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Beijing


Today Beijing is the capital of China. With 14 million inhabitants Beijing is the second largest city in China, after Shanghai. During Chinese history Beijing was not always the capital of China, but often. Beijing exists since about 1000 BC. During the Warring States Period (481 BC - 221 BC) Beijing became the capital of Yan. Later Beijing was one of the capitals of the Liao Dynasty (907 - 1125). It was a Mongolian dynasty which ruled parts of presentday North China. After the Jurchens conquered North China and founded the Jin Dynasty (1115 - 1234) Beijing became one of the capitals of the Jin Dynasty. When the Mongols conquered whole China and Kubilai Khan founded the Yuan Dynasty (1279 - 1368) Beijing became the capital of China and from this on Beijing became very famous. At the beginning of the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644) Zhu Yuan Zhang moved the capital to Nanjing. Zhu Di (Yongle), who became emperor in 1403, moved the captial again to Beijing. Until today Beijing is the capital of China. The Chinese name Beijing means "Northern Capital" and the name Nanjing means "Southern Capital". Through the long imperial tradition of this city Beijing is well structured. In the center of Beijing there is the Forbidden City which is surrounded by the Imperial City and the Imperial City is surrounded by the Inner City. In the south of this complex there is the Outer City. Today Beijing is much bigger. Except the Forbidden City there are many other objects of interest in Beijing. In the south of the Forbidden City there is the Gate of Heavenly Peace. Next to it there is the biggest public place in the world (440,000 m2) - the Tiananmen Square (Square of Heavenly Peace). It is situated in the Inner City. In June 1989 many students who demonstrated on the Tiananmen Square for democracy were shot down. In the south, in the Outer City, there is the Temple of Heaven. Since the origin of the People's Republic of China in 1949 Beijing was modernized. In former times Beijing had got a city wall, but it was pulled down during the modernization. The Monument to the People's Heroes, the Museum of Chinese History and the Museum of Chinese Revolution, the Great Hall of the People and the Mao Mausoleum were built at the Tiananmen Square.


The Forbidden City


The most interesting thing in Beijing is the Forbidden City. The Ming Emperor Zhu Di (Yongle) let build this imperial palace and in 1421 it was ready. With a surface of 720,000 m2 it is the biggest palace in the world. Until 1911 the emperors of the Ming Dynasty and the Qing Dynasty reigned the Chinese Empire from the Forbidden City. Ordinary citizens were not allowed to enter the Forbidden City and this is the reason for its name. The walls of the buildings are red and the roofs are yellow. The yellow color of the roofing tiles is imperial yellow which was only for the emperor. In the center of the Forbidden City there is the highest building and it is the Hall of Supreme Harmony. In this building there is the imperial Dragon Throne. The Forbidden City is very symmetrical. All important buildings in the Forbidden City are on a central north-south axis. The Hall of Supreme Harmony, the Hall of Medium Harmony and the Hall of Preserving Harmony are together on a stone platform and so they are situated higher than the other buildings in the Forbidden City. In the south of the Forbidden City there is the Meridian Gate - the main entrance to the Forbidden City. In the north of the Forbidden City there is a garden with bizarre rocks and pavilions. The Forbidden City is surrounded by a water ditch. Today the Forbidden City is a museum which can be visited.

Meridian Gate
The Meridian Gate

Forbidden City
The Forbidden City


The Great Wall


In its expansion the Great Wall (Chinese: chang cheng) is unsurpassed. In the Qin Dynasty (221 BC - 206 BC) the Chinese began to build a wall to repel attacks from the north. It was a good idea, because during Chinese history the aggressors often came from the north. The wall which exists today was built in the 15th century during the time of the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644). In this time the Great Wall was about 9000 km long and today it is 6000 km long. The height of the Wall is different. It is between 4 m and 12 m. The Wall is 6 m wide. Every 200 m there is a tower. When it came to a fight at the Wall this message was shown with fire or smoke signals from one tower to the next tower until the emperor was informed. In some places there are also bigger bastions which are not built plain, but with typical Chinese roofs. The Great Wall is in many sceneries of China. It is in the north of Beijing, but also in the Gobi Desert and in the mountains. When the Great Wall was built and during the fights many people died. There was also trade over the Great Wall. In the west the Great Wall begins at the Jiayuguan Pass and in the east the Great Wall begins close to Shanhaiguan. The inscription on the fortress of Shanhaiguan means "The First Gate on Earth".

