OFF THE BEATEN PATH

TopTen

1. White Cloud Temple

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Built in AD 739, Beijing’s only Taoist temple (see White Cloud Temple) houses the China Taoist Association and 30 monks with their distinctive navy-blue robes and top knots. It usually sees more pilgrims than tourists and has elaborate halls and gates, as well as three stone monkeys – finding them all is said to bring good luck.

2. The Watermelon Museum

prac_info Pangge Zhuang Town, Daxing District • 8928 1181 • Subway: Huangcun Xidajie • Open 10am–5pm Mon–Fri • Adm

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Located to the south of Beijing, the Watermelon Museum is a surrealist modern Socialist museum. China is the world’s biggest exporter of watermelons, and self-pick farms surround this gleaming temple to the famous fruit. Although there aren’t any signs in English anywhere, you can get the gist of the exhibits.

TopTen

Inside the Watermelon Museum

3. Ancient Observatory

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Located in a watchtower, this is one of the world’s oldest observatories. Among the many artifacts on display here are replicas of the old navigational tools that enabled Ming dynasty travelers to explore the world.

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Sundial, Ancient Observatory

4. Beijing Shijingshan Amusement Park

prac_info Shijingshan Road, Shijingshan District • 8892 5159 • Subway: Bajiao Amusement Park • Open 9am–4:30pm daily (to 5pm Sat & Sun) • Adm; free for children under 6 years or 4 ft (1.2 m)

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Beijing’s oldest amusement park may not have the high-tech rides and high profile of the newer ones, but it is considerably cheaper, and less crowded. The rides here are fun nonetheless, and it has a certain faded-grandeur and kitsch charm. The park is divided into themed districts offering several entertainment facilities, including parades, shows and performances.

5. Beijing Botanical Gardens

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If the hustle and bustle of the city gets to be too much, surround yourself with Chinese roses, peach blossoms, and peonies. The massive greenhouse here (see Beijing Botanical Gardens) displays more than 3,000 varieties of flora, ranging from tropical to desert.

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Beijing Botanical Gardens in full bloom

6. Fayuan Temple

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A visit to Fayuan Temple offers the opportunity to observe the fascinating daily life of a monk. Built in AD 696 by Tang dynasty emperor Tai Zong to mourn fallen soldiers, Fayuan is Beijing’s largest – and likely oldest – Buddhist temple.

TopTen

Bronze lion at Fayuan Temple

7. Qianding Old Liquor Museum

prac_info 69 Zhaofu Jie (near Gulou), Dongcheng District • 6404 0299 • Subway: Gulou Dajie • Open 9am–6pm Tue–Sun • Adm

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This museum is all about baijiu (traditional grain alcohol) through the ages, and on display are more than 1,600 varieties of the stuff. The entrance is tricky to find – look for the bottles embedded in brick.

8. The Former Residence of Guo Moruo

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Guo Moruo was a 20th-century writer, poet, dramatist, historian, archeologist, and paleographer, as well as an enthusiastic gardener. Much of his outdoor handiwork survives here (see Former Residence of Guo Moruo), his former home, in addition to piles of manuscripts, books, and a bronze statue of the man himself.

9. Poly Art Museum

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The silent, richly carpeted rooms at the Poly Art Museum hold a wealth of stone, ceramic, and bronze statuary. Highlights include four bronze animals rescued from the 19th-century sacking of the Summer Palace, as well as artifacts ranging from the Shang to the Tang dynasties and earlier.

10. Beijing Eunuch Museum (Tian Yi Mu)

prac_info 80 Moshi Kou Dajie, Shijing Shan District • 8872 4148 • Subway: Pingguoyuan, then bus 959 or 746 to Shougang Xiaoqu • Open 8:30am–4:30pm daily • Adm

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In the 16th century, the eunuch Tian Yi, who carried his genitals in a jug, served three emperors of the Ming dynasty. Over time, he achieved an elevated position at court, and when he died, in 1605, his funeral generated three days of silence in the Forbidden City. Tian Yi’s elaborately carved tomb is now empty, having been raided during China’s Cultural Revolution. However, this interesting museum houses a range of murals, monuments, marble phalluses, and a diorama of unfortunate men about to undergo the unkindest cut.

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