Beijing has always had a special place in heart because of the closeness of my family on my late grandfather’s side, and I am frequently reminded of the lifestyle that my grandfather and his brother and their family lived in Beijing. The hospitality, culture and traditions they shown me throughout the years is beyond imaginable. When coming to Beijing, it is best to see it through a local’s eyes. As a politically driven city and the capital of China, the grandeur and openness that Beijing shows to the world can still be seen through its many traditions. To an outsider looking in, there may be some attractions that stand apart, but upon closer inspection, there are so many characteristics that make this city distinctive - its tenacity and openness. In this article, I hope to expose some of the lingering traditions of this city with over 2000 years of history. Beijing as a city has changed significantly in last 20 years, along with China as a whole, bringing with it incredible inequality and inequality, but I want to remember the incredible memories I have in the parks, areas of relaxation and meditation, and Beijing’s heart.
We may know that Beijing was not the most recent capital of China, but it has been the capital in recent times. Beijing has hosted the 2008 Olympic Games, and became a platform for China on the world stage in 1990s. With over 2000 years of history, this historic capital has been China’s capital during the Ming Dynasty and a key figure of the emperors through all major decisions in the countries history, most notably known to be a key strategic player in defence because of its strategic location located in the north of China.
Top Experiences to Have:
1. Walking the Great Wall
The Great Wall is of the 8 Wonders of the World, and is a no-brainer when visiting China. One can only imagine that the purpose of this great wall was to keep out Mongolian invaders, however today is a tourist attraction that even has a roller coaster in the form of a slide. There are several different entrance ways to the Great Wall, depending on whether you want to hike more elevation, or stay to the popular areas of the Wall. However, the most popular section of the Wall is located at Mutinayu,as this is the most restored section constructed during the Ming Dynasty. The elevation is in no way high, but remember to pack water as you explore this vast section, especially during the summer. Located on the outskirts of Beijing, you will notice the vastness of northern China.
2. Forbidden City
The Forbidden City contains many famous imperial palaces and was home to all 14 emperors of the Ming Dynasty. It became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987, and the vastness and openness of the various palaces leaves you breathless at the timeless Chinese architecture. There are more than 90 palaces in the Forbidden Palace, with the structure specially designed to be enclosed to give added security during the early times of outside intruders. During many Chinese movies which tried to film the intricacies of this era, you can see how intruders tried to break into the Forbidden City, only to be shut down by city guards. One of the strikingly details is of the fengshui architecture, as you will notice that everything is planned accordingly to axial symmetry, an architectural planning style preferred in Beijing for many buildings.
Tiananmen Square is a city square located in the heart of Beijing that was built during the Ming Dynasty. Portraits of Mao can still be seen all over the plaza, as one can gauge the significance of his reign. Mao's influence can still be seen today in the small towns and villages scattered all over rural China, attesting to his cult of personality. It was the site of several important events in history, including the notorious Tiananmen Square Massacre. Despite the politics that have played its course here, it is a important square to visit to understand history in the context of Beijing and China.Today, you will witness different art shows scattered around the plaza.
3. Summer Palace (颐和园)
The Summer Palace is a more touristy areas than Behai Park, and is known to be distinctive in photos with its 17 hole bridge surrounding the famous Kunming Lake. Inside, there are many attractions including gardens, specific streets modified to reflect varying cities in China including Suzhou street and others. There have been many movies, poems, and articles about the famous Summer Palace because of the harmonious balance of utilizing the landscape of the lake and the hills, while combining traditional Chinese elements such as hills, gardens and other artificial elements. Also featured on UNESCO’s world heritage site for outstanding universal value, the Summer Palace is a creation to check out for its legacy to Beijing’s historic value as a modern nation. A more recent royal palace built in the 1970s, its legacy carries on today. In the background of the photo below, you can catch a glimpse of the famous 17 hole bridge among the background of Kunming Lake.
3. Behai Park(北海公园 )and Hutongs
If shown to this park by locals, you definitely discover the hidden treasures of the families who lived in the hutongs. Behai Park is one of the most scenic parks in the Beijing District, with little kids flying kites on the plaza and small motor boats along the water. Ancient style boats and gardens lie in this park, making it the perfect retreat for a peaceful retreat away from the city centre. The Hutongs are famous in district , as is the region of Shichahai, located in the northwest of Beijing and is famous for the historical buildings such as Prince Gong’s Mansion and others. Locals will regard this park as the true royal palace and Beijing's royal park, as Behai Park was constructed in the 10th century, adding to its historical depth.This 10th century park and the surrounding gardens are the perfect place for your next relaxation and history lesson.
4. Olympic Legacy - Birds Nest & Water Cube
Explore Beijing’s claim to fame and the legacy of 2008 Olympic Games at the expansive buildings built for the Olympics, the Bird’s Nest and Water Cube at the huge Olympic Park. Located in the Chaoyang district of Beijing, this exciting park contains many legacies including the Ling Long Pagoda, Beijing Olympic Tower, National Aquatics centre and more.
5. CCTV Beijing Tower
I was fortunate enough to tour the CCTV Beijing Tower, offering a glass ceiling view of the city below. This City Tower was built in a Deconstructive style, allowing for a minimalist approach to radio and TV operations in the heart of the city. Also located close to the Olympic Oval in the Chaoyang district and the Central Business District, this 51 story skyscraper rises above the Beijing traffic, highlighting its radical shape and design among the other skyscrapers.
6. Beijing Duck
Several places in Beijing are known to have have perfected the traditional Beijing roast duck, starting in Beijing and expanding around the world, including the famous Quan Ju De. The duck is known to be a sacred animal, and savouring itself is an costly experience, but definitely one to savour. The locals here are most likely to favour 大董 (DaDong), a renowned restaurant in Beijing with several locations, and one that I tried and highly recommend.
Chelsea Reviews : 4/5
Beijing is definitely a powerhouse of a city on the world stage, and no one understands this city better than the people who inhabit it. From dining upon tradition Peking Duck and walking among the hutongs, to discovering the new districts of art and culture, there are many pursuits to do in Beijing, China’s capital and heart. Known for their open and gregarious hospitality in China, the locals in Beijing are openminded, dedicated and educated on international culture and customs, while simultaneously proud of their city and how far it has come throughout the years, proud of their local customs and historic value that only increases in value.