Beijing is the ancient and modern day capital of China. The capital is a sprawling metropolis with a unique blend of the ancient and modern. Interspersed and surrounding the Capital, are the monumental historical sights, which enable visitors to experience the ancient past of China's people, culture, and incredible history spanning 5,000 years.
The Forbidden City offers the visitor the opportunity to venture forth onto the palace grounds, once reserved for the imperial family, officials, and the hundreds of servants required to serve the family and maintain the palace and its 250 acres with more than 800 buildings and 9,000 rooms. The City was so named because it was forbidden for any commoner to enter the City, and to look upon the face of the Emperor. The city-within-a-city was the residence to 24 Ming and Qing emperors, and one can see the well-preserved buildings, classical gardens, and museum, which houses the treasures of the emperor. The City with its saffron tiled roofs and crimson walls stands as a testament to China's past.
On the northern outskirts of Beijing, lies one of the greatest feats of human ingenuity, the Great Wall. The Great Wall is one of the Eight Wonders of the World. Construction commenced in the 7th century BC by Emperor Qin Shihuang, the first emperor to unify China. The purpose of the Wall was to protect China from invaders. The Wall's engineering excellence, not only prevented invasion, but ensured its viability over time. The Wall spans an incredible 4,000 miles, and can be seen from outer space.
The Ming Tombs, located in Northern Beijing, are the final resting place to 13 emperors from the Ming Dynasty. The expansive complex of tombs covers 13 hillsides of a large mountain valley. The entrance to the tombs is the Sacred Way, which is lined with massive stone figures of animals and people. The main tomb of Emperor Wanli (1562 - 1620AD) is a prime example of the grandeur of the Ming Dynasty and the lives of the imperial family. The tombs and well-preserved artifacts buried with the emperors depict the resplendence and luxury of the times.
In the southern sector of Beijing, is one of the finest examples of Ming architecture and one of the most photographed buildings in the world, the Temple of Heaven. The Temple's main building is the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, where each emperor prayed for plentiful crops. The round hall has triple eaves and a cone-shaped azure tiled roof crowned with a golden sphere. Surrounding the hall is a three- tiered circular stone terrace, each accented by a balustrade of white lattice carved marble.
Bordering the northwestern sector of Beijing, is the enchanting Summer Palace. The Summer Palace sits atop Longevity Hill and overlooks the placid Kunming Lake, which was designed to be part of an immense garden. At the foot of Longevity Hill is a 728 meter long covered passage way, which is decorated with paintings. At the west end of the passage lies the 36 meter Marble Boat, which has been delicately hand carved from marble. The palace grounds are dotted with magnificent and colorful archways, pavilions, and a full replica of a commercial district, Suzhou Street, which depicts the life of the times. The visitor can behold the art of the classical Chinese Garden on a grand scale.
Surrounding the ancient sites of Beijing are the modern "monuments" to China's progression into the new millennium. Modern skyscrapers reach for the sky. The City hustles and bustles with commerce. The streets are filled with quaint shops of beautiful ancient crafts, and those of a new world - designer boutiques. In every sector of the City, the visitor is welcomed to the exotic and modern aspects of a country, which has been ever evolving for 5000 years to keep abreast with the times