Today the Forbidden City (or Palace Museum), a World Heritage site since 1987, still abounds with the sense of grandeur and wealth, an aura of pomp and majesty that has passed down through the ages. This secret city was closed off from the world for about 500 years but now 720,000 sq m of courtyards, pavilions, great halls, flourishing gardens and nearly 10,000 rooms combine to form one of the best-preserved historical sites in China. Built by tens of thousands of people, it took over 14 years and 32 million bricks to complete.
From Shanhaiguan, northeast of Qinhuangdao City in Hebei Province on the east coast, the Great Wall rises and falls with the contours of the mountains westwards, crossing nine provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions over 6,700 kilometers, to end at Jiayuguan, southwest of Jiayuguan City in Gansu Province. Building of the wall began during the Spring and Autumn period (770-476 BC) and the Warring States period (475-221 BC) of the Eastern Zhou Dynasty. Ducal states at that time built walls to defend their individual territories. After the First Emperor of the Qin Dynasty crushed all rival states, he founded the first centralized and unified dynasty in Chinese history. To consolidate the country and ward off invasion by ethnic minority tribes in the north he had the walls linked and extended, giving rise to the 5,000-kilometer-long Qin Great Wall. Later dynasties from Han (206 BC – AD 220) to Ming (1368-1644) continued to build and improve the wall, extending it by more than 1,000 kilometers to its present magnitude.
The Summer Palace, one of the finest examples Garden Architecture in China, is located in the northwest suburbs of Beijing. More than 100 examples of traditional architecture are to be found in the park, including pavilions, terraces, temples, pagodas, waterside gazebos, covered corridors, stone bridges and the famous marble boat. In December 1998, UNESCO included the Summer Palace on its World Heritage List. It declared the Summer Palace an "outstanding expression of the creative art of Chinese Landscape Garden Design, incorporating the works of humankind and nature in a harmonious whole."
The Temple of Heaven, literally the Altar of Heaven, is a complex of Taoist buildings situated in southeastern Beijing. The Emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties visited the complex annually when they prayed to Heaven for good harvests. It is regarded as a Taoist temple, although Chinese Heaven worship, especially by the reigning monarch of the day, actually pre-dates Taoism. The temple complex was constructed from 1406 to 1420 during the reign of the Yongle Emperor, who was also responsible for the construction of the Forbidden City in Beijing. The complex was extended and renamed the Temple of Heaven during the reign of the Jiajing Emperor in the 16th century. The Jiajing Emperor also built three other prominent temples in Beijing, the Temple of the Sun in the east, the Temple of the Earth in the north, and the Temple of the Moon in the west. The Temple of Heaven was renovated in the 18th century under the Qianlong Emperor.