There are many things to see in Beijing, such as the Soul Tower (above) that your tour might not take you to. I found that it really pays to get away from the biggest tourist attractions and get to places that are much more frequented by locals. This post (and my next one) will cover some of these places.
The Dingling Tomb
The Dingling Tomb is the mausoleum of Emperor Zhu Yijun (1563-1620) and his two Empresses - Xiaoduan and Xiaojing. It is one of 13 Ming Dynasty tombs in the mountains outside of Beijing. These underground tombs were built into the sides of mountains and their entrances were hidden. The entrance to this tomb was discovered in 1954 when a stone carved map gave the exact location of the entrance and the chambers underground. This is the only of the tombs that is open to public.
The area around the tombs is a beautiful area of mountains, valleys and small towns.
As you approach the tomb you will pass through several gates and alters.This area was a place to venerate the Emperor.
Passing through the gate above you symbolically enter heaven. This doorway represents the dividing line between the realities of earth and the heavenly presence of Emperor and his wives.
The tomb was sealed by the Diamond Door - named for the decorations on the door. The door was sealed by placing a large piece of stone levered against the back of the door.
The tomb is accessible by public transportation. It is about 50 km outside of Beijing, near the Ju Yong Pass section of the Great Wall. Out tour came here on the same day we visited the wall. It was a wonderful trip to the country, and it included a visit to a cloisonné factory and lunch.
The Capital Museum
The Capital Museum isa really interesting museum. It is devoted to the cultural and political history of China in particular and Beijing in particular. It is built around a beautiful open space 5 stories tall. It contains two vertical sets of exhibit spaces. Although physically very different, in many ways it reminds me of the Museum of the City of New York.
There was a special exhibit on the history and culture of the "Hutong" the old Beijing neighborhoods. There are permanent exhibits on the Peking Opera, Chinese pottery and a historical/cultural history of China and the world that goes up to 1949.
Carved Jade Pillow
The last three pictures are vases that were cast in the mid-1700's. I thought that it was fascinating because their style looks so contemporary.