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Beijing Tourism - Points of Interest

The Great Wall

The Great Wall is one of the emblems of the People's Republic of China and a must for every visitor to China. The nearest part (Badaling) lies about 70 km north of Beijing and is also the section most frequented by tourists. It has been completely refurbished and supplied with the necessary infrastructure (restaurants, hotels). Small buses leave from the train station and from the bus station at Qianmen (south of Tiananmen Square) for day trips to the Wall. Small groups can rent a bus for the entire day.

More remote is the ca. 19 km length "Simatai." Only Chinese water sellers, who accompany every group of travelers, will disturb you there, because they know very well that most tourists don't bring along enough fluids for the long hike. You can rent a small bus that drops your group off at the one end of the hiking trail and picks it up at the other; the entire fee is to be paid at the end.

However, many drivers require that a few items be left on the bus as a sort of deposit; it's best to leave a couple of jackets or other not very valuable pieces of clothing.

The Forbidden City

The Forbidden City is the symbol of Beijing and ensign of Imperial China. Constructed during the Ming Dynasty, it was the emperor's residence and the seat of political power for five hundred years. Entry to the city was prohibited for normal citizens. Twice the Forbidden City fell victim to destruction or plunder, once during Manchurian conquest of Beijing in 1664; the second time shortly before the capture of Beijing by communist forces in 1949, when the Kuomintang took the treasures of the City with them to Taiwan.

Great Hall of the People

In this hall, the three thousand members of the National People's Congress meet once a year. When the Congress is not in session and the Great Hall has not been otherwise rented out, it is open for sightseeing.

Chairman Mao's Mausoleum

The preserved remains of Mao Zedong allegedly rest here-it's certainly the epitome of the "cult of Mao" that still dominates in China. Whether the figure is of wax or truly is the corpse of the great leader is not known. Especially at holidays, brace yourself for a long wait.

Tiananmen Square (Tiananmen Guangchang)

The Square of Heavenly Peace is a plaza laid out in a quadrilateral that was utilized for rallies during the Mao era. The square first became famous in the west during the student protests of 1989, which the government quelled by force of arms. It's is the center of the city of Beijing; if you cross the street in the direction of the Forbidden City, you'll find the Tiananmen-the Gate of Heavenly Peace-over which an image of Mao Zedong presides.

Wangfujing

If you want to see how far China has come into the western consumer world, this is the place to be. Wangfujing is THE shopping district in Beijing, with fast food chains and malls for foreign tourists and rich Chinese. The Foreign Language Bookstore will be of special interest to foreign students. The nearby night market, which offers Chinese flair and snacks, is also interesting.

Old Summer Palace (Yuánmíng Yuán)

Sadly, not much remains of the once splendid palace. It was totally destroyed by British and French troops during the second opium war in 1860, having been constructed in the 12th century A.D. as part of a large-scale park northwest of Beijing.

New Summer Palace (Yiheyuan)

The New Summer Palace is located to the northwest of Beijing. It consists of several main buildings and a large park. Plan to take a full day for a visit to the Summer Palace, in connection with the Old Summer Palace and Peking University's cafeteria (the latter is not a must-see). The New Palace was reconstructed in 1988 after the destruction of the Old Palace, with funds that were actually needed for the navy.

Even today, you can see the so-called Stone Ship on the Kunming lake-it's often derisively called "the Chinese armada." The ship is the clearest symbol of indulgence and the misinterpretation of the political climate by then-ruler, Empress Dowager Cixi. In 1900, the Summer Palace was destroyed during the Boxer Rebellion by foreign troops.

New Cafeteria of Peking University

A dream, and worth a visit for every foreignstudent.

For students from Germany (as myself) it's self-evident that cafeteria food is highly subsidized yet still tastes bad-the new cafeteria at Peking U. shows how things can be different: enormous TV screens, on which play the beloved music station "Channel V"; food from all parts of China and the most important lands-of-origin of foreign students (Korea, Japan)-you can watch your food being prepared-and the food tastes just as good as in a restaurant.

Unfortunately, the only form of payment accepted is a P.U. ID card…but you can always get a student to buy for you and then pay him/her back.

Sanlitun - The Embassy Quarter

Here are foreign embassies, important foreign hotels, and commercial agencies. There are a few western cafes that are regularly patronized by foreign ambassadorial types, and many stores with western products and foods (milk, cheese, and real bread) can be found here. In the last few years, security precautions have been heavily strengthened because of North Korean political refugees, who now and again will pay visits to the German (and other) embassies.

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