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A Walking Tour of   Beijing - The Eastern Route

  1. Golden River Bridge (Jinshui Qiao)
  2. Women of the Forbidden City
  3. Donghuamen Night Snack Street
  4. Wangfujing Street

 

 

If you are looking for a late-afternoon ramble, a good starting point awaits outside the Tian'anmen Subway station. Walk over Golden River Bridge (Jinshui Qiao), overlooked by a portrait of Chairman Mao on the Rostrum. Walk straight through the Rostrum's passageway and head north. If you have already visited the Forbidden City and do not wish repeat the experience, turn east and exit through the red gate. You will immediately see the city moat and the Forbidden City's famous Corner Tower, which is made entirely with a single nail or screw. It is held together ingeniously by wooden pegs and superb mortice-and-tenon joints.

Follow the route of the city moat until you reach the Donghuamen gate of the Forbidden City. A little to the east is Donghuamen Snack Street, where you can find virtually any snack ever created. There is: Yang rou chuan (skewered mutton cubes) all year round, while the winter special is tang hu lu (sugar-coated fruits on a stick).

Famous Beijing snacks include guan chang (deep-fried starch cake flavoured with garlic), bao du (boiled stomach pieces), jiao quan (deep-fried balls of dough), chaogan (braised intestines and chaliver), lu zhu huo shao (baked Chinese pancake with intestines, lung and deep-fried tofu or doufu) and cha or porridge.

Many snacks from other parts of the country can also be found here.

After eating, turn right and head for the "golden mile" of Wangfujing, Beijing's premier shopping street where magnificent department stores and cosy shops offer a huge choice of goods. You will find Sun Dong An Plaza, Beijing Department Store, Wangfujing Book Store and the Oriental Plaza. 

A Walking Tour of Beijing - The Northern Route

  1. Temple of Earth
  2. Chengxian Street
  3. Jiu Dao Wan

For a pleasant way to spend an afternoon, make your starting point the Temple of Earth, close to Yonghegong (Lama Temple) Subway Station. The scenic Temple of Earth is where feudal emperors held memorial ceremonies to the earth. Part of the beauty of the venue is its fine collection of ancient cypresses. There many stories of historical and archaeological interest.

The Temple area is also a good place to soak in an overall relaxed atmosphere, a site that inspires and is conducive to spiritual renewal. Of equal appeal is the nearby Lama Temple, details of which can be found in any Beijing guidebook. It too has a rich history well worth any visitor's attention.

You will find the main entrance to the Lama Temple opposite the junction to Chengxian Street, a lengthy thoroughfare that boasts the only remaining historic memorial archway of its kind in the city. Chengxian also contains the Confucian Temple, Capital Library, fascinating steles and a well-preserved traditional courtyard house or siheyuan.

The library, with excellent reading rooms, was in part built with materials from the Confucian Temple. You can gain free admission to the temple simply by visiting the library first. While this is a huge and fascinating repository, the temple has greater visual and atmospheric appeal, not least due to its wealth of stone memorial archways and tables; the small bridge over a delightful stream; pavilions and terraced halls; and a lengthy corridor that also calls for your camera to be brought into action.

Walk north along Beixinqiao Dajie, which runs close to the Lama Temple, and you will come across numerous hutongs, also worth photographing. Residents here will direct you to a particular hutong called Nine Turns (jiu dao wan) because of its twists and turns. But its main appeal consists in the fine array of old courtyard houses that have now become the compounds of many extended families. Most of these households are hospitable to visitors, and pleased if you wish to get an idea of their daily lives.

A Walking Tour of Beijing - The Southern Route

  1. Liulichang
  2. Temple of Heaven
  3. Antique Market

This walk-about odyssey could well be described as a cultural quest, because such is the nature of the antiques and other riches you come across. Chances are that by day's end you will be loaded down with bargains galore, assuming you are adept at haggling! Just wrap up warmly during the winter, including gloves, and carry nothing except a couple of roomy bags and a fair amount of money. You may not be actually seeking objects for your home, but it is a fair bet that you will be unable to resist a purchase once there.

Your first stop, best by taxi, is Liulichang, to the south of Hepingmen. The area is a virtual treasure trove of imitation 18th and 19th century arts, and their allied skills. The name Liulichang originates from a royal factory built during the early Ming Dynasty, supplying bricks, glazed tiles, and roof and window decorations for the imperial palace.

Although the factory was destroyed in the late Qing Dynasty, it had from the start acted as a magnet for many booksellers, typographers, paper traders, brush and ink-stick/slab makers and a small tribe of stonemasons, painters, bookbinders and dealers in curios. Operating from about 200 shops, they inevitably attracted conventional artists, scholars and foreign visitors.

Today's Liulichang, also known as Cultural Street, has 54 shops largely concerned with selling souvenirs, handcrafts, cultural relics, ancient books, paper of all descriptions, calligraphic brushes and paintings. While now a far cry from the original, its sheer diversity is still fascinating enough to merit a few hours on your feet as you explore the richly stocked shops that vie for your business.

If you end up footsore, you will find relief in a 10-minute taxi ride to the Temple of Heaven. You can take a break there and spend a pleasant hour resting in the temple's own park, one of the most beautiful in Beijing. If your trip is on a Saturday or Sunday, you can take a 15-minute drive from the park to the city's most famous curio market, Panjiayuan.

This truly is a treasure house, so much so that many Beijingers go there every weekend in search of a true bargain, hidden among row upon row of stalls.

Even if you don't buy anything, you will expose yourself to many facets of Chinese history and culture.

 

A Walking Tour of Beijing - The Western Line 

  1. Bell and Drum Towers
  2. Shichahai
  3. Houhai

Each ancient city in China has bell and drum towers that have been sounded time for their residents throughout history. Those in Beijing are well maintained and among the largest in the country's "must see" sites. The buildings in which they are housed are eye-catching and afford panoramic views of the city. At ground level, they are surrounded by souvenir shops that form a mix of ancient and modern living. The Drum Tower is on Gulou Street, adjacent to the ancient Wanning Bridge with stone balustrades on both sides, under which grain shops used to pass enroute to the wharf at Shichahai for unloading. In earlier centuries this waterway was the busiest in the city.

Gulou Street is yet another good area in which to stop for food and drinks. Snacks are a specialty, but full-scale dishes are also available. Treats such as dalian huoshao (baked wheat cake), the lu zhu huo shao Shop, huntun (wonton) Hou are well worth the visit. Also try the Qiulixiang Shop for fried chestnuts with sugar and the kaorouji (barbeque) Restaurant.

The Bell Tower is close to Doufuchi Hutong, beyond whose small market you can reach a carved archway where a temple of a Goddess was long ago located. In the centre of the hutong is the compound of the premier Department of Beijing Public Security Bureau, and home of Prince Na during the Qing Dynasty.

Cross the bridge here, turn right at the crossroad of Di'anmen Street, and you will reach colourful Shichahai. By day, local residents play chess, rehearse Peking Opera and sell old books and other items. Nightfall sees the opening of the area's numerous bars, coffee rooms and teahouses. You can also board a romantic sightseeing boat whose stern is always occupied by musicians playing traditional instruments. Prior to boarding, you can order food for your lake trip at the famous Muslim barbecue restaurant, Kaorou Ji.

Walking along the bank of Shichahai, you will reach Houhai, then Jishuitan. Jishuitan is a man-made lake designed by scientist Guo Shoujing, and which revolutionalized the whole system of water transportation in the capital. The former residences of many famous Chinese still exist around the Shichahai, Houhai and Jishuitan areas, which are rich in ancient artefacts and the source of many stories

 

      
 

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