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Other features of note are the Museum of the Chinese Revolution with its exhibits illustrating the various stages of the Chinese revolution from 1919 and the development of the Communist Party, and the Chairman Mao Mausoleum where the body of Mao rests in a crystal sarcophagus.Just a short distance from the Imperial Palace, Beihai Park is one of the oldest surviving imperial gardens in Beijing.

Arts and culture buffs are extremely well catered to in Beijing.Laid out at the beginning of the 10th century, this beautiful open space takes its name from nearby Lake Beihai (North Lake) and offers many good reasons to pay a visit.Among the most important structures are the Round Fort dating from the Yuan period of 1271-1368; the spectacular Hall of Enlightenment, built in 1690 and home to a one-and-a-half-meter-tall Buddha carved from a single block of white jade; and a large black jade vase from the early 12th century.Beijing itself has no shortage of wonderful sightseeing opportunities and is home to some of the country's best-known tourist attractions, including a section of the famous Great Wall of China.Among the city's many historical and cultural monuments are the Imperial Palace, Beihai Park, Coal Hill Park, and the Heavenly Temple, most of them within the well preserved historic city center.Surrounded by lush vegetation, these lovely old temples and shrines are set out in two sections - one rectangular, the other semi-circular - which together symbolize heaven and earth.

It was here that, on the day of the winter solstice, the emperor would ascend the Heavenly Altar in solemn ceremony to pray for a good harvest and offer sacrifices in the brightly decorated Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests (Qinian Dian).

Built at great cost, this remarkable structure owes its unique design to the influences of traditional Chinese ceramics and has, since the Olympics, been used to host large cultural events and performances including opera, pop concerts, and football matches.

In winter, it's turned into the world's largest manmade indoor ski slope.

Be sure to also visit the temple's Echo Wall, which echoes to even the quietest of voices, an effect exaggerated by three unusual echoing stones.

Recognized the world over for its role in the spectacular Summer Olympics held in Beijing in 2008, the National Stadium (Guójiā tǐyùchǎng) - also affectionately nicknamed the Bird's Nest - is well worth a visit.

Also of interest is the nearby Imperial College, founded in 1287 by Kublai Khan and only closed in 1900.