BEIJING’S HISTORICAL JEWELS

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Published on September 04, 2019 with No Comments

Making your way to Beijing? Plan your trip to include the city’s best historical sites for an experience you won’t forget.

Words CLAUDIA ZEE

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THE FORBIDDEN CITY
China’s most significant attraction, the Forbidden City (also The Imperial Palace) traces its origins back to the Yuan Dynasty in the 13th century. With its scarlet walls and golden roofs, this beautiful 720,000 square metre palace was once home to 24 Ming and Qing Emperors. When here, visit the Meridian Gate, the Golden River Bridges (five richly decorated white marble bridges), The Hall of Preserving Harmony (functioned as the Emperor’s banquet hall), the Palace of Heavenly Purity and the Hall of Military Courage to recall the past glories of China’s imperial families.
TIP: Visit during the winter for the most beautiful scenery!

The SUMMER PALACE
For a different experience in Beijing that’s away from its usual hustle and bustle, it’s worth making a 15km drive to the Summer Palace. Said to be the best preserved imperial garden in the world and the largest of its kind still in existence in China, the beautiful Summer Palace was once the playground for emperors fleeing hot Chinese summers for cool breeze among trees. The palace with its huge lake and hilltop views offers a vast ground for exploring its temples, gardens, pavilions, bridges, courtyards and corridors. Do check out the Long Corridor that is decorated with a plethora of paintings or the Buddhist Temple of the Sea of Wisdom filled with effigies of Buddha. During warm weathers, pedal boats are available for rent – try to do a circuit along the Kunming Lake for the most gorgeous views.
TIP: There’s a lot to cover at the Summer Palace so plan to spend at least
half a day here.

THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA
Of course, no trip to Beijing is complete without visiting The Great Wall. And at just an hour away from Beijing, there’s no excuse not to go! With construction beginning as early as the 7th century B.C.E, The Great Wall was mostly expanded in the Ming Dynasty. Talk a walk along Badaling Pass, the first part of the Wall to be opened to tourists and immerse yourself in this impressive structure that still remain well preserved surrounded by dramatic scenery. Other less crowded sections include Juyongguan, Huanghuacheng, Jiankou, Mutianyu, Gubeikou, Jinshanling and Simatai.
TIP: It gets really busy at The Great Wall so plan your trip for an early arrival.Put on your most comfortable pair of hiking shoes too!

BEIHAI PARK
If you’ve made your way to the Forbidden Palace, then it’s worth to take a short 10-minute walk over to Beihai Park, one of the oldest surviving imperial gardens in Beijing. This beautiful open space is a grand sight to behold with its scenic lake, impressive gardens, ancient sculptures and traditional pavilions. It is said that the park was built because emperors were searching for a secret potion that was the elixir of life on three magic mountains on the sea – Penglai, Yingzhou and Fangzhang – where gods who lived there possessed the potion. Hence, Beihai Park was laid out in the form of one pool and three “mountains”.
TIP: Best time of the day to visit the park is in the morning where locals buzz about doing their exercises, singing and dancing!

THE TEMPLE OF HEAVEN
A place for worship for emperors in the Ming and Qing Dynasty, The Temple of Heaven is a cluster of Beijing’s most sacred buildings. Here, old temples and shrines are set out in two sections – one rectangular and the other semi-circular – to symbolise heaven and earth. Today, this sacrificial compound is where locals come early in the morning to do their exercises and get together for song and play. One of its wonders is the brightly decorated Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests erected using traditional Chinese architecture of wood and entirely without nails featuring a three-tier marble terrace and a roof covered with 50,000 blue glazed tiles. Visit the Echo Wall, which echoes even the quietest of voices.
TIP: Don’t miss the unique century-old trees that line the green lawn – some are over 600 years old!

HUTONG BEIJING
A hutong is a narrow lane in Beijing between traditional folk houses, and in the past, the city was filled with hundreds of them. Unfortunately due to city construction, many have been replaced by today’s modern streets. Now, no more than 1,000 remain in the old town and have been transformed into commercialised tourist attractions filled with street food stalls, souvenir shops, bars and a few shops selling goods to the locals. Still, they are worth a visit. Two main areas are the Shichahai and Bell/Drum Towers not far from The Forbidden City, and the Qianmen and Dashilar Area near Tiananmen Square. Take a stroll along the twisted lanes of these hutongs to explore the traditional homes for a feel of what it was like, or you can opt for the touristy thing to do which is to take a rickshaw to guide you for a special tour.
TIP: Want a different hutong tour? Rent a bike and peddle your way through
the lanes.

MING TOMBS
A UNESCO World Heritage, the Ming Tombs is one of the best-preserved imperial mausoleums in the world with 13 tombs from the Ming Dynasty. At present, only the Dingling Tomb, Changling Tomb and Zhaoling Tomb (‘ling’ here meaning ‘tomb’) are open to the public to go into the burial chambers to view unearthed precious relics and imperial coffins. Because the area is so vast, it is almost impossible to visit all (or even two!). Our recommendation? The Dingling Tomb is ideal if you have no problem with your knees as it requires some climbing down from the entrance while the Changling Tomb is for those who have some difficulty in walking.
TIP: There are different ticket prices for each tomb so be sure to check ahead.

 

Royal Brunei Airlines flies Shanghai 3x weekly for easy connections to Beijing. Discover things to do in Beijing in www.muhibah.com.bn

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