The Observatory Platform , in many ways , forms the highlight of a visit to the Observatory Museum. After visiting the Garden and Museum on groundlevel, at this platform one can get more hands-on and is able to closely inspect an impressing array of astronomical instruments dating back to the 2nd part of the 17th century and Jesuit Father Ferdinand Verbiest. Anyone can get some sense of the exiting discoveries that were made, but true: especially for those with an interest in the science of astronomy, this is a true bonanza.
Even with a visit to the downstairs museum and some explanation, other visitors may have to contend with studying the instruments, admiring their Chinese decorations and may be left wondering about it all. For them, however, there is always the enjoyment of  the everchanging view of a modern Beijing.
Let's have a look.
Beijing Ancient Observatory
This page was last updated on: June 28, 2017
- The Platform -
Accessable via only 1 staircase, 2 flights up, the Observatory Platform with its instruments is 35 meters above ground level, built, or rather mounted, on a former South-Eastern Watchtower of the Old City Wall of Beijing.
While getting a growing sense of the somewhat chaotic Modern surroundings with in the middle of this the anciently styled museum one slowly and tranquilly ascends to the Platform and Observatory.

In the early 1980's the disrepaired observatory was newly renovated after which it was opened to the Public in April 1983.
It is said that eversince it has been very much alike what is was during the reign of the Ming Dynasty (1368 AD - 1644 AD).
The Museum downstairs having older, sometimes excavated instruments on display, at the Platform we find a Total of 8 astronomical instruments dating from the more recent years of the Qing (Ching) Dynasty (1644 AD - 1911 AD).
These include The Celestial Globe , The New Armilla , The Sextant, The Quadrant , The Ecliptic Armilla, The Equatorial Armilla, the Altazimuth and the Azimuth-Theodolite. All instruments were designed by and constructed under guidance of the Belgian Jesuit Father Verbiest, whom the Emperor had put in charge of introducing european systems of measurement and instrumentation into Chinese Astronomy during the period between 1662 AD and 1722 AD.
Right : The Celestial Globe at the Platform.
The Celestial Globe designed by Verbiest was constructed in the year 1673 AD and was used for measuring the exact time and azimuth of rising and setting celestial bodies. Or, reversing the process, determine the exact azimuth and altitude at a given time of day, making it possible to track the movement of celestial objects across the sky.
With these measurements the scientists would then (try and) define theories about the movements with the aim of predicting them.
Left : The Ecliptic Armilla at the Platform. The ecliptic armilla was produced by Verbient and his associates in the same year as the celestial globe. It was made in 1673 AD for determining the ecliptic longitude difference and latitudes of celestial bodies as well as the 24 solar-terms or "hours".
The Quadrant at the Platform. Another Verbient Instrument made in 1673 AD , the quadrant is an instrument for measuring altitudes of celestial bodies in relation to the horizon. Another function is the measurement of zenith distances of celestial bodies like the moon, sun, planets and comets.
The introduction of these various mechanical devices made it possible to make large improvements in measurements, which through further mathematic calculations, translated into far more accurate predictions of solar and other celestial events.
The Platform, proud Chinese Flag , Modern Beijing and some of the Ming Era Instruments designed by Father Verbiest.
In the 17Th Century , during the exploration and expansion period of the Greater European Powers Chinese-European contacts flowered. Trade grew and interest in "The Far East" permeated all kinds of sectors of European Society and a flourishing trade in Chinese Ceramics, Cloisonne and other traditional Chinese products arose. It was during this time, the high point of the Manch Qing Dynasty, that Father Verbient, a Belgian Jesuit Scientists, traveled to China.
The Sextant and Equatorial Armilla at the Platform . Across the 2nd ring road at JianguoMen in the Chaoyang District, the Pacific Plaza Hotel. Part of a more Modern Beijing.

A sextant is used for measuring angular distances between the horizon and a celestial object or between two celestial objects up at the Sky.
This perticular sextant measures angles up to 60 degrees.
This Equatorial Armilla was designed primarily for measuring true solar-time.
Right : The New Armilla at the Platform. This Armilla made in 1744 after Verbiests period was designed by another Jesuit Scientist, Ignaz Kogler , primarily to aquire true solartime by making accurate measurement of the current coordinates of celestial bodies.
Inclination/Declination of celestial bodies, their path across the sky, can be deduced and predicted from these measurements.
The Alt-Azimuth was built in 1673 AD, in the earliest decades of the Kangxi longest reign period (1661 - 1722 AD) of the Qing Dynasty, and is an instrument used for determining the azimuth of celestial bodies. Its presence at the platform is an expression of the Kangxi Emperors interest in adopting and importing superior Foreign technologies where appropriate. As a large part of the Emperors claim to legitimacy was constuted by him being the supposed "Son of Heaven", the production of an accurate calendar for the year, and knowledge of astronimical events (such as solar eclispes and the (re)appearance of comets, was of the utmost importance to the carrying forth of the "Heavenly Mandate" conferred upon the Emperor. In these matters, the Jesuist, with their superior knowledge, made quite the impression, ultimately winning high advisory positions at the court of Kangxi and later Qing Emperors.
