Beijing - and China as a whole - has developed a unique history spanning over 5,000 years. Due to its close proximity with the Himalayan mountain range, rainforests to the South, and harsh Siberian climate moving north, there is an sense of fascinating otherworldliness when visiting Beijing for the first time from the Western world.
The rise and fall of dynasties has been the story of the nation since records began, with elements of a fortified Chinese culture evident in the characters and dragons which make up so much of Chinese folklore. Many Beijing citizens can impart knowledge on the history of the city, while a journey though the National Museum of China; located in the East side of Tian’anmen Square, Dongcheng District, offers a truly unforgettable insight into the nation's art and cultural history as a worldwide civilization.
Philosophy and Religion
Chinese religion and philosophy are culturally and historically intertwined, with traditional Chinese beliefs and philosophy at the core of society as opposed to any one dominanting religion.
There are three main strands of religious practice which many Beijing and Chinese inhabitants may choose to follow, or combine preferable elements of each. Confucian, Buddhist and Daoist belief systems are represented in the form of temples across Beijing, including the iconic Temple of Heaven, while Christianity and Islam are increasingly burgeoning religions across China.
This temple is located south-east of the city centre, harbouring a history of Daoist and general heaven worship which once upon a time saw past dynasty Emperors visit to pray for a good harvest.
Beijing is at the forefront of a Chinese culture revered for expressing itself through literature, Peking Opera and Chinese calligraphy.
The highest form of Chinese art in calligraphy is an abstract representation of characters in delicate brushstrokes most notable for their written style as much as the message they create. Even cultures who don't speak the native tongue can appreciate the beauty of calligraphy, with calligraphy body tattoos among the most popular across the world.
Away from the spiritual power of the written world intrinsic to traditional culture, Peking Opera, or Beijing Opera, is a traditional theatrical dance which combines music, vocals and acrobatics as a mesmerising speactacle which is often enjoyed at the egg-shaped modern dome of the National Center of Performing Arts near the Forbidden City.
A large part of the allure for travellers to Beijing is the vast architectural differences between China and the Western world.
While Beijing has seen something of a 21st Century sprouting of contemporary archictectural design (due in part to the new buildings created as part of the city's hosting of the 2008 Olympic Games) there remains a defiantly imperial counter-balance when walking through certain districts.
For every National Stadium and National Centre of Performing Arts, there are traditional buildings such as Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City and the Lama Temple. These buildings lend themselves to the striking symmetry of balance in Chinese culture, which ensures that immaculately kept palaces, comprising walled gates, timber wood panels, flat-tipped roofs and inner temple complexes are always part of a greater, picturesque whole.