Beijing was Formerly Peking. The first recorded settlement here was the city of JI in the 12th century B.C. This settlement was the capital of the Kingdom of Yen before it was destroyed by Qin Shi Huang DJ, the first Emperor of united China. Later, a town named YU CHOU developed in the time of the Tang Dynasty but was destroyed in 986 by Liao. The Liao were defeated by the Jin in 1135 and the name was changed again to CHUNG DU. Kubilai Khan defeated the Jin in 1264 and built a new city to the north, called DA DU. The Yuan Dynasty was overcome by the Ming in 1368 and the site became known as BEI PING. When the Manchu drove out the Ming this city became the capital and remained so until the dynasty fell in 1911. In 1928 the Nationalist Government moved the capital to Nanjing. When the Communists took over, Beijing became the capital again in 1949.

TIAN AN MEN SQUARE: This vast square occupies an area of almost 100 acres. The name comes from the imposing gate and tower on the north side, which gave entry to the Old Forbidden City. TIAN AN MEN GATE or “Gate of Heavenly Peace” bounds the square on the north. It has five passages leading through it and is topped by a wooden tower. Formerly these passages were closed and used only on ceremonial occasions. The tall granite obelisk which stands on a two-tiered marble terrace is called MONUMENT TO THE PEOPLE’S HEROES. The gilded inscription on the face reads: “The people’s Heroes are Immortal.” The base of the obelisk is decorated with bas-relief carvings, which depict major events of the revolution. On the western side of the square is the GREAT HALL OF THE PEOPLE. The National People’s Congress (Parliament) sits here when it’s in session. It’s an immense building…561,800 square feet, with conference rooms which can accommodate 10,000 people and a banqueting hall which can seat 5,000. The buildings to the east are the MUSEUM OF THE CHINESE REVOLUTION and THE MUSEUM OF CHINESE HISTORY.

Directly behind the central obelisk is the CHAIRMAN MAO ZEDONG MEMORIAL HALL with 2000,O00 square feet of space. Its’ twin roof is supported by 44 granite pillars, and outside on either side are sculptures of THE PEOPLE’S HEROES. If you are permitted to enter, you will be amazed at how organized it is. Groups form in lines four across and as they enter the first auditorium, they divide, with two people going on each side. In this auditorium there is an enormous statue of Mao. It’s very dramatically lighted and rests in front of a huge landscape-mural. Your lines then pass into the next auditorium where the body of Chairman Mao, draped with the Communist Flag is “preserved” in a crystal coffin. Decide for yourself if the body is the real thing. But it’s very dramatic. As you exit the Memorial Hall, you’ll face on the south, the QIAN MEN GATE to the Imperial City. It was constructed by the Ming in 1403-1425. Generally, tour groups are given very little time in this vast square. If that is the case when you’re there, find out how much time you have…and take off by yourself without the group. You’ll see much more and it does take time to see it all. Also, try to come back some evening if you can find time. Would you believe that the world’s largest Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant is on this square?

THE FORBIDDEN CITY: This area covers 250 acres and is surrounded by a wide moat and walls, which are 35 feet high. Twenty-four Emperors of the last dynasties ruled from the Forbidden City. Each was considered to be the “Son of Heaven” and controlled China with absolute rule for almost five centuries. The area has now been turned into a museum and it will become a highlight of your visit to China. A RECOMMENDATION: Groups generally have 1 1/2 to 2 hours here. Most of this time is utilized by your guide telling you more history than you need to know or will remember. This leaves precious little time to explore this exciting place. Unless you really want the detailed history, tell your guide that you’ll “do it on your own” and take off. YOU CAN’T GET LOST. One simply enters at one end, and while keeping a straight-line through the center of the city in mind, continues to the opposite gate or exit where your tour bus will be waiting. YOU WILL SEE SO MUCH MORE ALONE THAN WITH THE GROUP.

THE FIRST COURTYARDS are reached by entering Meridian Gate and Gate of Supreme Harmony. The Meridian Gate is the largest and was built in 1420. The five pavilions surmounting the gate are known as the “Five Phoenixes.” Cross one of the bridges and ahead stands the Gate of Supreme Harmony, which is a two-roofed structure. Three sets of stairs lead to the terrace…the central one was used only by the Emperor. Notice details all around you…fantastic bronze lions…incense burners…the tile on the roofs. You are now about to enter The Forbidden City. Pass through the gate and you’ll find a larger courtyard.

