Also known as the Yonghe Temple, the Lama Temple is one of Beijing's most attractive and best-preserved temples.
Completed in 1745, the building served a political purpose by giving Lamaism, the religion of the then just annexed Tibet, an official seat in the capital.
Laid out at the beginning of the 10th century, this beautiful open space takes its name from nearby Lake Beihai (North Lake) and offers many good reasons to pay a visit.
Among the most important structures are the Round Fort dating from the Yuan period of 1271-1368; the spectacular Hall of Enlightenment, built in 1690 and home to a one-and-a-half-meter-tall Buddha carved from a single block of white jade; and a large black jade vase from the early 12th century.
Other features of note are the Museum of the Chinese Revolution with its exhibits illustrating the various stages of the Chinese revolution from 1919 and the development of the Communist Party, and the Chairman Mao Mausoleum where the body of Mao rests in a crystal sarcophagus.
Just a short distance from the Imperial Palace, Beihai Park is one of the oldest surviving imperial gardens in Beijing.
Considered the center of communist China, the square's symbolic importance dates back to May 4th, 1919, when students demonstrated against the Chinese provisions of the Treaty of Versailles.
Highlights include the Monument to the People's Heroes (Rénmín Yīngxióng Jìniànbēi), a 38-meter tall obelisk consisting of 17,000 pieces of granite and marble, and the splendid Tian'anmen Gate - the Gate of Heavenly Peace - completed in 1417 and once the main entrance to the Imperial City.
Recognized the world over for its role in the spectacular Summer Olympics held in Beijing in 2008, the National Stadium (Guójiā tǐyùchǎng) - also affectionately nicknamed the Bird's Nest - is well worth a visit.
Beijing, only eclipsed by Shanghai in terms of size, is not only the political center of China - a position held for more than 800 years - it also plays an important role in the nation's cultural, economic, scientific, and academic life.
In the northwest of the North China Plain, not far from the western slopes of the Yanshan mountains, Beijing - still often referred to as Peking - is a great place from which to explore this dynamic country due to its dense network of road, rail, and airline connections with other major cities.
Surrounded by lush vegetation, these lovely old temples and shrines are set out in two sections - one rectangular, the other semi-circular - which together symbolize heaven and earth.
It was here that, on the day of the winter solstice, the emperor would ascend the Heavenly Altar in solemn ceremony to pray for a good harvest and offer sacrifices in the brightly decorated Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests (Qinian Dian).
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