Gateway to China’s Cultural Past
While Shanghai and Hong Kong compete for the right to be called the economic center of China, Beijing, which means “northern capital,” is undoubtedly the nation’s cultural, political, and educational nexus. A primary reason for this is the Forbidden City, a massive complex of buildings and palaces that housed Chinese Emperors for almost 500 years. Modern visitors who want to explore on their own should take the north gate to Tiananmen Square, within which lies Mao’s mausoleum; if you come early, you’ll also get a view of the locals practicing t’ai chi in Jingshan Park. Other can’t-miss sites include the Summer Palace, the blissful Temple of Heaven Park, and, of course, the Great Wall of China, which is less than two hours’ drive from the city center. However, there is more to this city than the past, as its frantic pre-Olympic preparations clearly demonstrate. Beijing has a booming skyline, a vibrant arts scene, and a young population that hungers to embrace all that is new and modern.