The Hidden Gems of Beijing

Beijing is an incredibly busy city, and in the midst of all the modern development it can be hard to know where to find remnants of China’s rich cultural past – without guidance that is. You don’t have to look far to find a place to eat in Beijing, but if you’re looking for authentic Chinese (without the deep-fried scorpions, sheep’s penis or cat meat on skewers in places like the Night Market – unless you’re into that sort of thing) it can be difficult to know where to turn. We’re here to help. Try these two cultural hidden gems, and then check out our brilliant restaurant recommendation.

Yonghe Gong Lamasery, by Flickr user Gene Zhang

1. The Tibetan Lamasery (Yonghe Gong)

A Tibetan Buddhist temple in the heart of Beijing, Yonghe Gong (above) was first built in 1694 for Prince Yong of the Qing dynasty. After the Tibetan uprisings of 1792, Emperor Qianlong decreed that a gold vase be kept at Jokhang Temple in Lhasa and Yonghe temple in Beijing to determine the true reincarnations of the Dalai Lama and the Mongolian Grand Living Buddha respectively.

The main attraction of this amazing temple is the 18-meter tall wooden Buddha, one of the world’s largest wooden statues, and carved from a single sandalwood tree imported from Tibet.

2. The Beijing Confucius Temple

During the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) people paid homage to Confucius at this magnificent temple. Within it you’ll find 198 stone tablets, positioned on either side of the front courtyard and containing the names of more than 51 000 Jinshi (advanced scholars) of the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties, as well as 14 pavilions holding various historical documents from ancient China.
Your tummy should be grumbling by now!

3. Restaurant recommendation: Tianjin Bai Jiao Yuan (100 Dumplings Restaurant)

Tianjin Bai Jiao Yuan is a real treasure, located in southern Beijing. As the name suggests, this is where to go for jiaozi (dumplings), especially xiesanxian shuijiao (shrimp, crab & mushroom filling) and niurou wan shuijiao (beef ball dumplings). You’ll also find a great selection of Sichuan dishes, which are helpfully pictured for those who haven’t yet mastered Chinese. Ask your guide to help with making a reservation – you won’t be disappointed. Check out this review from the New York Times if you don’t believe us!

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