FROM old ruins to royal palaces to the
world´s largest steel structure,
The first thing any taxi driver
will tell tourists is that
It started out at the present
Guanganmen, Xuanwu District in 1040 BC. It was
called Zhongdu (Central City) during the Jin Dynasty (1115-1234) and Dadu (
It was renamed Beiping or Northern
Peace during the Ming Dynasty. And like its name that keeps on changing, the
city keeps morphing into something new. You cannot savour all of
Even with two trips, I could not
fulfil my goal to thoroughly see the
You may need more than a month if you want to take a good look at the city´s past and present.
Be that as it may, I managed to compile my choices of top
things to do in
the ruins of the Yuan Ming Yuan or
Entrance fee: about RM7.50
Though it lies in ruins, Yuan Ming Yuan is a must-visit because it was the residence of Emperor Qiang Long (1736-1795) of the Ching Dynasty whom I admire the most.
In his life time, he wrote some 42,000 poems and was responsible in bringing Chinese literature to a new level.
Here, I learn the history of the Manchurians which were a nomadic tribe that succeeded in subjugating the Chinese in 1644.
The nomads, suddenly thrust in the world of literature, music and poetry found they had a lot of catching up to do and were drowned in the best of what the Chinese culture had to offer.
The Manchu rulers were able to advance whatever they wanted because the Chinese imperial coffers were richest during the early part of the dynasty.
Yuan Ming Yuan, once dubbed the garden of gardens in the West, was built by the best Chinese artisans, builders and palace designers over more than 100 years.
It had only one aim: to turn the sights and scenes extolled in Chinese poetry and classics into reality.
At the height of its development, Yuan Ming Yuan had some 6,000 structures including halls, pavilions, temples, galleries, gardens, manmade lakes and hills.
There were also European-style palaces (Xi Yang Lou) of stones designed by the Jesuits Giuseppe Castiglione and Michel Benoist.
Qiang Long also built a park with Islamic architecture to please his favourite concubine who was a Muslim so that she could feel at home in Yuan Ming Yuan.
It was looted and partially destroyed by the British and French forces during the second Opium War in the 1860s. It was completely destroyed in 1900 during the Eight-Nation Alliance invasion.
You can see a model of Yuan Ming Yuan in a little museum standing among the ruins here.
2. See the
Location: Olympic Green.
Entrance fee: RM25
No visit to
Standing opposite the Bird Nest is the National Aquatics Centre or Water Cube, a rectangular scaly blue structure which is temporarily closed.
The Bird´s Nest, the largest steel structure in the world has played host to the Olympics and the 2008 Summer Paralympics.
It served as the grounds for athletic events and the football final of the Beijing Olympics.
The Bird´s Nest still echoed the proud moment of the Chinese people with the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games by President Hu Jintao being replayed on a large screen during visiting hours.
There is also a gallery featuring many life-size Madame Tussaud wax images of the various Olympic International Committee Presidents. There is also a large souvenir shop where you can buy all things related to the Olympics.
Location: West of the Olympic Green.
Entrance fee: RM30 (
It is lesser known than the other attractions but the China Nationalities Museum is really worth a visit because it is a lively place with ethnic songs and dances being performed everyday for tourists.
The museum that won the Prize for Protecting Ethnic Buildings at the Organisation Committee of World Conference of Architects in 1998 features 44 ethnic villages and 200 ethnic buildings.
It is huge and you need to set aside a few days to complete the museum! Each of the 56 nationalities here is represented through their unique abodes, places of worship as well as the interesting household utensils and gadgets that they use.
Also displayed are some boats painted bright red. The Dong ethnic group builds better-looking pagodas and bridges than the Han Chinese and these can be seen at the museum.
The more familiar ethnic groups found here are the Korean, Miao, Mongolian and Tibetan while the lesser-known includes the Bonan (sounds like our Punans), Dai (who are actually Thai), Salar, Wa and Daur.
Walking through the park feels like home to me because a lot of the houses and people share similar characteristics with Malaysians and Indonesians.
One group even has totem poles
crafted with figures of their gods like those in
I also meet a Wah girl who resembles a Malay. The Wah, like the Minangkabaus, hang buffalo skulls at the fore of their houses.
The museum´s website describes the premise as a base to preserve the cultural heritage of the different ethnic groups and a place where people can exchange ideas and learn about each other.
Location: Adjacent to the
Entrance fee: RM1.50
Though most tourists may not visit
this unassuming park, I did because of my curiosity with Dr Sun Yat Sen, the
father of modern
Chinese emperors also came here to pray at the altar of the Gods of Land and Grain for good harvest. You would be greeted by Sun´s large statue at the entrance.
There are a few other things worth watching out for here. One is the Green
Lotus rock, brought from southern
It carried his inscriptions in Chinese Green Lotus. There is also a strange intertwining
Location: No. 12,
Entrance fee: RM12.50
The largest Tibetan Buddhist
The most interesting sections of
the old temples are the exotic and sacred statues of Tibetan Buddhism. They
were sent as gifts from
Among the great treasures here are the congregation of 500 Luohan statues made of red sandalwood and the Maitreiya Buddha, of white sandalwood.
6. Walk in
Location: No. 1,
Wenjin St. Xicheng District,
Entrance fee (April to Oct): RM5
You will see how northern Chinese gardens exude grandeur while the southern ones charms with grace and refinement especially with the use of plants and trees. Beihai also features a lake, palace buildings and temples, among others.
Quanjude has been serving
The size of the restaurant is huge with 40 banqueting halls and can fit more than 2,000 guests. The golden hall on the fourth floor is worth taking a look as it is constructed with strong national characteristics exuding gracefulness.
Entrance fee: RM17.50
This is the largest temple
9. Take a
ride on the
Cost per ride: only RM1
You can go to
most tourist spots in
The subway workers are very obliging so it is easy to get help. One drawback is that they electronically screen your bags for dangerous objects before you enter the train.
The Beijing Subway was opened in 1971 and now service some four million rides a day. The network now has 147 stations and nine lines totalling 228km of tracks.
10. Explore the
Entrance fee: RM20
A visit to
Of course, you won´t miss the
picture of Mao Tse Tung, the founder of
The main palace buildings through the centre of the park here are divided into the outer and inner courts.
The outer courts, known as the Taihe, Zhonghe and Baohe, were where the emperors worked and met with officials during rituals and ceremonies.
The inner courts - Qianging, Jiaotai and Kunning - were where the emperors lived and handled day to day work.
One interesting view was the royal wedding beds.
The palace monument ends with the royal garden at the rear, a place where the royal family enjoyed nature but also where concubines were picked.
The garden is filled with cypresses, pines, pavilions, rock art and plum trees. I was lucky when I was there as the plum trees were in full bloom.
The left and right wings of the court buildings have been turned into exhibition centres where royal art and craft are exhibited.
They include rare paintings, calligraphy, canopies, musical instruments, weapons, jade as well as large art objects in gold.
Source : New Straits Times – 8 April 2010