Discovering China through Its Heritage Sites

In 2016, China recorded over 20 Million visitors. As China maintains its economic cooperation with other nations, it has seen continuous growth in visitorship. China has preserved over 3,000 years of history and development through its ancient structures, from the Forbidden City in Beijing to the Three Confucius Sites in Qufu, Serving as a seamless contrast to their neighboring skyscrapers, these architectural masterpieces are open doors to understanding Chinese culture.

Governance: Forbidden City or the “Palace Museum”                                         

One of the most popular destinations in China, the Forbidden City served as the center of political affairs during the Ming and Qing dynasty. It served as the first political structure after the capital was moved from Nanjing to Beijing. After 14 years of construction, it stands as the biggest palace complex covering 74 hectares.

From 1420 to 1912, generations of emperors and their families resided in the northern portion of the complex while official affairs were held in the southern portion. Only those granted permission could enter the complex, hence its designation as “The Forbidden City.” Also known as The Palace Museum, it represents Chinese culture not only in its history but in its design. For those familiar with the Han Chinese culture, the location of the Palace in relation to the city of Beijing follows the principle of Yin and Yang while the choice of color and material following the Five Elements.

Beliefs: Three Confucius Sites, Qufu

One of the oldest belief systems practiced by the Chinese is Confucianism. Some of the fundamental teachings of Confucianism include putting value in self-actualization, kindness to others, and family. Though the local population today practices various religions, such as Taoism, Buddhism, Catholicism, and Islam, Confucianism continues to define their way of life.

One of the cities where one can appreciate Confucianism is Qufu. Here one can find The Kong Family Mansion, The Cemetery of Confucius and the Qufu Confucius Temple. With 480 rooms, the mansion is said to be the home of Confucius’ descendants. Also known as the Holly Mansion, the mansion was designed to cater to the practices of Confucianism, including separate places for work, reception and entertainment. The Cemetery is the largest and oldest cemetery in the world as historians date Confucius’ death in 479 BC. With an area of two square kilometers, the Cemetery serves as the burial place of both Confucius and thousands of his followers. Lastly, standing at 95,000 square meters, the Qufu Confucius Temple serves as one of the grandest places of worship to Confucius. Inside the complex, extravagant cultural relics, pavilions and ancient halls carry history and Confucius lessons to both visitors and devotees alike.

Resilience: Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall, Nanjing

The Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall is one of the more modern sites to visit in Nanjing, China. Completed in 1995, it was built to commemorate the 300,000 lives lost during the six-week invasion of the Japanese Army in 1937. Though China had been able to regain its independence, their resilience against the Japanese forces is still lauded in as a critical factor leading up to the surrender of Japan and the ending of World War II in 1945.

Upon entering the Memorial Hall, visitors can view the outdoor exhibit which includes a wall with the names of the 300,000 victims on a large Wall surrounded by sculptures and tablets noting significant dates and sites. Another exhibition hall holds documents, paintings and other items that have contributed to the historical account of the events that occurred. Lastly, visitors and relatives can only pay respects to 208 victims whose excavated remains lay in a coffin-shaped display hall. Last December, the first National Day of Remembrance was held with government leaders, tourists, and locals visiting the site to pay their respects.

These three sites from three diverse cities share only a part of China’s rich history and culture. As more cities continue to invest in initiatives to attract foreign investors, who knows how much more will be discovered and shared in the next few years?