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Beijing provides an ideal location for a vibrant study abroad experience because the city itself is bursting with energy. As the predicted center of the 21st century's largest economy, Beijing is prepared to take on the world as the city pursues its rapid modernization. The scale of the building going on in and around Beijing is staggering as the new structures continue to get bigger, nicer, and more modern as most of the dilapidated buildings of the past are wiped away.
At the same time, Beijing remains heavily tied to its past. The mythic resonances of some of the city's most historic landmarks continue to enchant tourists, students, and residents alike. The city works hard to preserve these landmarks, and in Beijing's center near the Forbidden City, buildings must remain below a certain height to avoid destroying the setting of this ancient wonder.
The Forbidden City remains a stunning history lesson on the era of China's emperors and the opulent surroundings they favored including the gorgeous palaces, lush gardens, stunning courtyards, and charming pavilions. Much of the Forbidden City has been gradually renovated due to its destruction by a variety of forces including everything from looters to fire. Despite the renovations, the Forbidden City maintains the mystical quality of an ancient site and allows visitors to step into a living, breathing picture of one of the world's most fascinating periods of history.
The Forbidden City is not the only history and culture lesson available around the city, however. Beijing has a long and varied history, which began hundreds of thousands of years ago when 'Peking Man' lived nearby at Zhoukoudian. Peking Man refers to a collection of humanoid bones discovered between 1929 and 1937. While the exact date of these bones is a subject of debate, most estimates consider them to be between 500,000 and 300,000 years old. Some scientists believe the bones could be as old as 700,000 years. The site where the bones were found is an UNESCO heritage site, and the bones are an important contribution to scientists' understanding of the past.
Beijing also can boast a number of China's most symbolic attractions including the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square, Tiantan Park, the Lama Temple, and the Summer Palace - just to name a few. To try to describe them all here would be futile, but suffice it to say that Beijing has many entertaining and educational sights.
As one study abroad provider in Beijing elegantly described the city: 'Beijing is the capital of an ancient land charging headlong into the 21st century, its nearly 13 million residents busily surviving and thriving amidst the well-ordered chaos that is modern Beijing.'
Whether you come to the city for the ancient or the modern, the language or the culture, the frenzied activity or the quiet peace, you will find Beijing will surprise and impress you. Be prepared for an unpredictable and enlightening study abroad adventure!
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