Beijing, China History and things to do


Up to now, there has been a recorded history of over 3000 years and it has developed prosperously. Evidence of human ancestry dating back to 700,000 years ago has been found in such places as Zhoukoudian in the southwest part of Beijing, where the remains known as 'Peking Man' were found.

While the city's origins can be traced back to over 2,000 years ago, its true significance came about in the early years of the Western Zhou Dynasty (11th century BC-771 BC). During this time the emperor gave the feudal lords under his rule plots of land. One of these plots of land (or feod), called 'Ji City', was the capital of the kingdom 'Ji' at that time. This city was the earliest in Beijing history. By the time of the Eastern Zhou Period (476 BC-221 BC), the kingdom Ji no longer existed, being replaced by the kingdom 'Yan'. However, Ji was still the capital city at that time.

From the time the Emperor Qin Shi Huang unified China in the year 221 BC, Beijing became a strategic place and local kaiserdom center in the northern part of China. From the year 581 to 618 (Sui Dynasty), Beijing was called 'Zhuo' and had a population of 130,000 people. From 618 to 907 (Tang Dynasty), Beijing was called 'You'. During these two dynasties, it was not only a strategic military place but also the major trade center.

In the year 938 of Liao Dynasty (916-1125), the city became the alternate capital of the kingdom of 'Liao' which was founded by the minority ethnic group Qidan who lived in the northeast of China. Because Beijing of that time was located in the south part of their kingdom, it was renamed 'Nanjing' (in Chinese, 'Nan' means 'in the south place').

In 1115, the Nvzhen ethnic nationality perished the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127) to set up the Jin Dynasty (265-420) and founded its capital Beijing, which was called Zhongdu of Jin. The golden Imperial Palace, an extremely grand luxurious construction, was established in Zhongdu at that time. This was the first time in Beijing history that the city became a truly significant capital. The world-famous Marco Polo Bridge (Lugou Bridge) was built at that time during the Jin Dynasty.

In 1267 Kublai Khan, the leader of the Mongolian ethnic minority, gave an order to construct a new city in the northeast suburbs of Zhongdu. Four years later, Kublai Khan, ascending the emperor's throne in the new city, under construction at that time, established the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368). The building of the city was finished in 1276 and became the capital of the Yuan Dynasty. The Italian traveler Marco Polo wrote in his travel notes that he considered it to be the 'incommensurable city even in the world'.

The current name 'Beijing' comes from more than 500 years ago during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). In 1403, Zhu Di captured the throne. After that, he moved the former capital to Beiping and then changed its name to Beijing. In 1406, the Ming Dynasty reconstructed Beijing city. The original imperial palace built during the Yuan Dynasty had been burned down during the time when Zhu Yuanzhang overthrew the Yuan Dynasty. The imperial palace reconstructed in the Ming Dynasty is the Forbidden City at present in Beijing. The construction, design, structure and other aspects of this building epitomize the excellent quality of Chinese architecture in ancient times.

After the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) immediately seized hold of Beijing, the city was called 'Shuntian Prefectural Capital'. During this period, the botanical garden was constructed. The Summer Palace, Old Summer Palace and many other botanical gardens were built at that time. The Summer Palace, that has the beautiful views of rivers and lakes characteristic of small towns of northern China, has retained its appearance. On October 10, 1911, the Bourgeois Democracy Revolution erupted in China, and in next year's February, the emperor of Qing Dynasty was forced to announce his abdication thus ended the last Chinese feudal dynasty and the history of Beijing as the imperial capital was over.

As the important gateway of China, Beijing was military land and the scene of many battles in Chinese history. The chaos caused by war was continuous and the sovereignty of the city was changed many times, making Beijing a city which has undergone much balefulness and adversity.

On October 1, 1949, the People's Republic of China was established and Beijing once again became the newborn capital of China. The history of the old city had turned a new page. A city's history is the history of a country. As the imperial capital city of several generations and today's capital of China, Beijing is the miniature of Chinese history and present actuality. Beijing is an archaic city with 3,000 years' brilliant civilization but simultaneously is also a city that glows with beauty and youth. Now Beijing is appearing in the world in its grand, lovely, fresh and modernized guise, and changing with each passing day.

Nowadays Beijing is the second largest Chinese city by urban population after Shanghai and is the nation’s political, cultural and educational center. It is home to the headquarters of most of China’s largest state-owned companies, and is a major hub for the national highway, expressway, railway and high-speed rail networks. The Beijing Capital International Airport is the second busiest in the world by passenger traffic.

