|The Summer Palace is one of Beijing's most beautiful outdoor attractions.|
Temple of Heaven
The Temple of Heaven is a welcome respite from the fast-moving city outside the park’s walls. Built in 1420, the 273 hectares park was used by the emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties to worship heaven, offer sacrifices, and pray for China’s harvests. A prevailing theme is the use of round (heaven) and square (earth) shapes throughout the park. The complexes include the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, the Circular Mound Alter, the Imperial Vault of Heaven, and the Abstinence Palace. Now the Temple of Heaven is not used for worship, but is an expansive park where the locals go to socialize and exercise. You can see everything including tai chi, line dancing, hacky sack, water calligraphy, and opera singing.
The Temple of Heaven Park can be reached from Tiantandongmen Metro Station exits A or B.
Yonghegong Tibetan Buddhist Lama Temple is a beautiful temple in Beijing. Lama Temple was originally built as a palace in 1604 by Prince Yong in the Qing Dynasty. When he became emperor, the residence was turned into a temple. The complex is built in a similar style to the Forbidden City, with large halls situated on the central axis, but unlike most of the buildings in the Forbidden City, the buildings of Lama Temple can be entered. Also unlike the Forbidden City, Lama Temple and its treasures were able to survive through the turbulent years of the Cultural Revolution and the temple reopened to the public in 1981.
The Summer Palace is a sprawling royal complex in northwest Beijing. The Summer Palace was built in 1750 and completed in 1764 and was the Imperial palace in the Qing Dynasty. The garden, at 290 hectares, is one of the largest Imperial gardens in the world. To fully explore the palace, set aside a few hours. Upon entering the Summer Palace you will first encounter Suzhou Street, a re-creation of a Chinese commercial area along a pretty canal. Atop Longevity Hill are a number of buildings including a group of temples called the Four Great Regions, the Sea of Wisdom Temple, and the Tower of Buddhist Incense. The path descends down the hill to the enormous Kunming Lake, deepened and expanded in the 18th century by 100,000 laborers. There are paths around the lake, which can also be crossed by ferry. Exploring the Summer Palace makes for a beautiful and relaxing afternoon.
|Beijing's Summer Palace.|
|Sea of Wisdom Temple on Beijing's Summer Palace's Longevity Hill.|
|17 Arch Bridge at Beijing's Summer Palace.|
Hutongs are Beijing’s ancient networks of small streets and alleys. This is where Beijing’s hurried pace slows down in charming narrow lanes. We explored the hutongs around the Drum and Bell Towers, which we coincidentally returned to the same evening for our home-cooked meal and dumpling lessons at the end of our Beijing food tour. We later learned that while the hutongs are the ancient streets of the city with very old residences and long-time inhabitants, these areas are becoming expensive real estate as Beijing citizens begin to recognize their appeal.
Drum Tower and Bell Tower
The Drum and Bell Towers are located north of the Forbidden City along the north-south axis that runs through Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. Both towers can be climbed and provide panoramic views of Beijing as well as views of the tower opposite. Our guidebook suggested climbing the Bell Tower for better views, as the Drum Tower is the more attractive tower. However, if you are only going to climb one, I would suggest climbing the Drum Tower as this will allow uninterrupted views towards the Forbidden City.
|Beijing's Bell Tower.|
Beijing can be overwhelming, so it is a relief to incorporate time at these slower-paced attractions into the travel itinerary. The Lama Temple, Summer Palace, and Drum and Bell Towers provide beautiful views into ancient China, and exploring the hutongs and wandering through the Temple of Heaven provide insight into the calmer side of Beijing life.
I planned our China trip using Lonely Planet Discover China and National Geographic Traveler: Beijing & Shanghai.