prayer communicate with the Heaven.

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Earth was represented by a square and Heaven by a circle; several features of the temple complex symbolize the connection of Heaven and Earth, of circle and square. The whole temple complex is surrounded by two cordons of walls; the outer wall has a taller, semi-circular northern end, representing Heaven, and a shorter, rectangular southern end, representing the Earth. Both the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests and the Circular Mound Altar are round, each standing on a square yard, again representing Heaven and Earth.

The number nine represents the Emperor and is evident in the design of the Circular Mound Altar: a single round marmor plate is surrounded by a ring of nine plates, then a ring of 18 plates, and so on for a total of nine surrounding rings, the outermost having 9×9 plates.

The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests has four inner, twelve middle and twelve outer pillars, representing the four seasons, twelve months and twelve traditional Chinese hours respectively. Combined together, the twelve middle and twelve outer pillars represent the traditional solar term.

All the buildings within the Temple have special dark blue roof tiles, representing the Heaven.

The Temple of Heaven was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998 and was described as "a masterpiece of architecture and landscape design which simply and graphically illustrates a cosmogony of great importance for the evolution of one of the world's great civilizations..." as the "symbolic layout and design of the Temple of Heaven had a profound influence on architecture and planning in the Far East over many centuries.

Summer Palace

The Summer Palace (Pinyin: Yíhé Yuán; 颐和园) is located in the northwest suburbs of Beijing. The garden was rebuilt and expanded from a garden built in the Ming Dynasty in the 15th reign year of the Emperor Qianlong of the Qing dynasty (1750 A.D.). Being a summer resort where the emperors of the Qing dynasty enjoyed themselves and ruled China in summer, it was named the Summer Palace.

Occupying an area of 290 hectares, the Summer Palace is a large natural landscape garden built on the basis of the Kunming Lake and Longevity Hill, resembling the scenery of the West Lake in Hangzhou, with its design and style drawn from South China's garden architecture. A 728-meter-long corridor (Changlang) is the longest and most famous corridor in China. It serves as a link between the Longevity Hill and the Kunming Lake. Around 14,000 impressive paintings of historical figures, landscapes, birds and flowers adorn this corridor, making it into a fantastic gallery. Marble Boat at the west bank was built in 1755, in the hope that the governance of the Qing Dynasty would be impregnable under any circumstance. The spectacular Seventeen-Arch Bridge (Shiqikong Qiao) in 150 meters long connects the eastern bank and Nanhu Island. 564 stone lions with different expressions and gestures on the balusters are strikingly realistic. The Summer Palace is also the best preserved royal resort in China. It represents the ultimate achievement in traditional Chinese garden building.

Centered on the Tower of Buddhist Incense (Foxiangge), the Summer Palace consists of over 3,000 structures including pavilions, towers, bridges, and corridors. It can be divided into four parts: the court area, front-hill area, front-lake area, and rear-hill and back-lake area. Built on the basis of natural hills and water, it is full of natural beauty as well as the magnificence and splendor of a Chinese royal garden, while highly embodying the Chinese garden building philosophy of "man's work that looks like a natural creation".

In December 1998, UNESCO included the Summer Palace on its World Heritage List. It declared the Summer Palace "a masterpiece of Chinese landscape garden design. The natural landscape of hills and open water is combined with artificial features such as pavilions, halls, palaces, temples and bridges to form a harmonious ensemble of outstanding aesthetic value."

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Ming Tombs

The Ming Tombs (Pinyin: míng shísān ling; 明十三陵), located some 50 kilometers due north of urban Beijing, include the mausoleums of 13 emperors of the Ming dynasty after the third Ming Dynasty emperor Yongle (1402–1424) moved the capital to Beijing. It lies in the south of Yanshan Mountain Range in the Changping District of Beijing. It is the largest and best preserved tomb site, with the most emperor and empress mausoleums not only in China but the world.

A seven kilometer road named the "Spirit way/ Sacred Way " (shen dao) leads into the complex, lined with statues of guardian animals and officials, with a front gate consisting of a three-arches, painted red, and called the "Great Red Gate". The Spirit Way, or Sacred Way, starts with a huge stone memorial archway lying at the front of the area.

Currently tourists are allowed to visit the Road of Spirits, the Chang Mausoleum, the Ding Mausoleum, and the Zhao Mausoleum. The Chang Tomb is the largest and oldest of the tombs. Construction on the mausoleum began in 1409 and lasted four years. Buried here are Zhu Di, the third emperor of the Ming Dynasty, and his empress. The forecourt has three courtyards and all the halls are covered with yellow glaze tiles on their roofs. It is one of the largest wooden buildings in China and is supported by sixty unpainted poles made of nanmu.