In economy, Beijing is among the most developed cities in China, with tertiary industry accounting for 73.2% of its gross domestic product. Beijing has 41 Fortune Global 500 companies and is only second to Tokyo. There are also over 100 of the largest companies of China in Beijing. Finance is one of the most important industries. By the end of 2007, there were 751 financial organizations in Beijing generating revenue of 128.6 billion RMB, 11.6% of the total financial industry revenue of the entire country. That also accounts for 13.8% of Beijing's GDP, the highest percentage of any Chinese city. The Beijing central business district (CBD), centered on the Guomao area, has been identified as the city's new central business district, and is home to a variety of corporate regional headquarters, shopping precincts, and high-end housing. Beijing Financial Street, in the Fuxingmen and Fuchengmen area, is a traditional financial center. The Wangfujing and Xidan areas are major shopping districts. Zhongguancun, dubbed "China's Silicon Valley", continues to be a major center in electronics and computer-related industries, as well as pharmaceuticals-related research. Meanwhile, Yizhuang, located to the southeast of the urban area, is becoming a new center in pharmaceuticals, information technology, and materials engineering. Shijingshan, on the western outskirts of the city, is among the major industrial areas. Specially designated industrial parks include Zhongguancun Science Park, Yongle Economic Development Zone, Beijing Economic-technological Development Area, and Tianzhu Airport Industrial Zone.

Agriculture is carried on outside the urban area, with wheat and maize (corn) being the main crops. Vegetables are also grown closer to the urban area in order to supply the city.

Beijing is an important transport hub in North China with five ring roads, nine expressways, eleven National Highways, nine conventional railways, and two high-speed railways converging on the city.

Beijing serves as a large rail hub in China's railway network. Ten conventional rail lines radiate from the city to: Shanghai (Jinghu Line), Guangzhou (Jingguang Line), Kowloon (Jingjiu Line), Harbin (Jingha Line), Baotou (Jingbao Line), Qinhuangdao (Jingqin Line), Chengde (Jingcheng Line), Tongliao, Inner Mongolia (Jingtong Line), Yuanping, Shanxi (Jingyuan Line) and Shacheng, Hebei (Fengsha Line). In addition, the Datong–Qinhuangdao Railway passes through the municipality to the north of the city.

Beijing also has three high-speed rail lines: the Beijing-Tianjin Intercity Railway, which opened in 2008; the Beijing-Shanghai High-Speed Railway, which opened in 2011; and the Beijing–Guangzhou High-Speed Railway, which opened in 2012.

The city's main railway stations are the Beijing Railway Station, which opened in 1959; the Beijing West Railway Station, which opened in 1996; and the Beijing South Railway Station, which was rebuilt into the city's high-speed railway station in 2008. As of 1 July 2010, Beijing Railway Station had 173 trains arriving daily, Beijing West had 232 trains and Beijing South had 163. The Beijing North Railway Station, first built in 1909 and expanded in 2009, had 22 trains.

Beijing is home to a great number of colleges and universities, including Peking University and Tsinghua University (two of the National Key Universities). Owing to Beijing's status as the political and cultural capital of China, a larger proportion of tertiary-level institutions are concentrated here than in any other city in China (at least 70). Many international students from Japan, Korea, North America, Europe, Southeast Asia, and elsewhere come to Beijing to study every year, some through third party study abroad providers such as IES Abroad and others as part of an exchange program with their home universities. The schools are administered by China's Ministry of Education.

There are 16 Districts in Beijing

(1) Dongcheng District, (2) Xicheng District, (3) Chaoyang District, (4) Haidian District, (5) Fengtai District, (6) Shiijing District, (7) Fangshan District, (8) Mentougou District, (9) Tongzhou District, (10) Shunyi District, (11) Huairou District, (12) Miyun District, (13) Pinggu District, (14) Daxing District, (15) Changping District, (16) Yanging County

The city is divided into 16 municipal and suburban districts (qu). Only four of these districts are the central stomping grounds for most visitors; The most important, Dongcheng ("east district") encompasses the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, Wangfujing (a major shopping street), the Lama Temple, and many other historical sites dating back to imperial times. Xicheng ("west district"), directly west of Dongcheng, is a lovely lake district that includes Beihai Park, a former playground of the imperial family, and a series of connected lakes bordered by willow trees, courtyard-lined hutong, and lively bars. Chaoyang is the biggest and busiest district, occupying the areas north, east, and south of the eastern Second Ring Road. Because it lies outside the Second Ring Road, which marked the eastern demarcation of the old city wall, there’s little of historical interest here, though it does have many of the city’s top hotels, restaurants, and shops. Chaoyang is also home to the foreign embassies, multinational companies, the Central Business District, and the Olympic Park. Haidian, the district that’s home to China’s top universities and technology companies, is northwest of the Third Ring Road; it's packed with shops selling electronics and students cramming for their next exam.

