Experiences > Historical attractions > Asia > Legacy of Ming and Qing Dynasties

Location: China

Forbidden City
Forbidden City
Forbidden City

The Forbidden City in Beijing was the site of supreme power for 24 emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties from 1416-1911 and was off limits to commoners for all of that time. The Imperial Palace, now known as the Palace Museum, is remarkably well preserved and covers an enormous area within Beijing. At 720,000 square metres it is the world's largest palace complex and the largest and most complete series of ancient buildings in China. It comprises landscaped gardens, intricately carved walkways and many magnificent buildings containing almost 10,000 rooms.

Summer Palace

The Summer Palace just outside the centre of Beijing was built as a garden retreat for China's imperial elite. It was first built in 1750 and was restored in 1886 after being destroyed during the Second Opium War of 1860. The Summer Palace is three km² in size, most of which is covered by the water of Kunming Lake, and comprises pavilions, palaces, temples and bridges which complement the natural landscape. The Palace had three main areas - political and administrative, residential and recreational and has been open to the public since 1924.

Temple of Heaven

The Temple of Heaven is situated in Tiantan Park in the southern part of Beijing and is a masterpiece of architectural and landscape design. Completed in 1420, it symbolises the Chinese relationship between Heaven and Earth and was used as an altar of sacrifice for the emperors. There are a number of temples and other buildings within the complex, the most notable of which is the superb, triple-roofed Circular Mound, built to symbolise Heaven within a square enclosure, symbolising Earth.

Mountain Resort of Chengde

Northeast of Beijing in Hebei Province lies the Mountain Resort in Chengde, the summer palace of the Qing Dynasty. Built in the 18th century, the resort was the yearly destination for the Emperor and his ministers, royal troops, family and concubines. To accommodate them, a vast complex of palaces, administrative and ceremonial buildings, temples and gardens were built which today provide an insight into the final era of imperial rule. Of the temples at Chengde, Puning Temple contains a 22 metre statue of Buddha while Putuozuosheng Temple is a replica of the Lhasa's Potala Palace.

Imperial Tombs of the Ming and Qing Dynasties

The Imperial Tombs of the Ming and Qing Dynasties are in five separate locations throughout eastern China all of which attempt to achieve harmony between the natural landscape and the tomb buildings. The Eastern Qing Tombs near Beijing, dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries, are the largest and most complete site which contain the tombs of 5 emperors, 15 empresses and 136 concubines, in addition to hundreds of lesser nobles in the surrounding mountains.


Suzhou is located on the banks of the Grand Canal, an extraordinary engineering feat that connected the Yangtze and Yellow Rivers over 1,800km. This location gave the city, called the "Venice of the Orient" by Marco Polo, a great affluence which was manifested in the extraordinary gardens created here by the imperial elite. Chinese gardens seek to recreate natural landscapes in miniature and the nine gardens in Suzhou, dating from the 11th to the 19th centuries, are the best in China. The most famous is the Humble Administrator’s Garden which contains streams, ponds and beautifully decorated pavilions and a recreation of the scenery of the Lower Yangtze. Suzhou is also one of China's main silk producing towns, which can be purchased from street vendors and silk merchants in the city's Old Quarter.

Ping Yao

Ping Yao is a remarkably well preserved imperial Han Chinese city of the Ming and Qing dynasties (14th to 20th centuries). It offers a fascinating insight into the development of architecture and town planning over several centuries. China's first banks were set up in Ping Yao, which became a financial centre during the Qing dynasty and the Rishengchang Financial House is one of the most impressive buildings in the city. Ping Yao has very imposing city walls, dating to 1370, which are ten metres high and measure 6km in length. Along their length are six fortified gates and 72 watchtowers, each inscribed with a chapter from Sun-tzu's The Art of War.


The great philosopher, politician and educator Confucius of the 6th–5th centuries BC was born and died in Qufu in Shandong Province. Two years after he died his house was consecrated as a temple. It was rebuilt in 153 AD and regularly renovated over the subsequent centuries, particularly during the Ming Dynasty in the 16th century. Today it comprises over 100 buildings and covers 20 hectares. Confucius's cemetery contains his tomb and the remains of more than 100,000 of his ancestors who have lived here for over 2,500 years spanning 77 generations. Additionally 152 buildings of the Kong Family residence have been preserved. The site rivals Beijing's Forbidden City in size and grandeur and represents an extraordinary historic and artistic heritage.

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