Great Wall
The Great Wall

Great Wall
The Great Wall


The Temple of Heaven


The Temple of Heaven is a few kilometres south to the Forbidden City. The Ming Emperor Zhu Di (builder of the Forbidden City) let build the Temple of Heaven in 1420. In the north of this temple there is the highest and most interesting building - the Hall of Annual Prayer. It is a 38 m high and circular building with a roof with three levels. It was built in 1420 and it is the oldest building in the Temple of Heaven. Further south there is the House of Heavenly Lord. It is also a circular building, but smaller and with only one roof. The roofs of the Hall of Annual Prayer and of the House of Heavenly Lord consists of dark-blue glazed tiles. In the House of Heavenly Lord and in the buildings besides there were important boards for the sacrifice ceremonies. The House of Heavenly Lord is surrounded by the Echo Wall. When somebody says something inside the Echo Wall everyone who is also inside the Echo Wall can hear it. In the south of the Temple of Heaven is the Altar of Heaven. It is a circular marble terrace with three levels. On the Altar of Heaven the emperor made sacrifices for the Heaven. The House of Heavenly Lord and the Altar of Heaven were built in 1530. Like in the Forbidden City all important buildings in the Temple of Heaven are on a central north-south axis.

Temple of Heaven
The Temple of Heaven


The Summer Palace


In the 18th century Emperor Qianlong let build this palace. In 1860, during the 2nd Opium War the Summer Palace was destroyed. In 1888 Empress Dowager Cixi let rebuild the Summer Palace. Cixi used this palace as a summer residence. A lake, the Kunming Lake, also belongs to this palace. The architecture is typical Chinese with curved roofs. On a small mountain there is the Pavilion of the Fragrance of Buddha. There is also a Marble Boat in the Summer Palace. It was built by Emperor Qianlong and Cixi extended it. The 17 Arch Bridge which is 150 m long and consists of white marble is also interesting. The Old Summer Palace was destroyed in 1860 and not rebuilt. The Old Summer Palace had got many architectural elements from European art.

Summer Palace
A Gate in the Summer Palace

Marble Boat
The Marble Boat in the Summer Palace


The Lama Temple


The Lama Temple is the biggest Tibetan temple in Beijing. Tibetan Buddhism is one of the main directions of Buddhism. In 1694 Emperor Kangxi let build this temple, but it was not planned that it should become a temple. Except some Tibetan elements the architecture of the Lama Temple is Chinese and not Tibetan. Many inscriptions and historical descriptions in this temple are written in Chinese, in Manchurian, in Tibetan and in Mongolian. In this temple there are also some Tibetan prayer wheels. The highest building in this temple is the Pavilion of Ten Thousand Happinesses which contains a Buddha which is 18 m high.

Lama Temple
The Lama Temple

Lama Temple
The Lama Temple


The Thirteen Ming Tombs


The Ming Emperor Zhu Di (builder of the Forbidden City) let build the Thirteen Ming Tombs. They are situated north of Beijing. All, except three, emperors of the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644) are buried here. The Spirit Way leads to the Ming Tombs. On the left and on the right side of the Spirit Way there are stone figures of civil officials, military officials, horses, lions, elephants and camels. Behind this way there is a valley with the Ming Tombs. These tombs are imperial tombs and so the color of the roofs is imperial yellow. Zhu Di (Yongle) is buried in the Chang Ling Tomb. Another tomb which is kept good is the Ding Ling Tomb of Emperor Wanli. It was built between 1584 and 1590. Archaeologists opened the tomb of Wanli. It consists of 5 rooms and it is 27 m underground.

Ding Ling Tomb
The Ding Ling Tomb

Spirit Way
A military official on the Spirit Way


Author and Webmaster: Lukas Czarnecki

If you have got questions about Beijing you can send me an e-mail under the following adress:
webmaster@hpwt.de

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Last Update: 03.08.2006