With over 20 million inhabitants, China's capital is one of the most populous cities in the world. Cycling, once the primary way of traversing the capital, is now being promoted again as an alternative to the automobile-centric lifestyle that has taken hold in China recently.
As China's capital, it's possible to find a wealth of cuisines from each of the country's provinces, including Sichuan cuisine famous for its spicy nature. Another staple of the cuisine, Sichuan pepper, provides a citrus like taste while giving a slight tingly feeling inside the mouth.
Large bronze cauldrons for fighting fires are scattered throughout the Forbidden City. Visitors often touch these cauldrons to bring themselves luck.
This throne is located in the Palace of Heavenly Purity. Emperors of the Qing dynasty, the last imperial dynasty in China, used this throne for receiving audiences and holding meetings.
Hutongs, traditional alleyways, were becoming a part of Beijing's past in the name of "progress," but are now starting to be valued again and are the heart of daily life in Beijing.
Visitors of the Lama Temple, also known as the Yonghe Temple, perform a ritual burning of incense as an offering to the Buddha and other deities. After bowing several times with a bundle of incense held high, worshippers will then place the bundle vertically into the censers.
Rows of shops line the streets close to the Lama Temple, selling a variety of goods, but mainly incense for ritual burning inside the sacred venue.
Elaborate sculptures of deities and guardians fill the Lama Temple, making for a sensory experience that is visual, auditory, and olfactory.
Confucianism continues to hold influence in society, including military and political leaders. The Temple of Confucius in Beijing is the second largest in China and featured on our walking tour on Chinese religion.
Rem Koolhaas and Ole Scheeren's design for the China Central Television Tower, once again demonstrates the capital's use of impressive architecture to display its modernization. Locals have nicknamed is "Big Underpants" for its resemblance to a pair of thermal underwear used to keep warm during the cold Beijing winters.
Temple of Heaven
Situated inside a large park south of the Forbidden City, Ming and Qing emperors visited this temple to pray for a good harvest. In fact, the Temple of Heaven was originally called the Altar of Heaven and Earth until the 16th century, when it was decided that sacrifices to heaven and earth should be separate. The nearby Circular Mound Altar was then built specifically for sacrifices dedicated to heaven.
The Temple of Heaven park is a wonderful place to see daily life in Beijing. Along the covered arcades people will play different board games, often watched by large crowds.
Dancing in the Park
Before heading straight to the Temple of Heaven, stroll the park and enjoy seeing a variety of activities that locals enjoy - including a lot of dancing!
798 Art District
Created from the ashes of decommissioned military factories, artists began trickling in in the early 21st century, lured by cheap rents and large spaces. Now a polished machine, 798 attracts both international and Chinese artists and galleries.
Beijing Tokyo Art Project
One of the first galleries to renovate its interior and draw large scale crowds, the Beijing Tokyo Art Project promotes cultural understanding between two nations that often find themselves at odds.
Better known by its nickname "The Bird's Nest," Ai Wei Wei's National Stadium was one of the masterpieces of the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics. Crowds continue to stroll the Olympic Park to marvel at the architecture, including the National Aquatics Center, which is just across the concourse from the National Stadium.
The largest royal park in China, the Summer Palace sits on almost 3 square kilometers. Largely destroyed during the Second Opium War in 1860, Empress Dowager Cixi ordered the grounds restored. This stone boat, modeled on a European style, is where she is said to have entertained and played card games. Ironically, funds for the restoration were said to have been embezzled for the funds that were to be used to build up a new imperial navy.