Language: Chinese. There are over 5,000 dialects spoken in China with the main one being Mandarin.

TIME: China is 13 hours AHEAD of Boston (Eastern Time.) So, if it's 2:00 pm here in Boston on a Sunday. Then the time in Beiijing is 3:00 am on Monday.

Average Temperatures in January and February 27.7°- 35.8°F

Dong is east, Xi is west, Nan is south, Bei is north, and Zhong means middle. Jie and Lu mean street and road respectively, and Da means big, so Dajie equals avenue.

Gongyuan means park. Jingshan Park is, therefore, also called Jingshan Gongyuan.

Nei means inside and Wai means outside. You will often come across these terms on streets that used to pass through a gate of the old city wall. Andingmen Neidajie, for example, is the section of the street located inside the Second Ring Road (where the gate used to be); Andingmen Waidajie is the section outside the gate.

Qiao, or bridge, is part of the place name at just about every entrance and exit on the ring roads.

Men, meaning door or gate, indicates a street that once passed through an entrance in the old wall that surrounded the city until it was mostly torn down in the 1960s. The entrances to parks and some other places are also referred to as men.

Chinese Yen also known as Renminbi (People's Money)

The Chinese currency is officially called the yuan (Y), and is also known as renminbi (RMB), or "People's Money." You may also hear it called kuai, an informal expression like "buck." After being pegged to the dollar at around Y8 for years, it was allowed to float within a small range starting in 2005. It was held firm again until mid-2010 when it was allowed to float again. As of this writing, the conversion was Y6.92 to $1USD.

Both old and new styles of bills circulate simultaneously in China, and many denominations have both coins and bills. The Bank of China issues bills in denominations of 1 (green), 5 (purple), 10 (turquoise), 20 (brown), 50 (blue-green), and 100 (red) yuan. There are Y1 coins, too. The yuan subdivides into 10-cent units called jiao or mao; these come in bills and coins of 1, 2, and 5. The smallest denomination is the fen, which comes in coins (and occasionally tiny notes) of 1, 2, and 5; these are largely useless in day-to-day exchanges. Counterfeiting is rife here, and even small stores inspect notes with ultraviolet lamps. Change can also be a problem—don't expect much success paying for a Y3 purchase with a Y100 note, for example.

Exchange rates in China are fixed by the government daily, so they're the same in banks, department stores, and at your hotel's exchange desk, which often has the added advantage of being open 24 hours a day. A passport is required. Hold on to your exchange receipt, which you need to convert your extra yuan back into dollars.


The best places to convert your dollars into yuan are at your hotel's front desk or a branch of a major bank, such as Bank of China, CITIC, or HSBC. All these operate with standardized government rates—anything cheaper is illegal, and thus risky. You need to present your passport to change money.

Although credit cards are widespread in China, for day-to-day transactions cash is definitely king. Getting change for larger notes can be a problem in small shops and taxis, so try to stock up on 10s and 20s when you change money.

Your own bank will probably charge a fee for using ATMs abroad; the foreign bank you use may also charge a fee. Nevertheless, you'll usually get a better rate of exchange at an ATM than you will at a currency-exchange office or even when changing money in a bank. And extracting funds as you need them is a safer option than carrying around a large amount of cash.

Among the Chinese banks, your best bets for ATMs are Bank of China and ICBC. That said, machines frequently refuse to give cash for mysterious reasons. Move on and try another. Citibank and HSBC have lots of branches in Beijing, and accept all major cards. On-screen instructions appear automatically in English. Be sure to check all bills that you receive from the ATM; sometimes fake notes find their way into the system and it can be a nightmare to get the bank to exchange for real ones—especially if you leave the premises.

Before you charge something, ask the merchant whether or not he or she plans to do a dynamic currency conversion (DCC). In such a transaction the credit-card processor (shop, restaurant, or hotel, not Visa or MasterCard) converts the currency and charges you in dollars. In most cases you'll pay the merchant a 3% fee for this service in addition to any credit-card company and issuing-bank foreign-transaction surcharges.

