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History of Ancient Observatory

Ancient Observatory index page| Architecture | History | Instruments
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Initially built in the Ming Dynasty (around AD. 1442), Ancient Observatory has already had a history of more than 500 years. It is one of the oldest observatories in the world.

Ancient ObservatoryIt was said that following the fall of the Northern Song Dynasty 1227, the victorious Jins transferred the ancient astronomical instruments from Kaifeng to the first observatory in Beijing. in 1279, the succeeding invading Mongols under Kublai Khan built the second observatory in Beijing just north of the present observatory.

With the fall of the Mongols, Zhu Yuanzhang, the founding Ming Emperor, transferred the instruments from Beijing to Nanjing. Initially, a Watching Star Platform was built on the top of a hill in Nanjing, which was the capital of the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644) at that time. When the Yongle Emperor usurped the throne from his nephew, he did not dare to transfer the instruments to Beijing out of respect for his father who was buried in Nanjing. Instead he commissioned craftsmen to make wooden models of these instruments and had them cast in bronze, including the armillary sphere, the abridged armilla and the Yuan guibiao sundial.

With the completion of the present observatory in 1422, it has housed the replica instruments and served the Ming and Qing astronomers in their star-gazing reports, for the Emperor, the Son of Heaven, is closely tied up with the movements of the heavenly bodies. Another function is to assist sea navigation.

In the Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1911), the name "Watching Star Platform" was changed to "Observatory". And after the Revolution of 1911, the name Ancient Observatory was changed to be Central Observatory. In 1979, the north-east corner of Ancient Observatory fell as it was washed by days of heavy rain and its south-east corner was seriously split. Then, Ancient Observatory received three-year of careful repair. The Observatory was opened to the public with the name of "Beijing Ancient Astronomical Instruments Display Hall" in 1956. After around 1959, the Observatory was used as offices. In 1983, Ancient Observatory was opened to the tourists again as a museum.

At the end of Qing Dynasty, when Allied Forces of Eight Powers invaded Beijing, French and Germans robbed some of the instruments, but after the World War 1, the instruments were returned to China.

Ancient Observatory now is located at the south-east corner of a bridge in Jianguomen of Beijing City and it has been constructed to be Beijing Ancient Astronomical Instruments Display Hall. Heads of many countries, government officials and famous scientists from all over the world ever came here to visit this astronomical place.

An interesting fact is that the ancient Chinese were able to measure with accuracy the positions of stars and planets in the 1400s without the telescope.

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Beijing Tour Routes Covers Ancient Observatory
We can arrange the visiting of Ancient Observatory in a Beijing one day tour
The visiting of Ancient Observatory need 30-50 minutes.

Chinatravelkey can add Ancient Observatory on the following tours with extra cost 10 USD per person:
BH-1. 3 nights 4 days Beijing tour BH-2. 4 nights 5 days Beijing tour
BH-3. 5 nights 6 days Beijing tour BH-4. 6 nights 7 days Beijing tour
BK-1. 2 days Beijing tour BK-2. 3 days Beijing tour
BK-3. 4 days Beijing tour BK-4. 5 days Beijing tour
BK-5. 6 days Beijing tour BK-6. 7 days Beijing tour
BD-12. Half day Beijing Hutong BST-3. Beijing Hutong and Zoo bus tour
BTA-7. Beijing Hutong tour BJSH-1. 5 days Beijing Shanghai Tour
BJSH-2. 6 days Beijing Shanghai Tour BJSH-3. Beijing Shanghai Suzhou Tour (7 days)
BJSH-4. 9 days Beijing Shanghai Suzhou Hangzhou Tour BJLH-1. Beijing Lhasa Tour

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