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The Great Wall,the Wall of 10,000 Li, is considered to be one of the most impressive structures in the world. It winds across deserts, valleys and mountains like a chain. It is said to be the only man- made structure visible from the moon.
Construction of the Great Wall started in the 7th century B.C. The vassal states under the Zhou Dynasty in the northern parts of the country each built their own walls for defence purpose. After the state of Qin unified China in 221 B.C., it joined the walls to hold off the invaders from the Xiongnu tribes in the north and extended them to more than 10,000 li or 5,000 kilometres.This is the origin of the name of the "10,000-li Great Wall".
The Great Wall was renovated from time to time after the Qin Dynasty. A major renovation started with the founding of the Ming Dynasty in 1368,and took 200 years to complete. The wall we see today is almost exactly the result of this efforts. With a total length of over 6,000 kilometres, it entends to the Jiayu Pass in Gansu Province in the west and to the mouth of the Yalu River in Liaoning Province in the east.
The Great Wall varies in height and breadth due to the specific conditions of the terrain. On Badaling mountain, it is about 7-8m high and 6-7m wide. The Wall is so wide that five horsemen or ten men can march along it abreast. There are gateways built at intervals along it inside from which the walk on top of the wall, paved with a triple layer of bricks, can be reached.
The wall was not only valuable as a defence system, it was also a significant theronghfare. Great masses of people could cover long distances through rough areas comparatively fast and comfortable, whereas otherwise transportation would have caused considerable problems.
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The Palace Museum, also called the Forbidden City, is one of the Country's most important sights, for it is a symbol of traditional China and likewise the biggest and best preserved masterpiece of Classical architecture.
The Forbidden City was completed in 1420 during the Ming Dynasty. It was the home of 24 emperors of the Ming and Qin dynasties. Naturally it was the scene of many important events affecting the course of Chinese history,including political struggles and palace coups,some of them extremely tragic.
The Forbidden City occupies a total space of more than 720, 000 square metres. It is surrounded by a moat of 50m wide and a wall 10.4m high with watch towers at each of the corners.The building in this palace complex are measured in 9,999.5 bays.The surrounding palace walls are 10 metres high and have a total length of 3,400 metres,and are protected by a 52-metre-wide moat. The Forbidden City consists of two parts, the Outer Court and the Inner Court.The Outer Court centres around the Hall of Supreme Harmony,the Midway Hall of Harmony and the Hall of preserved Harmony,which are flanked by the hall of Literary Glory and the Hall of Military Prowess.The Inner Court centres around the Hall of Celestial Purity,the Hall of Union and Peace and the Hall of Terrestrial Transquility,which are flanked by the Six East Palaces and the Six West Palaces. The layout is orderly and symmetrical.
Every year millions of Chinese and foreigners throng to the huge palace grounds to see the treasures and precious objects, power and splendor abundance and extravagance of former emperors.
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The Temple of Heaven is located in the southeastern part of Beijing. This compound is one of the largest parks in the city, covering 273 hectares,two times the size of the Palace Museum.The Temple of Heaven was built in 1420.Emperors of the Ming and Qin dynasties came here to pray for a good harvest in spring and for rain in summer, and to offer sacrifices to heaven in winter.
A bird's view shows that the park can be devided into a northern and a southern section.The northern,semi-circular section corresponds to the old Chinese image of a vault-shaped heaven. The southern, square section symbolizes earth. Three important structures,laid out on a north-south axis,can be viewed: to the north the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest, south of it, the Imperial vault of Heaven and southernmost Circular Mound Altar. Each year the emperor came here at the time of the winter solstice in his capacity as the Son of Heaven to pray for a good harvest and to render homage to the heavens. This tradition was kept up until the fall of the dynasty in 1911.Yuan Shikai was the last one to hold a ceremony here in 1913.
The Temple of Heaven is composed of Western Heavenly Gate, Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests,Imperial Vault of Heaven, Echo Wall, Circular Mound Altar, Hall of Abstinence and East Gate.
On the national coat of arms of the People's Republic of China, theTian'anmen Gate is represented as the symbol of the revolutionary new China. Tian'anmen Gate is located north of Tian'anmen Square and leads to the Forbidden City. It was built as early as 1417 and mentioned as the main gate of the former Imperial Palace, Chengtian Men. The gate is surrounded by a ring-moat,the Golden Water Spring,which was arranged to guard the Imperial Palace.The 33.7-metre-high Tian'anmen Gate was used by the emperor for grand ceremonies, for the lauching of military expeditions under his personal command, and for his royal wedding. Imperial edicts were issued from the gatertower.In front of the entire complex stand two ornamental columns with carved decorations on the white marble.They are symbols of heavenly peace and the emperor's authority.
Tian'anmen Square was originally designed in 1651;it was cemented and quadrupled in size in 1958.Now it covers an area of 40.5 hectares and can hold up to one million people;thus,it is one of the largest public square in the world.It is surrounded by several impressive structures. The oldest of these is the Tian'anmen Gate to the north. To the east are the Museums of Chinese History and Revolutionary,to the west the Great Hall of the People and to the south the Chairman Mao Memorial Hall and the Qianmen Gate.In the middle of the square is the Monument of the People's Heroes.Tian'anmen Square has often been the scene of big demonstrations,mass meetings, parades and celebrations since it was built.