Dynamic currency conversion programs are becoming increasingly widespread. Merchants who participate in them are supposed to ask whether you want to be charged in dollars or the local currency, but they don't always do so. And even if they do offer you a choice, they may well avoid mentioning the additional surcharges. The good news is that you do have a choice. And if this practice really gets your goat, you can avoid it entirely thanks to American Express; with its cards, DCC simply isn't an option.


Tipping is a tricky issue in China. It's officially forbidden by the government, and locals simply don't do it. In general, follow their lead without qualms. Nevertheless, the practice is beginning to catch on, especially among tour guides, who often expect Y10 a day. You don't need to tip in restaurants or in taxis—many drivers insist on handing over your change, however small.


Beijing is a very Internet-friendly place for travelers with laptops. Most mid-range to high-end hotels have in-room Wi-Fi access, but you might have to pay extra for it. Most hotels have a computer with Internet access that you can use for a fee.

When you're out and about, coffee chains like Starbucks are good places to find Wi-Fi connections. Internet cafés are ubiquitous (look for signs reading); new ones open and close all the time, so ask your hotel for a recommendation. Prices vary considerably. Near the northern university districts you could pay as little as Y2 to Y3 per hour; slicker downtown places could cost 10 times that.

Remember that there is strict government control of the Internet in China. Google and Gmail are accessible, if tooth-grindingly slow. It's impossible to access some news sites and blogs without using a virtual private network (VPN), which circumnavigates the government’s attempts to block.


The electrical current in China is 220 volts, 50 cycles alternating current (AC), so most American appliances can't be used without a transformer. A universal adapter is especially useful in China, as wall outlets come in a bewildering variety of configurations: two- and three-pronged round plugs, as well as two-pronged flat sockets.

Consider making a small investment in a universal adapter, which has several types of plugs in one lightweight, compact unit. Most laptops and cell-phone chargers are dual voltage (i.e., they operate equally well on 110 and 220 volts), so require only an adapter. These days the same is true of small appliances such as hair dryers. Always check labels and manufacturer instructions to be sure. Don't use 110-volt outlets marked "for shavers only" for high-wattage appliances such as hair dryers.


Most public transportation shuts down around 11:00 pm, so you will need to take a taxi after that.

Beijing's quick and efficient subway system is an excellent way to get about town. After operating for years with only two lines, the network is growing exponentially, with eight lines servicing the inner city, a further eight heading out into the suburbs, and several more due to open over the next few years.

Lines 1 and the newly expanded Line 6 run east–west across the city, stopping at tourist destinations such as Tiananmen Square and Beihai Park. Line 2 runs under the Second Ring Road, making it a good way to circle the city center. North–south Line 5 gives access to the Lama Temple and Temple of Heaven. Line 8 runs through the Olympic Village all the way down to Gulou, and Line 10 loops past such destinations as Sanlitun and the antiques market at Panjiayuan. In the west and south, Line 4 stops at the Summer Palace and also Beijing South station. The Airport Line connects the Dongzhimen interchange with the airport—now a 20-minute jaunt for Y25. The remaining lines are mainly used by commuters and are less useful for sightseeing.

Subway stations are marked by blue signs with a "D" (for ditie, or subway) in a circle. Signs are not always obvious, so be prepared to hunt around for entrances or ask directions; Ditie zhan zai nar? (Where's the subway station?) is a useful phrase, but sometimes simply saying ditie with an inquiring look may get you better results.

Stations are usually clean and safe, as are trains. Navigating the subway is very straightforward: station names are clearly displayed in Chinese and pinyin, and there are maps in each station. Once on board, each stop is clearly announced on a loudspeaker in Chinese and English.

Taxis are the most comfortable way to get around. Be aware that they tend to disappear during inclement weather, and rush-hour traffic can be infuriating. There's a Y13 charge for the first 3 km (2 miles) and Y2.3 per kilometer thereafter. After 11 pm the initial charge rises to Y14 and there's a 20% surcharge per additional kilometer.

Drivers usually know the terrain well, but most don't speak English; make sure to have your destination written down in Chinese. (Keep a card with the name of your hotel on it for the return trip.) Hotel doormen can help you tell the driver where you're going. It's a good idea to study a map and have some idea where you are, as some drivers will take you for a ride—a much longer one—if they think they can get away with it.


The standard eating procedure is to hold the bowl close to your mouth and eat the food. Noisily slurping up soup and noodles is also the norm. It's considered bad manners to point or play with your chopsticks, or to place them on top of your rice bowl when you're finished eating (put them horizontally on the table or plate). Avoid leaving your chopsticks standing up in a bowl of rice—this is said to resemble the practice of burning two incense sticks at funerals and is considered disrespectful.