THREE CEREMONIAL PALACES: In front of you will be the HALL OF SUPREME HARMONY resting on a three-tiered terrace. Again three sets of stairs lead to the palace. Notice the exquisitely carved central portion of the stairs… used for the emperor. Again, there are many bronze incense burners on either side of the stairs…and note the two enormous bronze cauldrons. Inside this palace stands the emperor’s throne on a raised platform. Behind this palace is the HALL OF PERFECT HARMONY a small square-shaped pavilion with a single roof. Inside is another raised throne. The next palace is the HALL OF PRESERVATION OF HARMONY It is a two-roofed pavilion, and also houses a large throne. Continue your direction, descend the steps into another courtyard and walk toward the GATE OF HEAVENLY PURITY. It has three sets of stairs. This gate leads to:

THREE PRIVATE PALACES: In front of you is the PALACE OF HEAVENLY PURITY. Note the four large bronze incense burners. This palace has a two-tiered roof with very interesting figure details on the corners. Continue your walk and come to the HALL OF UNION, a single-roofed pavilion. Inside is a small throne surrounded by pedestals holding the Imperial Seals. To the rear of this palace is the PALACE OF EARTHLY TRANQUILITY, which was used as a residence for the empress. Descend the stairs of this palace…pass through KUN NING MAN GATE, and make a slight turn right and enter:

IMPERIAL GARDEN AND OUTER GATES: The garden is a quiet place where you can sit and rest from your long walk. Notice the fine old trees. Continue to the SUN ZHEN GATE and then walk towards the outer GATE OF DIVINE PRIDE. Your tour bus will be waiting here.

THE TEMPLE OF HEAVEN: This is the most important temple in China. Its’ name refers to a group of ceremonial buildings inside a walled park, built in the 15th century. The most important building is the HALL OF PRAYER, which is set on a triple marble terrace. These terraces are intersected by eight flights of stairs. The temple itself is round, with three roofs of glazed blue tiles, with the top crowned by a golden ball. It is 123 feet high and is built entirely of wood WITHOUT ANY NAILS being used. This makes the temple one of the architectural wonders of the world. Its’ exterior is lavishly decorated in red, blue, and green, with gilt overlay. There is only one door. Inside, there are 24 wooden columns arranged in a double circle around four central ones. These columns were made from the trunks of trees brought from the south of China, and support an elaborate system of pillars that hold up the three roofs. This is what has attracted the admiration of architects throughout the ages.

On either side of the temple are two blue-roofed pavilions with exterior walls decorated in red and gold, and which blend perfectly with the style of the temple itself.

Opposite the temple is the GATE OF PRAYER FOR GOOD HARVESTS. Pass through this gate and walk along a path to another gate to a round-walled enclosure housing the TEMPLE OF ‘THE

GODS. It is a small circular temple built entirely of wood. Stand close to the inside of the circular wall and whisper a message and your voice will come back to you from the opposite direction.

Farther south of this temple is the ROUND ALTAR, where the emperor came to make a sacrifice to heaven. This ceremony was one of the most important of the year, because it was believed that the destiny of the whole nation depended on this sacrifice and accompanying rites. The Round Altar has three terraces, one above the other, each surrounded by a white marble balustrade with 360 pillars.

When the emperor came from the Forbidden City to The Temple of Heaven, all windows and gates along the way had to be closed. No noise was permitted, and no one was allowed to set eyes on the emperor during this procession.

THE CITY OF BEIJING: As Chinese cities go, Beijing is quite modern with wide boulevards, more motor traffic, and very tall apartment buildings. The city itself is not interesting or picturesque. Air pollution is terrible. But one doesn’t visit Beijing for it’s particular atmosphere. If you have time and are looking for atmosphere, try the area around QIAN MEN STREET. Here you can mingle with the crowds and visit the busy Chinese shops. Another area with atmosphere is around QONGWENMEN STREET, a few blocks from the Beijing Hotel. Most tourists don’t have time for these areas, and simply go to THE FRIENDSHIP STORE, the largest in China, for their shopping. It’s well stocked…and even includes a supermarket, because of all the foreign diplomats in the area.

THE BEIJING ZOO: The zoo is located in the northwest section of the city, not far from the modern EXHIBITION CENTER. It’s a well-maintained zoo, and you should make a brief stop here to see the pandas (3), which are just inside the main entrance.

After TIAN AN MEN SQUARE, THE FORBIDDEN CITY, and THE TEMPLE OF HEAVEN, you should next go outside the city to the GREAT WALL…stopping along the way at the SACRED WAY and the TOMB OF EMPEROR WAN LI.

