In Chinese, men (门) means gate. Fuchengmen used to be one of the nine gates of Beijing’s city walls. The latter were built between 1436 and 1553 for defensive uses. You can’t actually see the Fuchengmen gate anymore, because it was removed to clear the way for line 2 in the 1960s. The modern-day Fuchengmen Qiao is where the gate used to be located.
It’s worth spending a day to explore the 3km stretch between Xisi and Fuchengmen subway stations; in the process, you’ll cross West Second Ring Road and witness the buildings getting taller and taller. The tour features religious culture, classic imperial icons, educational museums, traditional Beijing snacks, and some bargaining at local markets.
Getting to Fuchengmen is simple: Take subway line 4 and get out at exit A of Xisi station. Just outside there is a RENJOY kiosk where you can stock up on water before setting out. Walk right along Xisi Beidajie (西四北大街). Make a right at the crossroad and you’ll reach Guangji Temple after about 50m. Guangji is a Buddhist temple originally built during the Jin Dynasty (1115-1234) that doubles as the headquarters of the Buddhist Association of China. Clean and quiet, this little temple features two courtyards; sitting among its many trees is a nice way to ease into the day with a morning prayer. Entrance is free, so you have nothing to lose but your troubles and woes.
After exiting the temple, cross Fuchengmennei Dajie (阜成门内大街) to reach your next stop: The Geological Museum of China. If your kids are serious geology buffs, they will not be disappointed. This four-story museum features well-curated displays with excellent English descriptions. The first floor covers the basic concepts of earth formation, with lots of interactive games for children to try out. On the second floor, there’s a rich and fascinating collection of precious gems including diamonds. The third floor features a large collection of fossils; you can even touch some of the remains. Outside the display hall, there is a complete skeleton of a 12m long and 5m tall juvenile dinosaur (Lufengosaurus magnus) discovered in Yunnan in 1957.
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This article was first posted on September 20, 2013.
Photos by Clemence Jiang