Before we leave Beijing behind for now, there’s one more entry on China’s Tentative List for us to take a quick overview of, a bit of a strange one since its 13 properties are the separately inscribed Forbidden Palace and Temple of Heaven sites, plus 11 more mildly to somewhat interesting places immediately around them:
The old city of Beijing was first built in the Yuan Dynasty (mid-13th Century, formerly known as “Dadu”), and further developed and perfected in the Ming and Qing Dynasties (early 14th Century to early 20th Century). With eight hundred years’ history of urban development, it is now the largest imperial capital city still existing in China and a classic model of ancient Chinese urban planning. As an outstanding example of feudal China’s capital, the old city of Beijing enjoys a prominent position in the world history of urban planning and development.
The Central Axis is the best preserved core area of the old city of Beijing. The Central Axis of Beijing is 7.8 kilometers long starting in the south of the city from the Yongding Gate, running across the Zhengyang Gate, Tian’anmen Square, the Forbidden City, the Jingshan Hill, and ending with the Drum Tower and Bell Tower in the north. Most of the essential buildings in the old city of Beijing are constructed along the axis. The Central Axis ingeniously organizes the imperial palaces, the imperial city, temples and altars, markets, streets from feudal times and the Tian’anmen square complex built after the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. As the most representative and important section of the old city of Beijing, it is the core of old Beijing’s spatial pattern and demonstrates the magnificent spatial order of the urban space…
The southernmost site, the Yongding Gate, is just west of the south entrance of the Temple of Heaven … but it’s on a traffic island, and the gate itself is closed, and well it looks like any other restored city gate in China. So we’re kinda hard put to recommend you go out of your way for that one.
Heading north, Tianamen Square is definitely worth a visit…
… but you’re going to be there anyways when you enter the Forbidden Palace and all, when you’ll also walk right past the Imperial Ancestral Temple on the east (that’s the picture leading off this piece) and the Altar of Land and Grain in Zhongshan Park to the west.
While you’re there, though, make sure you leave at least three or four hours to visit the National Museum:
Even if you’re not generally a museum person, this definitive exhibition of Chinese art and history is something you don’t want to miss!
Anyways, to the immediate north and west of the Forbidden City are Beihai Park and Jingshan Park, so all you need do is finish its tour and there they are, and just continuing to walk north to the Bell and Drum Towers rounds out the properties on this nomination.
However, we won’t think any the less of you if, like us, by the time you get to Nanluoguxiang district you’ve had it with being a tourist so much you can’t even be bothered with the thronging pedicab tours and kick back to appreciate the spectacular Beijing cuisine, with a healthy bottle of baiju to wash it down:
Mmmmm, baiju. The perfect end to a long day’s hike through central Beijing … or any other day, really!