Whether it’s the Forbidden City in the center, or the Great Wall on the suburb, the historical landmarks in Beijing are always crowded like a potful of dumplings. But if you are interested in the history of the city that has been capital of China for five dynasties (Liao, Jin, Yuan, Ming, Qing) and the modern age, then you’ll have to visit these places at least once in your life.
Legend has it that the Old Summer Palace, known as Yuanmingyuan in Chinese, used to be a 3.5-square-kilometer imperial palace that had absorbed the top-notch garden art from the world, a garden so wonderful that even Victor Hugo called it “the thousand and one dreams of the thousand and one nights”. But we can only imagine its past glory now as it was burnt down by a fire set by the joint British-French army during the Second Opium War in 1860. The ruins of the Dashuifa Site is the Old Summer Palace’s most-visited site nowadays where the history of invasion is remembered.
The Great Wall is a series of stone and brick fortifications built east-to-west along the historical borders of China to protect it from invasion of the nomadic groups from the north. Though the construction of the Great Wall had begun as early as the 7th-century B.C.E, the Great Wall we can see today was mostly expanded in the Ming Dynasty. In China there is a saying: “He who doesn’t make it to the Great Wall is no true man.” Indeed, you can’t say you’ve been to Beijing if you haven’t visited the Great Wall. While the Badaling Great Wall is the most famous and crowded section of Great Wall, there are other sections with as good scenery and probably much less people, like the Mutianyu Great Wall.