The Temple of Heaven is a complex of ritual buildings. The halls and altars there are round, symbolic of heaven. A counterpart Earth Altar,
in the north of the city, uses the square profile symbolic of earth; and temples of the sun (in the east) and moon (in the west) complete a
ceremonial surrounding for Beijing that made it not only a political capital but also a ritual centre, shaped in the form of a cosmic diagram.
The Great Wall is perhaps China’s most famous and most mythologized site. The wall is most often associated
with the First Emperor of China (Qin Shi Huangdi, 221-210 BC), who first unified China by conquest, then mobilized massive conscripted
labour forces, including convicts and prisoners (by some accounts up to a million strong), to construct the wall. While the Great Wall had
real military defensive functions, it also served as a symbolic reminder of dynastic authority; as well as highlighting the cultural distinction
between the settled agrarian culture, and cities, on the Chinese side and the pastoral horsemen on the other.
It continues today to serve as a marker of cultural and national identity.
After exploring the best of ancient China, visitors can touch the pulse of modern China, for example as embodied
by the 2008 Olympic Games stadiums with their outstanding architecture.
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