Fascinating Heritage & Culture
Fascinating and rich in cultural heritage, Beijing is the ideal destination for those seeking something a bit different. Read on for the essential icons of Beijing China.
The Forbidden City
Undoubtedly one of the greatest icons of Beijing China, in the bustling district of Wangfujing you will find the Forbidden City (also known as the Palace Museum). Built over 14 years in the early 1400s, it is the world’s largest palace complex and boasts prestigious UNESCO World Heritage Site status. The location got its name from former occupant Emperor Chengzu, who ruled that anyone who entered needed special permission direct from him.
Luckily, there is no one around to make such demands today. Comprised of nearly nine thousand rooms covering 74 hectares, the palace is a significant architectural monument and truly mesmerizing from start to finish. Featuring wooden structures and traditional Chinese palatial architecture, along with marble detail and bright, rich colours, the site is also home to treasures from both the Ming and Qing dynasties. The Raffles Hotel Beijing is located right beside the Forbidden City, in a beautiful location that combines the best of Beijing, both old and new. As the chosen hotel for many high-profile visitors to the city, this is a place fit for a king or, indeed, an emperor.
The Great Wall of China
As one of the wonders of the world, this spectacular sight is richly deserving of its revered status. Covering a distance of more than five and a half thousand miles, the Wall stretches from the east to the west of the country, winding over lush green plateaus and traversing steep mountain ranges. Originally built as a defence line over 2000 years ago, it has been frequently adapted and restored and remains of the most renowned icons of Beijing China.
Some of the best parts are located just 50 miles outside of Beijing. Badaling is the most well-preserved section: once a military stronghold, it still features many watchtowers and stands at a dizzying height. The wall is not just a historic monument but also a vital part of Chinese symbolism, mythology and culture and a prominent symbol of the civilisation.
Beside the Forbidden City is Tiananmen Square – one of the largest city squares in the world and a site of great historical and cultural significance in Beijing. At the north end of the square is the Tiananmen Tower (also “the Gate of Heavenly Peace”), which once marked the entrance to the Forbidden City. It is an important symbol of modern China and features impressive detail with arched gateways, white marble bridges and carved stone lions, which are believed to protect from evil spirits.
The square is also home to the National Museum of China and the Monument to the People’s Heroes – the largest monument in China’s history, as well as the ornate and beautiful Great Hall of the People. The raising of the Chinese flag by the guard of honour takes place in the square at sunrise and sunset every day and makes for a memorable experience.
Aman at Summer Palace is a beautiful resort hotel located just 15 kilometres from the square and within easy reach of many famous sights. A serene and palatial retreat, it offers authentic and traditional Chinese architecture and hospitality.
Buddhism is such a central part of the Chinese culture that many visitors will be interested to visit an authentic Buddhist temple. The temple of Lama, whose Chinese name Yonghegong, translates to “Harmony and Peace” truly lives up to its name. It is a place of outstanding beauty and an extremely important location for the practise of Tibetan Buddhism.
Originally the home of an Imperial Family figure, there are royal influences still at work. From the fabulously shaped roofs, decorative arches and divine carpentry to the fascinating Tibetan prayer wheels, beautiful frescoes and intriguing Tantric statues – this is a real cultural haven. The wonderfully named Pavilion of Ten Thousand Happinesses is the highest palace in the complex and contains tens of thousands of Buddhas spread over its three floors. It is also home to some world-famous works of art.
Perhaps one of the most popular icons of Beijing China is the mighty Panda. The Panda House in Beijing Zoo is home to both the Giant Panda and the Red Panda and designed to replicate traditional Chinese gardens. Watching the pandas climb and swing through the trees is a fantastic sight.
Beijing Zoo is the biggest zoo in the whole of China and houses 5000 animals, including the Golden Monkey, Manchurian Tiger and Indian elephant. It is also located close to the Opposite House, a unique design hotel with a design that features a contemporary art gallery showcasing some of the best works of Chinese artists.