Beijing's most famous dish is Peking duck. The roast duck is served with thin pancakes, in which you wrap pieces of the meat, together with spring onions, vegetables, and plum sauce. Beijing-style eateries offer many little-known but excellent specialties, such as Dalian Huoshao (meat- and vegetable-filled fried dumplings) and Zhajiangmian (thick noodles with meat sauce). If you're adventurous, sample a hearty bowl of Luzhu (pork lung and intestines brewed in an aromatic broth mixed with bean curd, baked bread, and chopped cilantro). Hotpot is another local trademark: you order different meats and vegetables, which you cook in a pot of stock boiling on a charcoal burner. Baozi (small steamed buns filled with meat or vegetables) are particularly good in Beijing—sold at stalls and in small restaurants everywhere, they make a great snack or breakfast food.

Breakfast is not a big deal in China—Congee, or rice porridge (zhou), is the standard dish. Most mid- and upper-end hotels do big buffet spreads, and Beijing's blooming café chains provide lattes and croissants all over town.

Snacks are a food group in themselves. There's no shortage of steaming street stalls selling baozi, spicy kebabs (called chuan’r), savoury pancakes (bing), hot sweet potatoes, and bowls of noodle soup. Pick a place where lots of locals are eating to be on the safe side.

Lunch and dinner dishes are more or less interchangeable. Meat (especially pork) or poultry tends to form the base of most Beijing dishes, together with wheat products like buns, pancakes, and noodles. Beijing food is often quite oily, with liberal amounts of vinegar; its strong flavors come from garlic, soy sauce, and bean pastes. Food can often be extremely salty and loaded with MSG. If you can manage it, try to have the waitress tell the cooks to cut back. Vegetables—especially winter cabbage and onions—and tofu play a big role in meals. As in all Chinese food, dairy products are scarce. Chinese meals usually involve a variety of dishes, which are always ordered communally in restaurants.


Public restrooms abound in Beijing—the street, parks, restaurants, department stores, and major tourist attractions are all likely locations. Some charge a small fee (usually less than Y1), and seldom provide Western-style facilities or private booths. Instead, expect squat toilets, open troughs, and rusty spigots; "wc" signs at intersections point the way to these facilities. Toilet paper or tissues and antibacterial hand wipes are good things to have in your day pack. The restrooms in the newest shopping plazas, fast-food outlets, and deluxe restaurants catering to foreigners are generally on a par with American restrooms.



The Forbidden City has been home to a long line of emperors, beginning with Yongle, in 1420, and ending with Puyi (made famous by Bernardo Bertolucci's 1987 film The Last Emperor), who was forced out of the complex by a warlord in 1924, over a decade after he abdicated his throne. This is the largest palace in the world, as well as the best preserved, and offers the most complete collection of imperial architecture in China.


The smell of incense permeates one of the few functioning Buddhist temples in Beijing. When Emperor Yongzheng took the throne in 1722, his former residence was converted into this temple. During the Qianlong Period (1736–95) it became a center of the Yellow Hat sect of Tibetan Buddhism. At its high point, 1,500 lamas lived here. The Pavilion of Ten Thousand Fortunes (Wanfu Ge) has a 60-foot tall statue of the Maitreya Buddha carved from a single piece of sandalwood.


This beautiful complex, surrounding a large lake, dates back eight centuries. Notable sights include the Long Corridor (a covered wooden walkway) and the Hall of Benevolent Longevity. At the west end of the lake is the famous Marble Boat that Cixi built with money intended to create a Chinese navy. The palace, which served as an imperial summer retreat, was ransacked by British and French soldiers in 1860 and later burned by Western soldiers seeking revenge for the Boxer Rebellion in 1900 (don’t confuse this with Yuan Ming Yuan, the Old Summer Palace, which was almost completely destroyed by foreign soldiers in 1860).


This temple, with its towering cypress and pine trees, offers a serene escape from the crowds at the nearby Lama Temple. This is the second-largest Confucian temple in China, after the one in Qufu, the master’s hometown in Shandong Province. First built in the 14th century, the Confucius Temple was renovated in the 18th century.


The 15th-century Temple of Heaven is one of the best examples of religious architecture in China. The complex contains three main buildings where the emperor, as the "Son of Heaven," offered semiannual prayers. The sprawling, tree-filled complex is a pleasant place for wandering: watch locals practicing martial arts, playing traditional instruments, and enjoying ballroom dancing on the grass.


