Beijing: China's Cultural Heart

Article excerpt

CHINA As the capital of China for more than 1,000 years, Beijing is renowned for its cultural heritage, architecture, cuisine and linguistic diversity. But as the city prepares for the 2008 Olympics, it's undergoing a dramatic transformation: the government is spending more than 20billion [pounds sterling] on improving road and rail links to the airport alone, and developers are building a new luxury hotel almost every week. While the games represent one of the greatest economic boosts modern China is ever likely to receive, they could also spell the loss of what makes Beijing unique. Nick Smith documents the calm before the storm

A uniformed security guard stands on duty at Tian'anmen Gate at the north end of Tian'anmen Square. The gate marks the entrance to the Gugon, otherwise known as the Forbidden City. Literally a door between two worlds, it connects imperial and Communist China, and is still seen by Chinese authorities as a sensitive area today. The sign says 'Long live the People's Republic of China'

The Dahongmen, or Great Red Gate lies at the beginning of a seven-kilometre avenue known as the Spirit Way that was built for the funeral processions of the Ming-dynasty emperors; the Great Wall of China at Juyong a few hours drive from Beijing. The wall is also known as Wan Li Changcheng, or the Wall of 10,000 Li, a reference to a Chinese unit of measurement that equates to 500 metres; some of the finest examples of Ming-dynasty sculpture can be found along the Spirit Way. Dating back to the 15th century, these huge statues depict both human figures and a series of real and mythical animals. Their significance is unclear; Looking west to a classic pagoda over the frozen Lake Kunming at the Summer Palace, Beijing

OVERLEAF

A lion statue in the Forbidden City; every year, thousands of people flock to Beijing to look for work. …