Ancient Observatory

Beijing Ancient ObservatoryBeijing Ancient Observatory, towering in southwest of Jianguomen Overpass, was originally built in 1442 as one of the world's earliest royal observatories, two centuries ahead of the Greenwich in Britain (1675). It was once called 'Star Observation Platform' in Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644) and 'Observatory' in Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1911). After 1911, it had been regarded as 'Central Star Observation Platform'. In 1927, it was taken place by newly-established Purple Mountain Observatory, so the old observatory became the Astronomical Instrument Museum under the jurisdiction of Beijing Planetarium. Nowadays, the Ancient Observatory wins popularity worldwide for its longest continuous astronomical observation among world's existing observatories. It is also famous for its architecture integrity and well-equipped instruments.

The Ancient Observatory mainly consists of two parts, the ancient astronomical instruments display hall and affiliated architecture.

With a rectangle shape, the observatory is 58 feet high and extends 26 yards from east to west. On the platform lie eight sets of ancient bronze astronomical instruments. From the southeast corner clockwise, they are Armillary, Quadrant Altazimuth, Celestial Globe, Ecliptic Armilla, Altazimuth, Azimuth Theodolite, Sextant and Equatorial Armilla. These instruments are delicate in shape and patterns, accurate in gradation and measurement, influenced by Western Europe astronomy in Renaissance; so they are historical witnesses to East and West cultural communications.

Beijing Ancient Observatory To the west side of the observatory is a courtyard, which contains Ziwei Palace, Dial Hall, Clepsydra Hall, and eastern and western wing-rooms. Used to function as the work place for the astronomical observation, it is now exhibition areas showing astronomical achievements in ancient China. The courtyard keeps the replicas of the bronze Armillary Sphere and Abridged Armilla from Ming Dynasty as well as Star Dial and Square Table from Yuan Dynasty (1271 - 1368). A plaque is hung in the Ziwei Palace, inscribed with Emperor Qianlong's handwriting, meaning observing the movements of stars and planet can help to create a calendar. Inside the Ziwei Palace and Wing Rooms, there are also other rich exhibition items. The time and calendar exhibition mainly shows the development and major achievements obtained in calendar study. 102 kinds of calendar are illustrated with pictures to present calendar application in different dynasties. Here, visitors can also learn accomplishments in astronomical observation via historical relics, such as astronomical patterns on painted pottery and Dunhuang stars map. The research on sunspots, Halley's Comet and supernova are also touched upon in this exhibition area.

The Ancient Observatory enjoys a high reputation in the world, so it gains much popularity among oversea visitors. Many superior officials and illustrious scholars have left their footprints there, such as former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and former Belgian prime minster Guy Verhofstadt.


How to go to Ancient Observatory

 By Subway
Take Subway Line 1 or Subway Line 2 to Jianguomen Station. Get out from Exit C. Then walk for about 220m (250 yards) to the ticket office.
 By Bus
Take bus 20, 39, 122, 637, 638, 43, 44, 139 or 142, and get off at Jianguomen Nan (South Jianguomen). After that, walk northward along Jianguomen South Street for about 500 meters (547 yards) to the ticket office of Ancient Observatory.
Beijing Bus / Subway Search

Admission Fee CNY 20
Opening Hours 09:00 – 17:00 (Closed on Mondays)
 Note: Ticket sale stops at 16:30.

- Last updated on Nov. 16, 2023 by Kate Liu -
Questions & Answers on Ancient Observatory
Asked by Stephen from AUSTRALIA | Dec. 08, 2019 23:00Reply
I will be in Beijing August 2020 I want to visit Beigou village in bohai town Huairou district
And you tell me travel options to get there and can I stay there overnight?
Answers (1)
Answered by Martin from UNI | Dec. 11, 2019 19:39

You can take bus 916 from Dongzhimen to Huairou North Street, then take bus of Huairou - Tianxinyu and get off at Beigou Village. You can stay there overnight.
Asked by D from USA | Jun. 03, 2016 13:47Reply
Will the Ancient Observatory in Beijing be open during the Dragon Boat Festival?
Answers (1)
Answered by Sandy from FINLAND | Jun. 03, 2016 22:53

Yes, it still opens at that time. :)
Asked by Paula | Feb. 11, 2013 02:25Reply
Will the ancient observatory be open on feb. 25, 2013? I want to bring some friends there. Thank you
Answers (1)
Answered by Beth | Feb. 15, 2013 21:44

Don't worry! It will be open then.
Asked by Brian Mennis from AUSTRALIA | Jan. 22, 2012 21:55Reply
I have been to Beijing twice in the last 10 years, and each time part of the observatory was closed.
I will be there again in April, basically makine a special trip to re-visit the site. Will it be all open. I noticed a post in this forum in March that commented that they could not get up to the platform. But the description above infers that you can.
Answers (1)
Answered by jamie | Jan. 26, 2012 01:19

Really. It is possible to go up to the platform. The old machines on that platform are still placed on a terrace with handrails, which means you can be get close or touch the old thing. Go there before 4pm this time.
Asked by Mr.POLISIDARURAT from INDONESIA | Mar. 26, 2010 20:19Reply
hi all...

i want to visit ancient obs next week? how much should we pay for the ticket? mrs. wickedwitch said that its RMB10 with student card ID, what if i dont have student card?

thx for reply...:)
Answers (2)
Answered by Mrs.Lily | Mar. 27, 2010 01:45


The ticket is CNY 10 person. I googled and found out that many guys paid CNY 10 for the entrance fee. The students who have valid student ID can enjoy 50 percent discount. If he paid CNY 10, then the ticket price might be CNY 20 per person. Is it expensive?
Answered by Mr.POLISIDARURAT from INDONESIA | Mar. 28, 2010 21:35

absolutely not...i've just been there last saturday. tiny amazing place :) only RMB 10/person.

unfortunately we can't climb near the observatry equipment, i really want to take photo from there...
Ask a Question
Question Summary (100 characters)
Details (optional) (2,000 characters)