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Closed up of the Bronze Guardian Lion statue in Beijing, China

Tianjin (Beijing), China

When it comes to culture and history, few cities compete with China’s capital, Beijing, roughly two hours north of the port of Tianjin. Its Forbidden City is unparalleled: This massive former imperial complex is home to the Palace Museum and its collection of nearly 1 million Chinese antiquities. At the Summer Palace, you can stroll the same covered walkways that emperors and their courts did. The Temple of Heaven is a handsome Taoist place of worship surrounded by a large public park where you will see locals making offerings, practicing tai chi and flying kites. And, of course, there is the Great Wall, at a staggering length of 21,000 kilometers (13,000 miles) a true wonder of the world. Though Tianjin often plays second fiddle to Beijing, this city has a number of important cultural sights of its own. At the Confucius Temple, learn about the great philosopher's teachings and do as the locals do by writing prayers or wishes on small plaques. You can learn about the city’s history at the excellent Tianjin Museum and at the Shi Family Mansion, the stately former home of one of Tianjin’s leading families.

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