Kris Milne’s take on Beijing’s tourist sights. Half English Half Danish, Kris is UK educated but has been living in Beijing for a few months now. In September he will move to Copenhagen, Denmark to continue his travel adventures.
After my fifth month in Beijing I have well and truly seen the sights: The Great wall, Forbidden City and Buddhist temples. I’ve visited them, read the plaques, admired the artefacts and taken all the ubiquitous photographs. So when a recent visitor from home asked me to show them around, tell them the best things to see and do some general hand holding I was a little resigned, as even the most amazing vision can become stale after repetition.
However, after planning a week’s itinerary, getting all the necessary accessories and dealing with the arrival I began revisiting the sights and something was different.
Rather than wandering around the established route reading Chinglish signs and trying to look through dirty glass cabinets and bars, I sat and experienced the atmosphere. Initially there had always been too much focus on seeing the actual sight. Now taking a few minutes to savour the sight reinvigorated the experience and made it a very different. I tried to pass this on to my visitor. After overcoming the worry of missing out on this ‘must see’ experience or that ‘must take’ photograph they truly experienced not only the atmosphere of the sights but the tempo and feeling of Beijing.
Where is this? It’s not one of the 20 must sees of the Lonely Planet or Rough Guide, but one of my favourite places in Beijing. It’s still a sight but it’s the serenity, atmosphere and cultural significance that makes this place so special. This Confucius Temple is dedicated to one of the most influential people on Chinese history, the philosopher and teacher Confucius (551–479 BC). Mao may have dominated the twentieth century, but it is Confucian theories that have dominated the last millennium. Overlooked by all but the most interested of foreigners and significant numbers of Chinese this is a glorious place to spend a nice day or at least a few hours wandering in the courtyards and sitting by the numerous pavilions all around.
Entrance fee is ¥30 (£3) and an audio tour cost ¥50 (£5) (with a deposit of ¥200 (£20) and they will want some ID as a guarantee). This allows you to visit the Confusions temple and also an adjoining museum about the old imperial civil service exams (can be missed). To get there take the subway to Yonghegong Lama Temple stop on lines 5 and 2, from which it is a short walk.
Another bastion of atmosphere in Beijing is the Summer Palace, this one you will find in all the guidebooks. There is a lot of interesting history and it is even a UNESCO heritage sight. Wandering around the various pavilions, the temple on the hill and pedalo-ing in the beautiful lake are all great ways to experience this stunning park but keeping in theme with ‘sight savouring’ wander off the beaten path into the hills and you will find a plethora of small forts, pavilions and beautiful places to sit and enjoy the scenery.
Summer Palace: entrance fee is ¥60/£6 (for the full ticket into all the pavilions) ¥30/£3 - for the entrance only ticket. To get there take the subway to Xiyuan on line 4 and then walk the short way to the Summer Palace, rickshaw drivers will try and ask for ¥100 (£1) to take you the very short distance but the walk is only a few minutes and all you have to do is follow the crowds or ask.
Tip: the painting stylised maps are a good buy to help you decided what to see and where it is and make a rather good souvenir for only ¥10/£1.