The city, which is very much the economic, political and cultural heart of the country, covers some 17000 square kilometres and is home to just under 14 million citizens.
Beijing boasts a fascinating history which dates back to the foundation of the first settlements in the area some four to five thousand years ago.
The city itself has endured countless invasions by foreign powers and been fought over many times by rival war-lords. Communism came to China on October 1, 1949 in Tiananmen Square when Chairman Mao Zedong created the People's Republic claiming that this ideology was the pinnacle of the 150-year fight against foreign exploitation.
Officially known as "The Gugong", the Imperial Palace is better known as the The Forbidden City. The treasure packed palace was used by 24 emperors of the Qing and Ming Dynasties and citizens were strictly forbidden from even approaching the outer walls. The palace is open to visitors everyday from 8.30am to 5pm.
Last admission is 3.30pm in winter and 4pm in the summer. The cost is 40¥ or 60¥ to include the special exhibitions. If using the subway, visitors should alight at Tiananmen West or East.
Set in one of the most picturesque parts of Beijing, the Summer Palace includes a huge public park of which two thirds is covered by a huge lake. Established in the eleventh century the present buildings date from the 18th century and were created by Manchu Emperor Qianlong. It was at the Summer Palace that the later Imperial courts would spend much of the hot summer months.
The Summer Palace ( officially Yiheyuan ) is open daily from 8am to 7pm with the buildings closing at 4pm. Cost of entry to the buildings is ¥40. Rowing boats can be rented for ¥10 per hour and boating on the lake is a favourite pastime of the local people.
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