As the political, intellectual, and cultural capital of China, Beijing is a dynamic city reinventing itself for the 21st century. Beijingers remain proud of their traditions, their language, and a rich heritage that dates back centuries, making it the perfect place to study Chinese while learning about China's past, present, and future. Spend as much time as you can indulging in this city's rich culture: explore the maze of hutong, shop the glitzy areas of Chaoyang, and wander through the majestic Forbidden City and the Temple of Heaven.
Beijing is one of the historic capitals of the Chinese Empire and is the political and cultural center of the People's Republic. It is not the most populous city in China, but after a rush hour ride on a Beijing bus or an attempt to cross a major street, you may think so. (The population of this ever-growing city now exceeds 22 million).
You will also be impressed by the geographic size of the place – it is a long way across town.
Beijing has been primarily an administrative capital rather than an industrial or commercial city. Today, however, the administrative function is supplemented by industrial and (especially) commercial activities. As a capital, Beijing is the location of the headquarters of the nation's key economic institutions. It is also the home of many national cultural institutions.
One advantage of the administrative character of the city is that Beijing is laid out in a square and organized on a grid pattern, so it is relatively easy to find your way around.
Most importantly, most Beijing people speak Chinese with standard pronunciation, which is a big help not only for understanding what people say but also for maintaining accurate pronunciation in your own spoken Chinese.
While you are in Beijing, you will have the opportunity to immerse yourself in as many aspects as possible of Chinese culture. You will visit important monuments associated with Chinese tradition, such as the Great Wall and the Forbidden City. You will also learn about China's more recent tradition by visiting such places as the Museum of Evolutionary History and Tiananmen Square. Finally, you'll have the chance to finish your evening at a Chinese opera with a popular music concert or a film aimed at the mass audience.
Chinese culture, especially in Beijing, is richly diverse.
Originally forbidden to any male except for eunuchs and the emperor, the Forbidden City (the Imperial Palace) was home to presiding monarchs dating back to the Ming Dynasty. Following the abdication of the last emperor in 1911, it is now a tourist attraction. Visitors travel to the palace to see its beautiful gardens, gates, and Chinese architecture.
Designed in the 1400s and the largest urban open square in the world, Tiananmen Square is located in central Beijing and attracts locals and tourists alike. The square is flanked by the Forbidden City, The Great Hall of the People, and various other important monuments and structures.
"[My favorite landmark] is Tiananmen Square...If you go at dawn, being in Tiananmen surrounded by hundreds of peaceful Chinese is amazing... and what a great way to end a night out with your friends." -Paige M.
The Great Wall of China is a wonder of the ancient world. Stretching over 5000 miles in length and built, initially, in the 5th century B.C., the Wall was constructed to protect China's northern border. The Great Wall is one of the most recognizable monuments in the world.
"[My favorite landmark is] the Great Wall. The wall is so impressive and is so much better than what any picture can portray. With IES Abroad, we were able to spend a full weekend hiking the wall and residing in a local village." -Sean K., Bryant University
The Temple of Heaven is a complex of Taoist buildings that was visited by the Emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties for yearly ceremonies of prayer for good harvest. It was constructed from 1406 to 1420 during the reign of the Yongle Emperor, who also oversaw the construction of the Forbidden City.