The Central Axis of Beijing (including Beihai)

Photo by Zoë Sheng.

The Central Axis of Beijing (including Beihai) is part of the Tentative list of China in order to qualify for inclusion in the World Heritage List.

The old city of Beijing was first built in the Yuan Dynasty, and further developed and perfected in the Ming and Qing Dynasties. With eight hundred years’ history and evolution of urban development, it is now the largest imperial capital city still existing in China and a classic model of ancient Chinese urban planning. As an outstanding example of feudal China’s capital, the old city of Beijing enjoys a prominent position in the world history of urban planning and development. The Central Axis of Beijing and surrounding areas witness an orderly distribution of important architectures such as the palaces, governmental offices, temples and altars, mansions, residential houses and city gates.

Map of The Central Axis of Beijing (including Beihai)

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The coordinates shown for all tentative sites were produced as a community effort. They are not official and may change on inscription.

Community Reviews

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Zoë Sheng

Chinese-Canadian - 25-May-24 -

The Central Axis of Beijing (including Beihai) (T) by Zoë Sheng

I definitely like this nomination but it needs to be limited to only important areas. I used this picture (public domain) because it shows 100 years ago Tiananmen Square was an important place and unfortunately the modern student protests including a car terrorist attack in 2013 make us feel the place isn't right for UNESCO. It was also massively renovated with the people's hall, Mao's mausoleum (which used to be the Gate of China area), the museum, none of these should be listed as world heritage. This is only the square, with the other locations usually the same: important, old, but renovated and improved. My picture of Qianmen above (not actually public domain) shows a modern shopping street. It used to be different, even a brothel at a time, but it would only get nominated as the modern look.

If you haven't seen the axis it would surprise me because they even want to add the Temple of Heaven and the Tiananmem Square is hard to miss, you'll probably run into one of the old gates or Beihai park. Like I said I can't see this not getting inscribed but it will cause a lot of problems if not limited to just the old gates.

Vincent Cheung

Hong Kong, China - 11-Dec-22 -

While Beijing is a great old city rich of cultural heritages, I find it hard to understand why the Central Axis can be nominated as a new World Heritage item.

The nomination contains these sites:  Yongding Gate, Temple of Heaven, Temple of Agriculture, Tian'anmen Square complex, Imperial Ancestral Temple, Altar of the Land and Grain, the Forbidden City, Jingshan Hill, Bell Tower, Drum Tower, Nanluoguxiang, Yandai Bystreet historic area, and the Beihai water system.

The Forbidden City is already listed as World Heritage (Imperial Palaces); Temple of Heaven is also listed as an independent item; Beihai water system is part of The Grand Canal.  We don’t need to give them another world heritage honor to emphasize their importance.

Imperial Ancestral Temple, Altar of the Land and Grain are royal temples connected to the Forbidden City,  and similarly Jingshan Hill is also a royal garden connected to the Forbidden City.   They all can be an extension of Imperial Palaces.

Temple of Agriculture is near by Temple of Heaven at the south, and they are for the same purpose basically:  Praying to the Sky (Heaven, same word in Chinese) for good weather in order to have good harvest (Agriculture).  Thus Temple of Agriculture is better to be an extension of Temple of Heaven.

The government demolished Beijing City Wall and only left behind a few gates.  While Yongding Gate is great, does it still have sufficient OUV?  At least Xi’an and Nanjing have the whole city walls and gates conserved.

Bell Tower and Drum Tower exist in all Chinese old cities.  Nothing special with the ones in Beijing.  Nanluoguxiang and Yandai Bystreet historic area are now touristic places with full of tacky bars and shops.

What left in the list is Tian'anmen Square complex… Oh, right, isn’t it great to have Tian’anmen Square, Great Hall of the People, Monument to the People’s Heroes, and Mausoleum of Mao Zedong all these political icons to be listed as World Heritages?  A great propaganda to her people!

Let’s see if UNESCO will help the Chinese Communist Party to get this task done.

Kyle Magnuson

California - United States of America - 26-Mar-13 -

The Central Axis of Beijing (including Beihai) (T) by Kyle Magnuson

The Central Axis of Beijing is an impressive line of monuments and important structures that represent the power of the state. While the central axis already includes 2 world heritage sites (Imperial Palace & Temple of Heaven), the current nomination would also include the magnificient Bell and Drum Towers. The various properties that make up the nomination link what could be considered "Old Beijing". While much has been rebuilt, particularly in and around Tiananmen Square, the central axis was tradtionally the most important area of Beijing. The same could be said for Beijing today. The architects of post-1949 Beijing did not forget the central axis in their transformation of the capital.

I've had the great pleasure to visit the Imperial Palace and Tiananmen Square on two different occasions. I visited the Temple of Heaven in 2006. However, for me the properties that stand out which have not yet been inscribed are the Bell and Drum Towers. During my visit to both sites in 2007, I was fascinated with the urban planning of old Beijing, and how the capital operated. These two monuments offer incredible views of the central axis (on a clear day). Furthermore, the best preserved Hutongs are located near these impressive structures.

Beihai Park which has previously sought UNESCO inscription, is making its 2nd atempt in this serial nomination. Beihai is a fantastic place to visit, the White Pagoda is impressive, and the gardens are nice to stroll through. My visit was enjoyable, but compared to the Summer Palace, it did not leave a strong imprint on my memory.

The Central Axis of Beijing (including Beihai) (4)

I am curious how the World Heritage Committee evaluates this nomination. The nomination will undoubtably have high priority on the current list.

Read more from Kyle Magnuson here.

Full Name
The Central Axis of Beijing (including Beihai)
Nominated for
Urban landscape - Asian
2020 Upstream Process

2013 Revision

Includes former TWHS Beihai Park (1996)

2013 Added to Tentative List

The site has 1 locations

The Central Axis of Beijing (including Beihai): Tian'anmen Square comples (T)
WHS 1997-2024