Walking beneath the red flags of Tiananmen Square is a quintessential Beijing experience. The political heart of modern China, the square covers 100 acres, making it the world’s largest public square. It was here, from the Gate of Heavenly Peace, that Mao Zedong proclaimed the founding of the People's Republic of China on October 1, 1949, and it is here that he remains, embalmed in a mausoleum constructed in the square’s center. Many Westerners think only of the massive student demonstrations here in 1989, but it has been the site of protests, rallies, and marches for close to 100 years.


Touristy it may be, but make time to see it while you're in Beijing. The closest location, at Badaling, is a one-hour drive away—you may recognize some of the views and angles here from their frequent use in photo ops.


This walk begins on Dong Jiao Min Xiang. It can easily be reached via the lobby of the Novotel Xinqiao hotel. Exit through the back door right to the street. We'll first take you down the north side of the street and then along its south side. The most prominent structure that remains of the quarter is St. Michael's Catholic Church. Built by French Vincentian priests in 1902, this Gothic church is still crowded during Mass every Sunday.

Zhoukoudian Cave

Zhoukoudian is situated some 50km to the southwest of the urban district of Beijing, where the world-famous Peking Man lived about half million years ago.

Zhoukoudian Site was put on the list of sites to be protected for their historical and cultural value at national level by the State Council in 1961. It was inscribed on the World Heritage List by the UNESCO in 1987.

More than twenty localities have been found at Zhoukoudian, such as Peking Man Cave, Upper Cave and New Cave. The discoveries of human and other animal fossils, man-made stone tools, and the evidence of fire using astonished the world in the 20th century. Peking Man Site is not only the treasure house of human fossils, but also the research base for paleoanthropology, prehistoric archeology, paleontology, stratigraphy, chronology and petrology.

Ape Man Cave is the most famous place in site group of Zhoukoudian, and was a limestone cave into which, about half a million years ago, Peking Man came to live intermittently until 200,000 years ago. As the cave became gradually filled with Peking Man remains and relics, stones and sands, and so on, a thick deposit was formed consisting of 13 layers which from east to west are about 140 meters long, 2-40 meters wide and about 40 meters deep.


50 kilometers (31 miles) northwest from Beijing City, at the foot of Tianshou Mountain, is the Ming Tombs Scenic Area, where lie the mausoleums of thirteen emperors of the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644). Since 1409 when Zhu Di, the first emperor of the Ming Dynasty, built his Changling Tomb here, the succeeding twelve emperors had their resting places built around Changling during the next 230 years, covering a total area of over 120 square kilometers (46.3 square miles). This is the best preserved mausoleum area with the most emperors buried. Every year millions of tourists come to the site to appreciate its long history and palatial architecture.

In the scenic area, each mausoleum has its own independent unit. The layout and arrangement of all the thirteen mausoleums are very similar, but they vary in size as well as in the complexity of their structures. Each was built in an area at the foot of the mountain, with distances ranging from half a kilometer (547 yards) to eight kilometer (8,749 yards) between them. The tombs stretch out on the two sides of Changling Tomb in a fan shape, except for the Siling Tomb, which sits separately in the southwest corner. From site selection to design, great attention was paid to the harmony and unity with nature, pursuing a perfect situation of ‘made by God’ and reflecting the philosophy ‘the unity of heaven and humanity’. As outstanding representatives of the ancient Chinese mausoleum, the Ming Tombs demonstrate the richness of traditional Chinese culture.

At present, only Changling Tomb, Dingling Tomb, Zhaoling Tomb and the Sacred Way are open to the public.


Newly refurbished, this famous shrine (originally called Juéshēng Temple) was once a pit stop for Qing emperors who came here to pray for rain. Today the temple is named after its massive Ming dynasty bell (6.75m tall and weighing a hefty 46.5 tonnes), which is inscribed with Buddhist sutras, comprising more than 227,000 Chinese characters, and decorated with Sanskrit incantations.

The bell was cast during the reign of Emperor Yongle in 1406, with the tower built in 1733. To transport the bell from the foundry to the temple, a shallow canal was dug, and when it froze over in winter the bell was shunted across the ice by sled. Nowadays, the bell is rung just once a year, on Lunar New Year's Eve.

If you’re bell crazy, you’ll be spellbound by the exhibitions on bell casting, and the collection of bells from France, Russia, Japan, Korea and other nations. Also on view are copies of the bells and chimes of the Marquis of Zeng and a collection of Buddhist and Taoist bells, including vajra bells and the wind chimes hung from temple roofs and pagodas.

