Beijing Day Trips
The Great Wall of China © Marianna
Great Wall of China
The Great Wall of China, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a perennial favourite among tourists, and with good reason. The magnificent Great Wall, stretching 4,000 miles (6,350km), was built in stages from the 7th century BC onwards, snaking its way across the mountains and valleys of five provinces in northern China as a mammoth defence bulwark against the neighbouring Manchurian and Mongolian peoples.
Several sections of the wall, which has become the most prominent symbol of Chinese civilisation, can be viewed in the greater Beijing area. In Yanqing county, in northwest Beijing, is the 600-year-old Badaling Fortification, representative of the Ming dynasty sections of the Great Wall. Other sections can be seen at Jinshanling, Mutianyu, and Simatai. The more popular sections can be very crowded, but generally if travellers walk a little way they can escape the worst of it. There are some wonderful stretches of the wall to hike, such as the roughly six-mile (10km) section between Jinshaling and Simatai, but visitors should be careful about setting off alone as parts of the wall are unstable and unsafe. It is best for visitors to take their own water and snacks and to pack very warm clothes if planning to go in winter, because temperatures at the wall can be freezing. There are countless vendors, but their goods are usually very expensive and of questionable quality. It is illegal to remove stone from the wall and Chinese authorities are clamping down on the practice.
Website: www.mutianyugreatwall.net ; Transport: To Mutianyu: Travellers can take the 916 bus from Dongzhimen station (in downtown Beijing) to Huairou, where they can take a minibus taxi to the wall.; Opening time: April to October 7am - 6pm; November to March 7.30am - 5.30pm; Admission: CNY 45 (adults); CNY 25 (children)
Zhoukoudian Cave © Mutt
About 25 miles (40km) south of Beijing, in the Fangshan District, is the Zhoukoudian Cave, the source of the largest collection of Homo erectus fossils from any single site in the world. The fossils recovered from the cave represent about 40 individuals, most famous of which is a cranium element commonly known as the 'Peking Man', the world's earliest fire-using primitive man who lived between 200,000 and 700,000 years ago. German anatomist Franz Weidenreich studied the Peking Man remains in the 1930s and recognised 12 anatomical features that he believed Peking Man shared with modern man, a milestone in the study of palaeoanthropology.
Visitors to the Zhoukoudian site on Dragon Bone Hill can view a comprehensive seven-room exhibition of fossils and artefacts depicting human evolution and the lifestyle of primitive man. The exhibits showcase fossils from all over China, allowing visitors to compare the different lifestyles of the primitive communities that have been discovered. They can also explore the cave where the Peking Man cranium and other Homo erectus remains were found. The area surrounding the caves has several animal sculptures and pleasant shady areas in which to relax. Travellers who go early might even have the site to themselves.
Address: Zhoukoudian, Fangshan; Website: www.zkd.cn; Telephone: 010 6930 1272; Transport: Bus 917 from Tianqiao station to Zhoukou Cun Lukou, before taking Fangshan Bus 38 to Yuan Ren Yi Zhi (Zhoukoudian Cave); Opening time: April to October 8.30am - 4.30pm; November to March 8.30am - 4pm.; Admission: CNY 30 (adults), concessions available
Ming Dynasty Tomb © xiquinhosilva
Tombs of the Ming DynastyBuilt by the emperors of the Ming Dynasty of China, the majority of surviving Ming tombs are clustered near Beijing and easily reached on short excursions out of the capital. Thirteen emperors' mausoleums, dating from between 1368 and 1644 and collectively UNESCO-listed, can be seen in the Ming Tombs Scenic Area at the foot of Tianshou Mountain. Currently only three of the tombs are open to the public (Chanling, Dingling and Zhaoling) but this is more than sufficient as all the tombs are similar in design and the three that can be explored are arguably the most interesting. The Changling Tomb is the largest, oldest and best preserved, looming majestically at the end of the Sacred Way. The Dingling Tomb is the only one which has been properly excavated but tragically many of the artefacts and the remains of the emperor and empresses entombed in the mausoleum were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution. Even so, the excavated Underground Palace in Dingling is fascinating and some magnificent artefacts can still be viewed. Many operators in Beijing offer tours to the Ming Tombs, often combined with trips to the Great Wall and other nearby attractions. Visitors travelling independently will need to pay entry to each tomb separately.
Opening time: April to October 8am - 5.30pm; November to March 8.30am - 5pm.; Admission: April to October: Dingling CNY 65; Changling CNY 50; Zhaoling and Sacred Way CNY 35. November to March: Dingling CNY 45; Changling CNY 35; Zhaoling and Sacred Way CNY 25.
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