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Beijing essentials overview
Temple of heaven

Temple of Heaven

See where emperors prayed for a good harvest and walk around beautiful parkland. The Temple of Heaven is a complex of buildings in the south-east of Beijing’s downtown area. Built between 1406 and 1420 during the Ming Dynasty, it was used by emperors to pray for a good harvest. Made up of several halls and an expansive park, it is one of the city’s most important historic sites.

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See where emperors prayed for a good harvest and walk around beautiful parkland.

The Temple of Heaven is a complex of buildings in the south-east of Beijing’s downtown area. Built between 1406 and 1420 during the reign of the Yongle Emperor in the Ming Dynasty, it was used by emperors to pray for a good harvest.

The temple’s design reflects ancient Taoist beliefs about the earth and the cosmos. The complex covers over 2,700,000 square meters of parkland and paved land, and is enclosed by a wall. Inside the wall, the northern part is semicircular which symbolizes the heavens, while the southern part is square, representing the earth. This follows the old Chinese principle that “the heaven is round and the earth is square”.

The Temple of Heaven’s most striking building is the triple-gabled Circular Mound Altar (Yuanqiutan) with its blue tiled roof and patterned walls. This 38-meter-high structure is where the emperors used to offer their prayers to the harvest gods. The Imperial Vault of Heaven (Huangqiongyu) is a miniature version of the Circular Mound Altar, while the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest (Qiniandian) runs from south to north. The main buildings of the are connected by the Vermilion Steps Bridge (Danbiqiao), also known as the Sacred Way.

Aside from the buildings, the Temple of Heaven’s park is also worth a look. It is popular among local tai-chi performers, and families out for a stroll.

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Great wall mutianyu

Mutianyu Great Wall

Walk along one of the most famous structures on the planet - a symbol and icon China, a feat of human engineering and a true wonder of the world. The Great Wall stretches 6,259 kilometers across the top of the country, and was begun around 200 BC to stop invasions from the north. Completed in medieval times, it was the longest building project in history. The Mutianyu site is home to one of the best-preserved sections of the wall.

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Walk along this legendary wall – a feat of human engineering and a new wonder of the world.

China’s Great Wall is one of the most famous structures on the planet, and a symbol and icon of the nation. Starting at Hebei Province in the east, it stretches for a total of 6,259 kilometers to Lake Lop near the Taklamakan Desert in the Muslim region of Xinjiang – China’s most westerly province. The wall was begun in the Qin Dynasty (220-206 BC) during the reign of the first emperor and completed during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) making it the longest building project in history. The Great Wall’s purpose was to stop invasions by northern nomads – particularly from Mongolia – and consisted of high fortifications dotted with watch-towers. If the guards in a certain tower spotted invaders, they would fire gunshots to warn others along the wall. One shot means 100 invaders, two shots meant more than 500, and three signified more than 1,000.

It is possible to visit the Great Wall at several points along its course, many around Beijing. The most popular are Badaling, Mutianyu and Jinshanling. Of these, Badaling is the best preserved and the most frequently visited. It is famous as the place where President Richard Nixon viewed the wall on his history-making visit to China in 1972, and was climbed by Mao Zedong and 370 dignitaries and celebrities from around the world. Badaling and its nearby expressway were used as the finishing circuit of the Urban Road Cycling Course in the 2008 Summer Olympics.

The Badaling section of the Great Wall was declared a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site in 1988, and became one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007. Badaling means “reach eight directions”, because of the area’s many natural ridges that. The site is located in Yanqing County, about 70 kilometers north of Beijing, and runs for 7,600 meters with an average altitude of over 1,000 meters. This part of the wall was built in 1505 during the reign of Ming Dynasty emperor Hong Zhi. It has been open to the public since 1957 – the longest of any section.

The outside casing of the wall is made of 1000-kilogram granite slabs; the interior was formed by packing earth and small rocks tightly together. The wall averages 7.8 meters in height and 5.7 meters in width, and features crenellations for archers, a barrel-drain and a moat both inside and outside, along with the watch-towers that were used as firing posts.

A true wonder of the world, the Great Wall of China is one of the earth’s most important cultural relics. Spend some time walking along its ancient fortifications to experience living history.

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