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Beijing, China

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Beijing Overview

Have you heard of a city with opulent palaces and temples built centuries ago located right next to skyscrapers? A location where UNESCO has declared a large number of its sites as World Heritage? Such is the case with Beijing, China. This fascinating destination is a world of contrasts. In Beijing the young begin their day with a cup of coffee at the fast food eatery. The elderly, on the other hand, begin their day with a session of shadow-boxing at the park. Beijing remains a city of tradition in the midst of a fast evolving world.

Beijing has been the capital city of China during four of its Dynasties. It was formerly known as Peking. The name changed to Beijing in October of 1941 when the birth of the People’s Republic of China was announced on Tiananmen Square.

Beijing can be said to be tourist-friendly. Though the official language is Mandarin, an array of languages including English is spoken throughout the city. Visitors can count on hot and somewhat humid summers with cold but dry winters.

In Beijing, almost every building has historical importance. What makes Beijing even more unique is the richness of its architecture. Most landmarks and icons are representations of Imperial China. One of the most important sites is the Forbidden City. It was built during the reign of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and served as home to the emperors for five centuries. And of course one can’t mention Beijing without Tiananmen Square, built in the 1400s. This has been the site of some of the most important events in Chinese history. It’s also the largest open structure in the world.

To the North of the Beijing Municipality lies the Great Wall of China. Given its advantageous location, it has served as defender against invasions throughout time. Today, it’s one of the most recognized icons worldwide.

Beijing is also home to masterfully landscaped parks and gardens. The Summer Palace, also known as “Yihe Yuan,” has been said to be the epitome of artful grandeur. Lakes, regal pavilions, temples, palaces and bridges make this an idyllic refuge.

Beijing is also known for its cultural achievements. One of these is the Beijing Opera. It differs from main opera in that it combines song and dialogue with action sequences and acrobatics. Beijing is also home to hundreds of museums.

Tradition is also prevalent in Beijing cuisine. It’s an array of influences from throughout China, especially from the Shandong province. Flavors range from sour to spicy and sweet. Several methods for frying are used and condiments like soy and sesame are among the most common. Popular dishes include the famed Peking duck, noodles, roast pork and vegetables. Desserts are prepared using rice and bean paste.

Shopping in Beijing is also out of the ordinary. It’s the only place to find delicate silks, lacquerware and the intricate art of cloisonné. It’s also home to ancient medicine with herbs and teas that boast curative qualities.

Beijing is one city that seamlessly mixes the past with the present.

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