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Home Travel in Beijing Beijing Ancient Observatory
Beijing Ancient Observatory
Travel in Beijing

Beijing Ancient Observatory (běi jīng gǔ guān xiàng tái 北京古观象台) was first built in 1442 in the Ming Dynasty (míng cháo 明朝) (1368—1644), and was the national observatory in the Ming and Qing Dynasty (qīng cháo 清朝) (1644—1911). It is about 14 meters high with 8 astronomical instruments made in Qing Dynasty. Its rich history spans more than five hundred years, making it one of the most historically interesting observatories in the world. It is also famous for its intact and integrated instruments. The 8 instruments were equipped with western technology and Chinese local art design, and they can show us the exchange between the western and eastern and the magnificent western design. After 1949, Beijing Ancient Observatory became a part of Beijing Planetarium. It is the key national relic protection unit now.

guguanxiangtaiIn 1279, the Chinese astronomers WangXun (wáng xún 王恂) and Guo Shoujing (guō shǒu jìng 郭守敬) built a small observatory in Jianguomen (jiàn guó mén 建国门), which was the early form of the Beijing Ancient Observatory. During the Ming Dynasty, the "Guanxiangtai"(guān xīng tái 观星台) was built here, equipped with Armillary Sphere (hún yí 浑仪), Abridged Armilla (jiǎn yí 简仪) and Celestial Globe (tiān tǐ yí 天体仪). Later the Purple Palace (zǐ wēi diàn 紫微殿) and "Gui Ying Tang" (guǐ yǐng táng 晷影堂) were also built near it.
After the Qing Dynasty moved its capital to Beijing in 1644, the name "Guanxiangtai" was changed to "Observatory". Following Johann Adam Schall von Bell's advice, the Chinese began to use western computation standard and measuring system. Then during 1669-1674, following the order of Emperor Kang Xi (kāng xī huáng dì 康熙皇帝), Ferdinand Verbiest designed 6 new astronomical instruments: Equatorial Armilla (chì dào jīng wěi yí 赤道经纬仪), Ecliptic Armilla (huáng dào jīng wěi yí 黄道经纬仪), Quadrant (xiàng xiàn yí 象限仪), Celestial Globe, etc. Later in 1715, Kilian Stumpf designed another instrument--- Azimuth Theodolite (dì píng jīng wěi yí 地平经纬仪). In 1744, Emperor Qian Long ordered to build another instrument--- the New Armilla (jī héng fǔ chén yí 玑衡抚辰仪). Thus all the instruments came into being.

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Equatorial Armilla Azimuth Theodolite Ecliptic Armilla Armilla
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Sextant Altazimuth Celestial Globe Quadrant

In 1900, the aggressors from the 8 countries came into Beijing. Germans and Frenchmen robbed the instruments of the Observatory. Frenchmen took the 5 instruments to their embassy and gave them back the next year, while Germans took the others to their country and showed them in the Potsdam Hall. After the World War I, Germans gave them back in 1921.
In 1911, the name Observatory was changed to "Central Observatory", and ended his observation life in 1921 because of the foundation of the Purple Mountain Observatory in Nanjing (nán jīng 南京). In 1929, the name "Central Observatory" was changed again and became an astronomical museum. In 1931, Japanese invaded the north of China. Several Chinese traditional astronomical instruments were moved to Nanjing for protection.
Beijing Ancient Observatory became the key national relics protection unit in 1982, and opened to the world in 1983. It enjoys high reputation from the foreign countries. Many foreign presidents, foreign key government officials and famous scientists have visited Beijing Ancient Observatory, such as Tony Blair (British Prime Minister), Guy Verhofstadt (Belgium PrimeMinister),etc.                                                                                                             map

: Free.
Open time
Address:No2.Dongbiaobei Hutong (dōng biǎo bèi 东裱褙胡同), Beijing China
Post code
:No.1 Bus and get off at Eastern Beijing Zhan Station.