Beijing Opera

Beijing Opera of China is a national treasure with a history of 200 years. In the 55th year of the reign of Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty (1790) , the four big Huiban opera Troupes entered the capital and combined with Kunqu opera, Yiyang opera, Hanju opera and Luantan in Beijing's theoretical circle of the time. Over a period of more than half a century of combination and integration of various kinds of opera there evolved the present Beijing Opera. Beijing Opera is the most significant of all operas in China, and it has a richness of repertoire, great number of artists and audiences, that give it a profound influence in China and plays a large role in Chinese culture.

Beijing Opera is a synthesis of stylized action, singing, dialogue and mime, acrobatic fighting and dancing to represent a story or depict different characters and their feelings of gladness, anger, sorrow, happiness, surprise, fear and sadness. The characters may be loyal or treacherous, beautiful or ugly, good or bad, their images being vividly manifested.

The repertoire of Beijing Opera is mainly engaged in fairy tales of preceding dynasties, important historical events, emperors, ministers and generals, geniuses and great beauties, from the ancient times to Yao, Shun, Yu, the Spring and Autumn Period, the Warring States Period and the dynasties of Qin, Han, Sui, Tang, Song, Yuan, Ming, Qing. Some of them also were adopted from the literature and classical novels, which are well known among the public but may not be an accurate account of history.

Li Yuan Theater — the Best Place to Enjoy the Beijing Opera

Location: 1st Floor, Qianmen Jianguo Hotel NO.175, Yong'an Road, Xuanwu Distrct, Beijing 北京市宣武区永安路175号前门建国饭店1楼



All the baubles of Beijing could be strung together and wrapped around the Earth 10 times over—or so it seems with Beijing's abundance of pearl vendors. It's mind-boggling to imagine how many oysters it would take to produce all those natural (and cultured) pearls. But, of course, not all are real: some are fake.

The attentive clerks in most shops are eager to prove their products' quality. Be wary of salespeople who don't demonstrate, with an eager and detailed pitch, why one strand is superior to another. Keep in mind the following tips as you judge whether that gorgeous strand is destined to be mere costume jewelry or the next family heirloom.

Color: Natural pearls have an even hue; dyed pearls vary in coloration.

Good Luster: Pick only the shiniest apples in the bunch. Pearls should have a healthy glow.

Shape: The strand should be able to roll smoothly across a flat surface without wobbling.

Blemishes: We hate them on our faces and we hate them on our pearls.

Size: Smaller pearls are obviously less expensive than larger ones, but don't get trapped into paying more for larger poor-quality pearls just because they're heftier.

The cost of pearls varies widely. A quality strand will generally run around US$50 to $200, but it's possible to buy good-looking but lower-quality pearls much more cheaply. As with any purchase, choose those pearls you adore most, and only pay as much as you think they warrant. After all, most women could always use an extra strand of good-looking fakes. Also, if you plan on making multiple purchases and you have time to return to the same shop, go ahead and establish a "friendship" with one key clerk. Each time you return, perhaps bringing someone else along, the price will miraculously drop.

Silk Street Pearl Market

There is no way for you to miss Silk Street Pearl Market if you come to Beijing. It is the most well known Chinese international tourism and shopping market, in terms of tourism in Beijing, perhaps as famous as the Great Wall and Forbidden City. Note this place has a few aliases including Silk Market or Silk Street Market, but they are all the same thing.

Located at Chang’An Avenue, close to the international CBD business area, having the unmatchable location, the market is very convenient shopping place.

As the earliest free market and most famous business brand, Silk Street has more than 30 years history. There are nearly 2,000 stalls spread over the six floors selling goods such as: silk, pearls, porcelain, tea, handicrafts, jewelry and of course, clothes.

Ruifuixiang Silk, Wuyutai Teashop, Tongrentang, Qianxiangyi Silk, Sheng Xifu Headwear and others togethering 19 old and famous shops settled in, making Silk Street the most traditional culture featured market.

Hundreds of foreign dignitaries star, such as Former U.S. president George Bush, Madame Roger, President of Finland, President of Bulgaria, and countless international sports, such as Phelps, Isinbayeva, Scola, Ginobili has already visited the Silk Street.

How to get there: About 200 meters away from Metro Line 2, Jianguomen Station.

Address: Num 8, Xiushui East Street, Chaoyang District朝阳区秀水东街8号


Perhaps one of the most popular products to take home for female relatives, silk products are an old favorite. Nice silk clothing can be quite expensive, depending on the quality. The same goes for bedding sets, but smaller items such as pillow cases, bags, and accessories are more affordable and widely available at tourist sites.