THE SACRED WAY: As you approach the Sacred Way, you’ll first see from your bus, a pavilion with five gateways. A little farther will be a massive structure 120 feet high. Next will be a twin-roofed pavilion. A few hundred yards further, the famous AVENUE OF ANIMALS will begin. These stone animals had first been placed before tombs during the reign of Han…B.C.206. Here, there is a row of animals on either side of the road, one pair being spaced equidistant from the next pair. There are always 6 animals represented: a lion, a mythical beast, a horse, a camel, elephant, and another mythical beast. Each animal is depicted standing and in a kneeling position…for a total of 24. These stone sculptures are huge and you’ll admire them greatly, after the animals, there are 6 “guardians”…huge sculptures of soldiers. (While your bus is parked for you to take in the Sacred Way, you’ll be surrounded by vendors whom have set up stalls in the parking areas. Fun!).

TOMB OF EMPEROR WAN LI (Ding Ling): The entrance gate has three arched doors set into the wall. Enter and walk along a path toward a terrace with red colored wall on either side. Three stairs lead to the terrace of a building where sacrifices were made. Continue and pass through a gateway leading to a large square tower crowned by a pavilion. This tower forms part of the wall that encircles the mound of earth (tomb). At the foot of the tower is a stone altar with two stone vessels. To enter the tomb, go down three flights of stairs into the earth. The first chamber is modern, but do notice the marble gates leading from it to the next chamber. They are 6-inch-thick slabs. Another pair of stone doors lead to the central chamber where there are three altars. Another doorway leads into the last chamber, which is the largest, and which contains the stone bases where the coffins of the emperor and empress were placed.

TOMB OF EMPEROR YONG LE (Yong Ling): Yong Le was the first Ming emperor to be buried in the Sacred Area {1424). Enter through 3 huge doorways set into a huge gate, which is part of the wall enclosing the grounds and the tomb. Inside, in the courtyard is a twin-roofed pavilion, which encloses an over-fed sculpture of a dragon. Look at the beautiful ceiling. At the end of this first courtyard stands the GATE OF EMINENT FAVORS with 3 doorways and a single roof of yellow glazed tiles. Pass down the stairway on the side of the gate and enter a second courtyard. It’s a long courtyard with large pine trees. At the end of the courtyard is the HALL OF EMINENT FAVORS, a twin-roofed building on a 3-tiered white marble terrace. Again, 3 sets of stairs lead up to the building. Inside, the hall is surrounded with 32 giant columns made from single tree trunks. Notice the ceiling here, also. Upon leaving this building, immediately ahead is another gate leading to a final courtyard. The path leads through a small

arch to a sacrificial altar. Behind the altar is the Square Tower with the Ming Lou pavilion on top. There is a tunnel sloping upwards through the Square Tower leading to the pavilion which houses the burial mound of earth. This tomb has not been excavated and archeologists around the world are excitedly curious about its probable contents. After you depart this area, you will be on your way to see THE GREAT WALL. Do notice the changing scenery and the changing altitude as you continue along.

THE GREAT WALL: is located 40 miles from Beijing. The Chinese name for this wonder is WAN LI CHANG CHEHG meaning “the Long Wall of Ten Thousand Li.” The earliest sections were built in the 5th century B.C. It was not until the unification of China in B.C. 221 that the various sections of the wall were joined together. More than 300,000 men worked more than 10 years to complete it. The interior is made of pounded-earth, which is faced with stone walls. The stone roadway along the top is wide enough to allow five horses abreast to gallop between the battlements…thus it was used to convey soldiers, arms, and food, speedily to various parts of the northern frontier. From the 6th to the 14th centuries, the wall was abandoned and fell into disuse, but after the Mongols attacked, the Ming Emperor decided to rebuild it in 1368. Building/restoration continued until the 16th century, but was again stopped when the Manchu armies captured China in 1644. From this time, the wall fell into ruin. Much of it has now been restored, and there are three famous parts that tours usually visit.

When you travel to The Great Wall, DO WEAR COMFORTABLE SHOES with non-slip soles. If your visit is during cool weather, wear plenty of warm clothing, because the wind that whips through the mountains is very cold. At the section where this writer visited, we had a choice of the section we wanted to climb. On one side the climb was considered “easier”, and on the other side, “more difficult.” It’s safe to say that no parts are particularly “easy”. In places the roadway has such an incline that one leans forward so much that noses almost touch the stone floor. Fortunately, the Chinese have installed iron rails to help with inclines like this. In other parts, there are steps, of uneven heights to scale. But climb it you must. IT IS ONE OF THE WONDERS OF THE WORLD. Stop along the way and admire the scenery at the various ramparts…and catch your breadth. When you reach the top tower, look out at the wall as it snakes its way across the tops of the mountains, and you’ll be able to see miles of it in the distance. This is a place to reflect upon the past. To help you realize how grand this spectacle is: It’s the only man-made structure that astronauts can see from outer space. When the wonder of the wall has been absorbed, it’s time to begin the descent. This can be treacherous. Do hold on to the iron rails.