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Dingling (Ding Tomb) is the only one excavated in this graveyard up till now. Zhu Yijun, the thirteenth emperor of the Ming Dynasty was inhumed together with his two empresses. Constructed between 1584 and 1590, this mausoleum used to have bridges, a stele pavilion, halls and towers and annexes on the ground. Hundreds of years later, only a stone tower and Bright Tower survived several fires. Visitors may enter via a tunnel.

The site selection and design of the Ming Tombs show the great attention paid to the harmony and unity between the mausoleums and the mountains, rivers, and plantations in nature. This embodies the Chinese philosophical belief of the "harmony between the universe and man". The entire tomb area forms a united whole. Except for the Si Mausoleum lying in the southwest corner, all other mausoleums line up on both sides of the Chang mausoleum in the shape of a sector. At the same time each mausoleum is an independent unit. Each of them occupies a hill and has its unique features, although their sizes are only slightly different. As a representative of the excellent architecture of ancient Chinese imperial mausoleums, the Ming Tombs show the richness of Chinese culture to the whole world.

The Ming Tombs were listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in August 2003. They were listed along with other tombs under the "Imperial Tombs of the Ming and Qing Dynasties" designation.

The Great Wall

The Great Wall, a world wonder created by the ancient Chinese people, stretches from Shanhaiguan in the east to Lop Nur in the west along an arc that roughly delineates the southern edge of Inner Mongolia. From the time the First Qin Emperor ordered its construction to the Ming dynasty, a period of over one thousand years, these walls never ceased being crated and reinforced. The total length of these walls built in different dynasties adds up to over 50,000 kilometers.

The Great Wall is not just a wall that runs 50,000 kilometers long, but a complete defense system, built originally to protect the northern borders of the Chinese Empire against intrusions by various nomadic groups, consisting of a variety of fortified works, including walls, watch towers, passes, forts, encampments, guard stations, garrison towns, and beacon towers.

During the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), the Great Wall was enlarged to 6,400 kilometers (4,000 miles) and renovated over a 200 year period, with watch-towers and cannons added. At strategic points, fortresses were built to defend the towns, passes, or fords. The passageways running along the top of the wall made it possible to move troops rapidly and for imperial couriers to travel. This complex and diachronic cultural property is an outstanding and unique example of a military architectural ensemble which served a single strategic purpose for 2,000 years, but whose construction history illustrates successive advances in defense techniques and adaptation to changing political contexts.

  • North Pass of Juyongguan pass: Known as the Badaling built to defend China's capital Beijing.
  • West Pass of Jiayuguan pass: This fort is the west end of the Great Wall.
  • East Pass of Shanhaiguan pass: This fort is near the east end of the Great Wall.
  • South East of Jinshanling: This part is the Mutianyu Great Wall connected with Juyongguan Pass to the west and Gubeikou to the east.

Winding and rolling on China's extensive and magnificent landscape, the Great Wall, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, makes a unique tourist site of natural beauty, as well as a cultural heritage of rich historical content.


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Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian

The Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian (Pinyin: zhōukǒudià; 周口店) lies at the foot of Dragon Bone Moutain in Zhoukoudian, Fangshan District in the southwest of Beijing. The Site was discovered by Johan Gunnar Andersson in 1921 and was first excavated by Otto Zdansky in 1921 and 1923 unearthing two human teeth.

This Paleolithic early man site provides the richest research materials and the best system structure in the world. Fissures in the limestone containing middle Pleistocene deposits have yielded the remains of about 45 individuals as well as animal remains and stone flake and chopping tools. The oldest are some 750,000 years old. The relics of fire use discovered here helped to trace the history of man's use of fire further back several hundred thousand years. And the discovery of the Peking Man has resolved the dispute of whether Homo erectus is of ape or human origin, which arose when the Java man was discovered. The Zhoukoudian site is rare historical evidence about human society in Asia in ancient times.

Because the Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian bears unique testimony to a civilization which has disappeared and bears witness to the human communities of the Asian continent from the Middle Pleistocene to the Late Pleistocene (Palaeolithic Age), it was formally inscribed on the "World Heritage List" in December 1987 at the eleventh session of UNESCO World Heritage Committee.

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