The north end of Beijing's Tiananmen Square is dominated by the gateway to the Forbidden City known as Tiananmen Tower. Originally built in 1417 during the Ming Dynasty, the tower acts as not only as a gateway but a platform from which royalty and, more recently, party leaders viewed public events in the square. The tower was opened to the public in 1987 and has been a popular draw for Chinese and foreign tourists alike.
Monument to People's Heroes
A second imposing feature of Tiananmen Square is the Monument to People's Heroes. Constructed between 1952 and 1958, the granite monument is inscribed with the words "Eternal Glory to the People's Heroes," as well as images of pine trees, flags and five-pointed stars. The body of the monument sits atop a base inspired by Buddhist-style architecture, which in turn rests on a stepped plaza that covers 3,000 square meters.
Famen Si Temple
The Shaanxi Province is home to a Ming Dynasty era pagoda known as Famen Si, or the Famen temple. Originally constructed in the second century by the Eastern Han Dynasty, the temple housed what was believed to be a finger bone of the historical Buddha. More treasures were discovered at the site in 1981 when the temple collapsed, revealing a subterranean crypt with ornate reliquaries, gilded statues, and other cultural artifacts. The pagoda has since been rebuilt, and a new museum that houses the recovered relics is adjacent to the site.
Also located in Shaanxi Province is the city of Xi'an, which is home to the Great Mosque. Originally built in 742 for Muslim traders who traveled the so-called silk road during the Han Dynasty, the mosque is the largest in China. The complex is oriented east to west and features a prayer hall at the west end, which is approached through a series of four courtyards. Highlights of the Mosque include the Ming-era gate at the entrance to the third courtyard, elaborate wooden arches featuring glazed tiles and artwork, and a series of stone stelae that feature the work of ancient calligraphers.
White Horse Dagoba
The White Horse Dagoba--or Tibetan style pagoda--stands in the village of Baima just outside Dunhuang City in Gansu Province. The dagoba was originally built in 386 to honor the memory of a beloved horse that belonged to a Buddhist master named Kumarajiva. The master had traveled east to teach the Buddhist doctrine of dharma at the invitation of Fu Jian, an emperor of the Qin Dynasty. The dagoba is a nine-level structure embellished with carved lotus petals and also features bells that hang from its hexagonal roof and chime in the wind.