Also called “Lunar New Year,” Chinese New Year is the most significant holiday in Chinese culture. Although China has been using the Gregorian (or solar) calendar since 1912, the country still follows the lunar calendar for traditional holidays. Traditionally, the festival begins on first day of the month of the Chinese calendar and ends on the 15th. From scrumptious food such as jau gok (the main Chinese New Year dumpling) to customary red packets filled with money, this holiday is just a small window into China’s rich and fascinating culture.
If the events of Chinese New Year spark your interest in the customs, traditions and history of China, why not plan a trip to explore the country for yourself.
Top 5 Beijing Sights
The Forbidden City
Home to 24 emperors during the Ming and Qing dynasties, the massive Imperial Palace, better known as the Forbidden City, still stands as a shrine to China’s imperial past. Plan two full days if you want to see the entire complex, but the major highlights such as the great halls and the imperial gardens can be seen in one day.
Flanked by the main gate of the Forbidden City (which is emblazoned with an enormous portrait of Mao) at one end and the Chairman Mao Memorial Hall (his mausoleum) at the other, Tiananmen Square, the world’s largest public square, is a monument to communist rule and architecture.
The Summer Palace
Starting as a quiet garden, this expansive palace on the outskirts of Beijing was completely rebuilt by the Empress Dowager Cixi after a ransacking by the Anglo-French forces during the Second Opium Wars. The Summer Palace’s serene, lakeside complex offers innumerable walkways, gardens, and temples for visitors to see. Keep your strength for the trek to the monumental Tower of Buddhist Incense which offers a stunning view of Kunming Lake and the distant Beijing skyline.
The Great Wall
Originally built to keep out the invading Mongol forces, the Great Wall has come to symbolize China itself. There are eight portions of the wall open to the public, ranging from the rugged at Simatai to the tourist friendly at Badaling. Kids will love the roller coaster like system to get up and down the mountainside at Badaling, as well as the opportunity to feed the bears in the bear exhibit at the entrance.
I’ve seen many temples during my travels but this one blew them all away. Said to be the most important Buddhist temple outside of Tibet, this collection of temples offers shrine after shrine, with each more impressive than the last. The Lama Temple culminates with the towering Maitreya Buddha, which is registered in the Guinness World Records as the world’s tallest Buddha.
* Adapted from Miranda Young’s “Beijing’s Top 10 Sights.”
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