When you reach the bottom, and return to the area for your bus, you’ll find the usual vendors. Treat yourself to a “I climbed the Great Wall” T-shirt. You deserve it.

NOTE: Tourists agree that the toilets here are the most disgraceful in China. Many agreed that the T-shirts should say: “I survived the toilets at the Great Wall”. But, hope is in sight. During the visit of September 1988, construction was well underway for new public facilities.

THE SUMMER PALACE: Located 45 minutes from Beijing, The Summer Palace is an excellent place to visit for relaxation…but a lot of Chinese feel the same way, and you’ll probably find it very crowded. The first Palace built here was during the 12th century…and the area became known as The Summer Palace, because all the court stayed here during summer to avoid the heat of Beijing. Some of those early palaces and pavilions were burned down by the Anglo-French in 1860, and the place fell into ruins. In 1888 the Empress Dowager Ci Xi rebuilt the area with large sums of money, which were “supposed” to be used to expand the Chinese Navy. That’s ironic, because one of the top sights in the area is a non-floating MARBLE BARGE located at the edge of the lake. It’s a marvelous sight to see this elaborate and beautiful ship reflected on the water…appearing to float.

The other major attractions here are The Eastern Palace Gate, The Benevolence and Longevity Palace, The Palace of Virtue and Harmony, The Jade Waves Palace, The Palace of Joy and Longevity, and the Palace of Orderly Clouds…all joined by covered walkways with beams painted to depict historical events of Hangzhou.

BEI HAI LAKE AND PARK: Located in the hilly section across from the exit of the Forbidden City, Bei Hai is one of 3 Imperial Lakes in Beijing…located in an attractive, beautifully landscaped park. Close to the southeast shore is an island…on top of which is a famous landmark…The White Pagoda, which was built by Emperor Shun Zhi in 1651. Near the southeast gate, the curved wall is the ROUND TOWN, which was once an island. The walls of this tower were built in 1417 to protect Kubilai Khan. The most important building in the area is the HALL WHICH RECEIVES THE LIGHT. The view of surrounding lake, the landscape, and the city of Beijing from the hill is outstanding.

JING SHAN…COAL HILL PARK: Located north of the Forbidden City, and easy to recognize because of the five pavilions on the hill. When you enter at the southern wall, the first structure will be THE BEAUTIFUL VIEW TOWER. The path from here leads up the hill to the top where the PAVILION OF TEN THOUSAND SPRINGS is located…and a magnificent panorama of Beijing. One story claims that the area got its name because the Emperor had coal buried under the central hill…but no evidence of this has ever been found.

DRUM TOWER and BELL TOWER: This is one of the oldest buildings in Beijing… over 700 years old. It’s a solid brick base intersected by passageways. Above the base is a pavilion with a balcony and a triple roof. Drums used to be beaten from the tower at sunset every day. The BELL TOWER is just north of the DRUM TOWER. It was the first constructed under the Ming, but the present building was constructed in 1736-96. It once housed a giant iron bell.

LAMA TEMPLE: This temple is at the northern end of Dongsi Street and at one time was the palace of the prince who later became emperor. According to the custom at that time, it then became “forbidden ground”, but later this emperor’s son made the temple into a lamesery devoted to the cult of the living lama. The first courtyard leads toward the HALL OF THE CELESTIAL GUARDIANS, where there is a statue of Buddha surrounded by the guardians. In the 2nd courtyard stands the HALL OF ETERNAL HARMONY, which also houses statues of Buddha. In the 3rd courtyard is the HALL OF THE WHEEL OF DHARMA. Here is a 10-meter high bronze statue of Buddha. The tiny statues of Buddha seated in front of this large figure are highly venerated by all those in the lamasery. In the 4th courtyard stands the PAVILION OF 10,000 HAPPINESS, a triple-roof structure housing the standing image of Buddha in his Tibetan form.

In addition…time permitting…there’s also:


GREAT BELL TEMPLE: …housing an enormous bell from 1403.

YELLOW TEMPLE: …with its gold and white pagoda.

TEMPLE OF THE FIVE PAGODAS…Indian in style…dating from 1473. TEMPLE OF THE BIG BUDDHA…in ruins…Buddha is no longer there.

THE UNDERGROUND CITY: This huge labyrinth of tunnels under the city were built as shelter against a nuclear attack. You might be curious, but the smell of urine and “sewer gas” should be enough to keep you away…even if your guide wants to take you here. It’s best to wait outside and soak up the Beijing atmosphere.