Because tea plays such a big role in daily life (from tea brewed in people's flasks at their office desks to high-end tea ceremonies with special tea), tea quality varies throughout different shops too. If you want normal tea that people drink on a day to day basis, check convenience stores and supermarkets. In many supermarkets it will even be possible to buy many different types of tea by the gram.

Check out the tea markets such as Maliandao in Beijing for special teas or for other tea-related products such as tea pots, cups, and the entire set needed to set up your own ceremony at home. Most shops will have a wide range of designs to fit any taste!


Cloisonne products were introduced into China a long time ago, and are very popular throughout the country. You'll find vases, beads, jewelry (especially bracelets), plates, and other trinkets readily available throughout your travels. Not all of it is of the same quality, and this is important to keep in mind when you are bargaining.

Chinese calligraphy is an art that is famous throughout the world, and pieces of intricately made art can be bought to hang up on your wall, no matter what size. Calligraphy is also available on fans, pottery, or on cloth.

There are many different styles (seal script, cursive script, running script, official script and formal script being some of the main ones), and you can even get your own Chinese name.


The opera is a huge part of Chinese entertainment, and the masks are an important part of the overall show, especially in Beijing Opera. To take some of the show home with you, or if you think the masks would be a great addition to that blank wall, check out the souvenir stores.

They're available in many different sizes and in a range of different color combinations depending on what you prefer.




Call your credit card company prior to departing the United States and advise them of your travel plans and travel dates. This way they will be aware of your travels and help with any potential credit card fraud.

Call the post office and any newspapers company that you have deliveries for and ask them to hold off delivering your mail and newspapers until you get back to the States. You don't want your mail piling up in front of your door step announcing to the world that you are away.

Cell Phone service, check with your cell phone provider if they offer an inexpensive international data package that you can use for just the dates that you will be away.


Anything of personal value such as camera, cell phone, prescription medication, jewelry (although, I recommend leaving jewelry home), laptops, tablets MUST be in your carry-on bag. Please DO NOT put them in your checked luggage.

Please be aware of scammers while in China, especially when ask to attend a Tea House Ceremony. If you are not with a tour guide, people will come up to you to try to get you to attend a Tea House Ceremony. You might just get a bill for 500.00USD for tea!

Please leave a copy of your itinerary with a family member or friend. Also, keep a copy of your itinerary in the outside pocket of your checked luggage. This last recommendation came in handy awhile back ago. My colleague that I was traveling with to Shanghai had her luggage accidentally taken (bag was the same color) by another person. Because she had a copy of her itinerary in the outside pocket of luggage, her bag was return to her and the bag she had was return to its rightful owner (which was great considering the other person was a man!)

Reconfirm your airline flights at least 72 hours prior to departure as well as on the same day of travel in case of any flight changes and/or cancellations. Also, it's a good idea to do an On-Line Check-in with the airline 72 to 24 hours prior to departure.

Credits....information for this page has been taking from China Highlights, Visit Beijing and TRO. Some pictures are from Shutter Stock.

Key Phrases

Hello- Ni Hao (knee-how)

My name is - Wǒ de míngzì shì

How are you?- Nǐ hǎo ma? (knee-how-ma)

I am fine - Wǒ hěn hǎo

  • Thank you- Xièxiè - (she-shay or she-she)

What is your name? - Nǐ jiào shénme míngzì?

How much money? - Duōshǎo qián? (Dwor-sshaoww chyen?)

Goodbye - Zàijiàn

See you Later - Huítóu jiàn

Where is the restroom? - Wèishēngjiān zài nǎlǐ?

What time is it? - Jǐ diǎnle?

Do you have a fork? - Nǐ yǒu chāzi ma?

Where can I exchange money? - Wǒ zài nǎlǐ kěyǐ jiāohuàn qián?

What time do you open?- Nǐ shénme shíhou dǎkāi?

What time do you close? - Nǐmen shénme shíhou guānmén?

Do you speak English? - Nǐ huì shuō yīngyǔ ma?

I am lost -Wǒ gǎo bù qīngchule

I need a cab - Wǒ xūyào yīgè chūzū chē

Take me to- Dài wǒ qù

Where is - Zài nǎlǐ

Pelham, NH 03076 Tel. 603-401-0299 Email:

Thank you for booking with O'Brien Family Time Travel. Have a wonderful trip! XieXie!

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