However, as depicted, somehow this was not to be. It is said (J. Spence ; "Mao") that...
In a drive for modernisation the Old City of Beijing was reorganised. In the early 1950's the Stalinistic Tiananmen Square had been constructed, widening it up to be the largest square in the World. Next Slums or Hutong were torn down to make room for the wide boulevards (Dajie') that would carry officials, and funnel visitors and party demonstrators to the Square and important governement buildings. On the outside, the City was to opened up. The Impressive, 150 meter-wide, heavy City Walls were dismantled. In their place the Cities' Ring Highway was constructed to carry large volumes of heavy traffic.
Around it, and often quite near the City Centre, as much factories as would fit were built. By then the idea of Beijing a Model Park-like City was already long forgotten.
This page was last updated on: June 28, 2017
In the 1960's during the modernisation drive much of the City Walls were cleared away for new developments. Among these developments was a plan for a modern highway unlocking the growing city for traffic. This highway, nowadays known as the 2nd ring road, was to be built over the space earlier occupied by the large City Walls.
Eversince the Observatory stands alone in signaling the border of The Old City. It can be found at the eastern end of Jianguomen NeiDaJie' overlooking the Cities' 2nd ring road, near the (South-) Chongwai Embassy District.
In earlier days, when still part of the City Walls the Observatory Tower would have been impressive to any passerby. In these modern times the Observatory has been surrounded by gigantic appartment blocks, quasi-modern highrises and a number of other eyesores, dwarfing the Massive Observatory in comparison. However, one can still get a sense of awe and history when walking around and past the 35 meter high building, along the 2nd Ring Road.
Ancient Observatory of Beijing , platform and battlements.
In western terms The Observatory stands at the Eastern End of Jianguomen NeiDajie. That is where the street ends at Jianguomen.
In Chinese things are seen and described differently. Here, the Observatory at Jianguomen (Eastern Gate) is the reference. JianguoMen NeiDajie' thus is the street lying west from Jianguomen, within the Old City. Nei = inner.
JianguoMen WaiDajie' on the other hand is the same street, running from this point , the Gate, onwards to the East. Jianguomen WaiDajie' is the street outside the Old City. Wai = outer.
Looking North at the Ancient Observatory of Beijing and the Asia-Pacific building in the background.
In the 1950's , when "The Revolution" had been succesful but was still considered in it's early days the party planners presented the Leadership, Mao, with a very progressive idea. Their plan was to turn Beijing, as the Capital of China, into a model city. A very different place from other Cities, abundant with water, parks, and unpolluted. A modern living space soothing the chinese citizen. A view of what it could and would be like to live and prosper under the New System.
For this purpose Industry and other activities were to be placed outside Beijing, conserving a lot of the Ancient Capital and turning it into a gargantuan park-like area, showcase of the succes of a New China.
View along the 2nd ring road with a the observatory and bicycle traffic along 2nd ring road highway. To East and Right lies the gigantic Chaoyang District now under rapid development and modernisation. The Chqoyang District is not part of the Ancient city and lies outside the Walls.
Traffic zooming by on both sides of the Ancient Observatory Tower , Park and Museum
To complicate matters just a little more the 2nd Ring Road also carries the name JianguoMen Dajie'. This time it is JianguoMen Nan-Dajie' for heading South, Jianguomen Bei-Dajie' for heading North. Nan meaning South and Bei meaning North.
For those that can read chinese signs there is a book and magazine stand. No material on the Observatory though.
For this aply to the small giftshop on top of the Tower.
The Beijing Ancient Observatory conveniently sits next to the JianguoMen Subway / Metro-station and is very easy to reach.
The JianguoMen-station is part of Both the subway systems' Circular Green-Line and the Linear Red Line. The latter coming from and going to TiananMen Square.
The JianguoMen Subway Station and Beijing Ancient Observatory.
The new Observatory we see today was built during the early days of the Ming Dynasty, 1442 AD during the Zhentong (Chien Tung) reign (4th Ming Emperor). It's use was for observations of the Sky, both for Astrological predictions and later, although, superstition would remain strong in all layers of Society, more and more for scientific purposes.
Some of these Instruments can be found downstairs at the Museum in the form of navigational equipment from Chinese Ships (read Gavin Menzies - 1421 The Year China Discovered the World ).
In later years, when China and the Far East had been reached by European Nations, their influence started to permeate China. During the early days of the 17th Century a group of (French) Jesuits made contact with the Ming Court. Being curious after their knowledge , especially the canon and fire-arms, and eager to aquire them, the Emperor allowed a small group of them to work with Chinese Scientists.
After this the Jesuits outstrived the also present muslim-astronomers and were given control over the Beijing Observatory. During the 17th Century consecutive Jesuit scientists, operating out of their headquarters at NanTang, South Cathedral, constructed a number of Astronomical Instruments, copies of which can today be found at the Museum.
Observatory Parking, both for cars and bicycles and the Observatory Entrance.
Dating from 1442 AD, the Beijing Observatory Site is world-renowned as one of the oldest in the world.
As depicted the Watch Tower stands in the North-Eastern Corner of the Complex. South of the Tower is a small garden with historical treasures from early chinese astronomy. The rest of the Complex is taken up by the Many Halls of the Observatory Museum
Friendship Jewellery at the base of the Observatory Tower.
Once, in the old days , the Ancient Observatory of Beijing was an integral part of the defensive City Walls. In the South-West of the Cities DongCheng District, at the Site of the South-Eastern Gate and Watchtower the Beijing Observatory marked the
eastern border of Beijing's Old City. The watchtower with its platform and battlements mounted with astronomical instruments, 35 meters high , was a place where the Imperial Scholars and Scientists were undisturbed and had an excellent view of the clear night skies over Beijing. The Beijing Observatory is where Halley's Comet was first Observed and recorded.
Ps: If you are a Midget , this is your lucky day - you are allowed in free of charge ! If not : cough up.
Senior Citizens get a 50% reduction on their Entrance Fee.
History : according to Lonely Planet's Damian Harper the history of the Beijing Observatory dates back to the Days of the Kublai Khan and the Mongol Yuan Dynasty. At that specific time the Observatory was built and housed at another site, due North of the current location. The Mongol Khan , as did his predecessors and the later Ming and Ching Dynasty emperors, relied heavily on astrology (not! astronomy!) to plan his moves.