Beijing Ancient Observatory - 北京古观象台

In the Yuan Dynasty, when an observatory was first built in this area, Jianguomen was on the outskirts of Beijing. The outer walls of the city enclosed this entire area. On the next page is a picture of the observatory taken in 1895, showing it surrounded by farm land. Today, it is on one of the busiest streets in the world. The arch, at the right, marks the beginning of Chang'an Jie, the avenue that passes in between the two great symbols of China - Tian'anmen Square and the Forbidden City.

The observatory offers a place of quiet repose and a return to the past in the midst of this modern building boom. There is still a place to meet with friends when taking your birds for their morning air. The sound of the birds singing accompanies the gentle whoosh of traffic on the nearby ring road.

The Beijing Ancient Observatory was refurbished and opened as a museum in 1983. In 2004, it received a general face-lift to get ready for the Olympics in 2008. A few new instruments were added, needed repairs were made, and the displays in the museum were beautified. It didn't change the essential character of the observatory, which still takes you directly back to the Ming Dynasty.

The roof edge at Beijing Ancient Observatory shown above is in the classic style of the Ming Dynasty, while below is one of my favorite things about Chinese cultural and recreational areas. The variety and types of trash bins is impressive. Every effort is made to make them blend into the setting and be consistent with the buildings and surroundings. There are many different styles of ceramic figures, such as the one below, used in museums and historical landmarks. You will also see fish, tree stumps, panda bears, pagodas, and ones I have not yet discovered. For a photographer, it is a pleasure to not worry about a shot being ruined by an ugly green bin, but it is even better for the visitor's experience of the setting.

Last update: May 2007
© Marilyn Shea, 2007