Beijing, the capital of China, is home to seven UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) World Heritage Sites, including the Great Wall, Forbidden City, Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian, Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace, Ming Dynasty Tombs and Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal. The seven sites are valuable cultural, aesthetic and historic sites and are classic symbols of Beijing’s cultural characteristics.
The Great Wall of China is a true wonder of the world and an absolute must-see for any visitors to China.
Construction of the Great Wall began in the Spring and Autumn and Warring States Periods (770-221BC). After defeating other warring kingdoms, Qin Shihuang unified China in 221 BC for the first time under the Qin Dynasty (221-206BC). As China’s first emperor, he linked separate sections of the wall already built by various kingdoms to ward off enemies. Subsequent dynasties added to and rebuilt sections of the wall to create the great man-made wonder in the world. The wall remains we can see today were mainly built in the 14th century during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). It snakes 8851.8 kilometers from the Jiayuguan Pass in Gansu Province on the west to Hushan Mountain in Liaoning Province on the east. About 629 kilometers of the wall are located in Beijing.
In 1987, UNESCO listed the Great Wall as a World Cultural Heritage Site and preservation work on significant sections of the wall continue through today.
Badaling Section of the Great Wall: Yanqing County, Beijing.
Juyongguan Section of the Great Wall: Changping District, Beijing.
Mutianyu Section of the Great Wall: Huairou District, Beijing.
The Forbidden City, also known as the Palace Museum, is the largest, best-preserved imperial palace and ancient wooden palatial structural complex in the world. Twenty-four emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties lived in and ruled China from the Forbidden City.
Construction of the Forbidden City began in 1406, and it was completed in 1420. Covering an area of 720,000 sq.m, the Forbidden City has a floor space of about 150,000 sq.m and about 9,000 halls. It is divided into two main parts: the Outer Court and the Inner Palace. In the Outer Court, emperors attended grand ceremonies and conducted state affairs; in the Inner Palace, emperors conducted daily affairs and lived alongside empresses and concubines. As China’s largest museum, the Palace Museum holds more than one million historical and cultural relics as well as many precious artworks.
In 1987, the Forbidden City was listed as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site.
Address: No. 4 Jingshan Qianjie, Dongcheng District, Beijing.
Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian
The earliest human activities in Beijing began at the Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian. Fossil records of “Peking Man”, dated back to about 600,000 years ago, were found here in 1920s, and the discoveries of man-made tools and the evidence of the early use of fire astonished the world. The Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian is so far the world’s most informative, systematic and valuable palaeolithic human site that has been found. It is also a treasure house for human fossils, and a research base for palaeoanthropology, prehistoric archaeology, palaeontology, stratigraphy, and petrology.
The UNESCO designated the Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian a World Cultural Heritage Site in 1987.
Address: No. 1 Zhoukoudian Avenue, Fangshan District, Beijing.
Temple of Heaven
The Temple of Heaven, where the emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties worshipped heaven and prayed for good harvests, is the largest complex of temple buildings in China now, covering an area of 2,73 million square meters.
The Temple of Heaven was first constructed in 1420. The temples are round yet they rest upon square bases, in keeping with the ancient Chinese thought of “the heaven is round and the earth is square”. The main buildings in the temple take blue as the basic color, symbolizing the color of heaven. The park’s circular Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest has become as much as symbol of the city as any celebrated landmark in the world. The famous Echoing Wall and Triple Sound Stone are found in the Imperial Hall of Heaven.
In 1998, the Temple of Heaven was included in the World Cultural Heritage List by the UNESCO.
Address: No. 7, Tiantannei Dongli, Dongcheng District, Beijing.
The Summer Palace, first built during the reign of the Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty, is the largest existing and best-preserved imperial garden in China and one of China’s four most famous gardens.
As a large garden based on natural landscapes, the Summer Palace was built with reference to the West Lake in Hangzhou and some other gardens in southern China in its design and aesthetic conceptions. Covering an area of about 290 hectares, the Summer Palace can be roughly divided into three areas for political affairs, daily life and sightseeing. Its main features include Kunming Lake and Wanshou Hill. Kunming Lake, accounting for about three quarters of the park’s area, spreads itself along the southern foot of Wanshou Hill, and the shores of Kunming Lake offer other attractions, such as the famous marble boat.
In 1998, the Summer Palace was included in the World Cultural Heritage List by the UNESCO.
Address: No. 19, Xinjiangongmen Road, Haidian District, Beijing.
Ming Dynasty Tombs
The Ming Dynasty Tombs are a group of mausoleums, where 13 emperors, 23 empresses, 2 princes, 30-plus concubines and a eunuch of the Ming Dynasty were buried. Covering an area of 40 sq.km, it is the world’s largest existing mausoleum complex and contains the largest collection of imperial family burial sites in one location.
Constructed between 1409 and 1645, the histories of these mausoleums range from 300 to more than 600 years. The site of the Ming Tombs is in a little basin, enclosed by mountains on its eastern, western and northern sides, with a plain in the middle. A small river winds its way in front of the mausoleums, which are complemented by picturesque and pleasant scenery.
The Ming Dynasty Tombs was recognized as a World Cultural Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2003.
Address: South of Tianshou Mountain, Changping District, Beijing.
Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal
With a history of over 1,000 years, the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal is the largest and earliest canal of its kind in the world.
The digging of the Grand Canal started in the late Spring and Autumn period, and it was twice extended and widened – once during the Sui period and again in the Yuan Dynasty. The Grand Canal is a great ancient construction project and it is the major artery that connected northern and southern China in ancient times. Spanning 1,794 km, it starts from Hangzhou in South China and ends in Beijing, running almost straight through the wealthy coastal plains of eastern and southern China and the great plain of North China.
The Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal was included in the World Cultural Heritage List in 2014.
Address: Tongzhou District, Beijing.