The Summer Palace,Garden of Harmonious Unity,lies in a northwestern suburb of Beijing. This is one of the largest and best preserved Imperial Chinese gardens;it is an outstanding example of classical Chinese garden landscaping.Man-made Kunming Lake,Longevity Hill,the man -made hills as well as halls,pavilions and temples blend harmoniouslyinspite of their individual styles.
The emperor of the Jin Dynasty laid the foundation stone in 1153 and he had Garden of the Golden Water laid out.During the coming eras, the garden and lake were again enlarged and deepened. Under the Qianlong Emperor,Large-scale work was done,and the park was made its present size of 290 hectares.Three-fourths of it are taken up by Kunming Lake. Since the Qianlong period ,the garden has been called Garden of Clear Ripples.As the imperial family spent most of the hot summer months here, the palace was soon called the Summer Palace.
The design gives prominence to the Longevity Hill and Kunming Lake. The buildings are measured in over 3,000 bays.
Yuanming Garden lies on the northwestern outskirts of the city, north of Beijing University and only 500m from the Summer Palace. It was built during the Qing Dynasty over a period of 150 years and included three gardens: Yuanming Yuan, Changchun Yuan and Qichun Yuan. They were laid out seperately, yet in a way so that they complement each other harmoniously. The area covered about 340 hectares. The peaks of the Western hills formed the background; the hills and lakes were man-made. Countless springs flowed, feeding small canals winding their way through lovely valleys. White marble bridges spanned the water here and there. +Palaces stood amidst emerald green woods; so did halls, pavilions and temples. Some of them linked by covered walkways.
The three-in-one garden was considered a masterpiece of Chinese gardening. In 1860, however, the allied forces of Great Britain and France reduced it to cinders within ten days. After the most valuable treasures had been stolen, the whole complex was turned over to plundering soldiers and finally went up in flames. Only a few scattered ruins of the Xiyang Lou, the European-style Building, can be seen-a portal, a stone turtle, etc.
Lama Temple (Lamasery of Harmony and Peace) , one of the best preserved temples in Beijing,is one of the most important attractions of the city. This complex, dating back to 1694, used to be the palace in which the son and successor of the Kangxi Emperor lived. It was converted into a lamasery in 1744. The lama temple, built on a north-south axis, has been preserved until today. The temple still houses a small group of Lamaist monks, young and old, who also manage the complex. The lama temple is devided into five important halls: Hall of the Celestial Guardians, Yonghe Gong Dian, Yongyou Dian, the Hall of the Dharma Wheel and the Tower of Infinite Happiness.
The Thirteen Ming Tombs are located in the hills 50 kilometres to the northwest of Beijing. Construction of the tombs started in 1409 and ended with the fall of the Ming Dynasty in 1644. In over 200 years tombs were built over an area of 40 square kilometres, which is surrounded by walls totaling 40 kilometres. Each tomb is located at the foot of a separate hill and and is linked with the other tombs by a road called the Sacred Way.
This site was chosen with the greatest of care and the assistance of geomancers. This particular part of the country, one of the most beautiful around Beijing, with its lovely valley, hills, woods and many springs, met the expectations of the emperor and his officials.
Thirteen of the 16 Ming emperors and their wives and second wives are buried here. The thirteen tombs are Dingling Tomb, Zhaoling Tomb, Siling Tomb,Yongling Tomb, Deling Tomb, Jingling Tomb, Changling Tomb, Qingling Tomb, Yuling Tomb, Maoling Tomb, Kangling Tomb,Xianling Tomb and Tailing Tomb.
There are three lakes west of the Imperial Palace: Beihai, the North Lake, Zhonghai, the Central Lake, and Nanhai, the South Lake.
The history of Beihai Park goes back more than 800 years. In the 10th century, an imperial residence was built here. When Beijing became the capital of the Yuan Dynasty, the first Yuan emperor, Kublai Khan, had the park splendidly designed. The large picturesque stones on the park grounds were brought here from the Imperial Garden of the Northern Song Capital, Kaifeng.
In 1651, the White Pagoda was built on the site of the ruins of Guanghan Palace which had been destroyed by an earthquake. Main attractions in Beihai Park are Round City, Jade Flower Island, White Pagoda,Wanfo Lou Tower, Nine-Dragon Wall , Iron Screen, Xiao Xitian Pavilion,and Chengguang Dian,etc.
Other attractions in Beijing City and its surburbs worth visiting are: the White Pagoda Temple, the Eight Great Sights of the Western Hills ( Chang'an Temple, Lingguang Temple, Sanshang Nunnery, Dabei Temple, Dragon King Hall, Xiangjie Temple, Pearl Cave and Zhenguo Temple) , Fragrant Hills Park,the Temple of the Sleeping Buddha, Cherry Vale, Juma River,Longqing Gorge,Reed Gully Bridge ( Marco Polo Bridge) and Stone Flower Cave, etc.
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