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Beijing is the capital of China and is one of the world’s great cities, brimming with history and culture. Modern and ancient intermingle in this fascinating metropolis. There are many great historical sites in Beijing, including the Forbidden City, and the Great Wall passes nearby.

The Forbidden City & TianAnMen Square:

In the early 1400s, the third Ming Emperor, YongLe, moved the capital of China to Beijing and began construction of a new ‘Forbidden City’ that would include an imperial palace complex of vast proportions. Located at the exact centre of the ancient city of Beijing, and symbolically between the Temple of Heaven (TianTan) to the south, and the Temple of Earth (DiTan).

The palace was the home and centre of power for 24 emperors during the mid to later Ming and Qing dynasties and was a city within a city. After the republican revolution in 1911, the youngest and last emperor of the Qing Dynasty, then still a child, abdicated the next year. But he, his family and their entire entourage were allowed to stay in the palaces. They were finally expelled by republican troops in 1924.

Now officially renamed as the ‘Palace Museum’ the extensive grounds cover over 700,000 square meters. There are around 800 buildings that have about 9,000 rooms in total. The Forbidden City is the world’s largest palace complex. Indeed, it is listed by UNESCO as the world’s largest collection of preserved ancient wood-based structures and was declared a World Heritage Site in 1987.

The Forbidden City is located directly to the north of Tian’AnMen Square and can be accessed from the square via Tian’AnMen Gate. This takes you through the grand and enveloping south gate of the palace (WuMen), the ‘front door’.

The two red signs on Tian’AnMen Gate say: ‘Long live the People’s Republic of China’ and ‘Long live the great union of the peoples of the world’. TianAnMen Square is 880 metres from north to south and 500 metres from east to west, with a total area of 440,000 square meters (44 Hectares). It is the largest open square in the world - considerably larger than Red Square in Moscow. TianAnMen Square has great cultural significance because it was on the rostrum of TianAnMen Gate that Mao ZeDong declared the People’s Republic of China on October 1st 1949.

One of the most famous images of these protests was when a man stands in front of a moving tank and refuses to move. This became a revolutionary icon in fighting against the government at the time. Today the Forbidden City remains a national symbol and an image of its entrance gate is part of the official seal of the People’s Republic of China.

The Temple of Heaven

The magnificent and colourful Temple of Heaven (TianTan) was where emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties would make offerings to heaven and pray for good harvests.

The Temple of Heaven was constructed between 1406 and 1420 during the reign of Ming Emperor YongLe (reign: 1403-1424), who also oversaw the creation of the Forbidden City during the same period.

The Temple of Heaven was originally established as the Temple of Heaven and Earth, but was given its current name during the reign of Ming Emperor JiaJing (reign: 1522-1567), who built separate complexes for the earth, sun and moon. The Temple of Earth (DiTan) can be found in north Beijing. The temples of the sun and moon are in the east and west of Beijing. In early 2005, the Temple of Heaven underwent a major renovation that was completed on May 1st, 2006. In 1998, the Temple of Heaven was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Ming Tombs

The Ming Tombs form the most extensive burial complex of any Chinese dynasty and

are one of the finest preserved pieces of 15th century Chinese art and architecture. Giant statues line the Spirit Ways to underground tombs of emperors from the Ming Dynasty. The Ming Tombs were listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in August 2003 along with other tombs under the ‘Imperial Tombs of the Ming and Qing Dynasties’ designation.

The site of the Ming Dynasty Imperial Tombs was carefully chosen according to Feng Shui principles. Accordingly, bad spirits and chilling winds from the north must be deflected. An arc-shaped area at the foot of the JunDu Mountains (the southern foot of TianShou Shan) was selected.

This 40 square kilometer area - enclosed by the mountains in a pristine, quiet valley full of dark earth, tranquil water and other necessities as per Feng Shui - would become the necropolis of the Ming Dynasty.

Birds Nest – National Stadium

A striking structure recognised the world over as the Chinese National Stadium. It was created for the 2008 Olympic Games’. The building’s dynamic form and vast scale created a new icon for China and the city of Beijing.

The Birds Nest stadium cost USD $423 million and required 110,000 tons of steel.The contract to design the stadium was awarded to a submission from the Swissarchitecture fi rm Herzog & de Meuron in April 2003 after a bidding process that included 13 final submissions.

The design drew inspiration from Chinese ceramics; in particular the beautiful random

patterns of cracks on ancient glazed pots, and also achieved the goal of being ‘porous’ or

open. The stadium consists of two independent structures, standing 50 feet apart: a red

concrete seating bowl and an outer steel frame.

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