From left to Right: The southern side of the Platform with its instruments the Equatorial Armilla , The Sextant, the Azimuth-Theodolite, the alt-azimuth and the Ecliptic Armilla.
The Azimuth-Theodolite is not  a Verbient Instrument.
If you have already visited the Museum Halls and the garden, there is only one more way to go. Downstairs and out of the Museum.
Enjoying your last moments of the view, it is time to descend and re-emerge into the always bustling life of this 13 million strong fast-changing and growing City.
Take the Metro or a Cab back to your Hotel.
If you are interested in seeing more of Beijing's Monuments, especially its Old City Walls, it is very convenient to walk some 500 meters more southernly (along the 2nd ring road) to the Red Gate and Gallery. Another part of the Old Walls , the Red Gate has always been closely connected to the Beijing Main Railway Station.
Once a tunnel was passed through it to enable trains to pass into the City. Nowadays the Red Gate has been turned into a City Wall Museum and a Modern (Chinese) Art Gallery.
A must for lovers of contemporary Chinese Culture !!
The Azimuth-Theodolite in closer detail. Made at a later date during the Verbiest period, in 1715 AD , the Azimuth Theodolite is a new instrument designed to help with further even more exact measurements of Azimuths and Altitudes of Celestial Objects.
The Azimuth-Theodolite was not designed by Verbiest but by a German Father , Kilian Stumpf.
Bronze Alt-Azimuth detail of a decorative Dragon on one of the supporting legs of this mechanical contraption.
At the beginning of the 17Th Century, in 1601 AD, a delegation of European Jesuits under leadership of one Matteo Ricci (an Italian) arrived in Beijing and established contact with the Chinese Imperial Court.
The delegation, like others already present, was very interested in aquiring the favors of the Emperor and thus securing an important China Tie for their Country, King or Religious Organisation.
The Emperor, on the other hand, had plans to aquire new scientific knowledge. He was especially interested in finding out about the European canon and fire-arm, both new impressing weapons that had already shown him their value.
In short: because of their sizeable knowledge and technical achievements, the European Jesuits managed to outdo a resident Central-Asian Muslim Delegation and gained permission to work with the Chinese Court Scientists. However, it took them some 200 years to aquire this ultimate position.
Later when Chinese-European contacts flowered, this cooperation was expanded and eventually the jesuits were given control of the Imperial Observatory.
In 1659 AD, somewhat later, Ferdinand Verbiest travelled to China as a Jesuit Delegate and was appointed special employee of The Qing Court. During the period between 1662 AD and 1722 AD he was put in charge of introducing european systems of astronomical measurement and instrumentation to Chinese Astronomy (which was virtually exclusive to the Imperial Court).
As mentioned, most instruments on the Platform were thus designed and constructed under his care.
At a later time, during the 19Th Century, Chinese-European Relations had consistently soured. When in 1900 AD the so called "Boxer"-rebellion, which was aimed against European influence and experienced contempt, broke out and was supported by Empress Dowager Cixi of the Qing Dynasty, the Europeans responded cynically. The new Chinese Fleet was defeated, Allied Forces landed on many points at China's Coast and an 8 flagged European Alliance pushed inland tot conquer and pillage Beijing and enforce the European will on China and its Imperial Court once more. It was during this period that most of the Observatory Platforms' Instruments were looted. Some were taken away by French Forces to the French Embassy at the nearby Legation Quarter , a Bastion of European Forces. Other were shipped off to Berlin by German forces. The instruments looted by the French were returned by them, voluntarily, in 1902 AD. Other instruments looted by the Germans were exchanged with China under the Versailles Treaty of 1919 AD and were returned in 1921 AD (Read More at May the 4Th 1919 AD Monument).
Later, when Japanese Forces outdid the Europeans in their brutal aggression against China and the Chinese People, a sorrow still heartfelt by many Chinese today, Chinese scientist shipped some of the instruments to
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Nanjing for safekeeping, as they are important Cultural Relics. Not long after the
"September 18th incident" of 1932 AD at the Manchukuo-Chinese agreed cease-fire line, Beijing fell to advancing Japanese Forces. However, with most of the Instruments safe in Nanjing, after World War II, most of the Observatories' Instruments were kept in Chinese hands and have been returned here since. Some are still at the Purple Hills Observatory at Nanjing, but all of the Platform Instruments are present here today.
(however, it is unknown which are copies)
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Depiction of the Beijing Ancient Observatory Instrument Platform, as it was around 1900 AD.
Historic drawing of One of the Azimuth Theodolites as found at the Beijing Ancient Observatory Platform.
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Bronze Alt-Azimuth, a Verbient Instrument richly decorated in Ming/Qing-style.