The Imperial Academy
Beijing, which during the often stormy Chinese history has often had served as Chinese capital is without a moment's hesitation a perfect place for history lovers and full of architectural pearls, making it a paradise for travelers and restless wanderers.
One of them is the Imperial Academy located in the vicinity of much more popular Yonghegong Buddhist temple and often overlooked by casual tourists. The Academy's main goal was to make scholars and officials alike more familiar with the main tenets of Confucianism and performed its functions for almost 600 years (c.1306-1905). In Chinese circumstances the Academy acted as a kind of a Ministry of Education, with an extensive system of Confucian schools located in different parts of China operating under its guidance.
Contrary to many Western universities whose campuses are often intended to impress and overawe a potential visitor, the grounds of the Imperial Academy seem to be as modest and aimed at self-limitation as rigorous precepts of Confucianism, which were intensely studied within the academy's confinements.
The place brings to mind a picture of a place of seclusion where learned men, away from the noise and corruptions of urban life would laboriously strive to get illuminated by the truth. Though nowadays located in the heart of Beijing, in the times of its inception localization must have closely stuck to that ideal. What deserves further attention and absolutely in line with tenets of Chinese official state philosophy, following their foreordained dictums some of the emperors often visited the place in order to examine or lecture the topmost and therefore most deserving students. No less important and impressive than the Academy itself is the adjoining Confucius Temple, reportedly the second biggest in the country. It was mostly used to honor famous scholars of both present and past by carving stone tablets in their names.
To compound the positive impressions, the Imperial Academy complex also features shows of Chinese traditional dances and clothing, that really catch an eye, especially if you happen to be a foreigner. There are even special shows for the children, that illustrate the sacrifices required in acquiring education in past ages China.
The Imperial Academy, although its eminence seems to have been irretrievably covered by the sands of history still presents itself as a proud monument of the past and absolutely deserves a visit and few moments of prolonged contemplation. Fortunately, it is by no means the most recognized historical site in Beijing and as a result, it may be a good place to find some inner peace in the midst of the everyday buzz.