Dawayao on the recently opened Line 14 is your gateway to Wanping Fortress and the cultural fodder that resonates in this far corner of the city. Journey southwest about 500 meters, and you will understand why this quarter of Fengtai District is an essential place to explore, with its picturesque refurbished architecture and a wide variety of cultural activities to satisfy your wanderlust.

Take a ten minute walk southeast towards the river and you will end up on Chengnei Jie which bustles with people snapping up fresh produce, clothing, and knickknacks. It’s a guarantee that you will be pretty famished after the near two hour journey out to Dawayao (from the city center), so buy some zongzi (粽子) and roubing ( 肉饼) for a few kuai from one of the many snack venders slinging along the bustling street. Then, find a nice spot to sit and watch all the action streetside while you enjoy your authentic treats.

Continue down the street towards Wanping Fortress. Erected in 1638, this massive gray brick walled city was designed to defend Beijing from peasant uprisings. Now, people roam freely within its walls, and the architecture at one the city’s more surprisingly overlooked historical areas has undergone a substantial makeover. Once inside, go to the Chinese People’s Anti-Japanese War Memorial Hall. This museum is filled with fascinating exhibits from both sides of the conflict. The museum itself is modest in size, but it’s free to get in – just don’t forget your passport. A short stroll south of this is the accompanying sculpture garden, a 22,500 sqare meter park loaded with giant bronze statues and a sunken central square made of granite from the main battlefield of the Sino-Japanese War.

At the west end of Wanping Fortress you can see Lugou Qiao (more famously known as Marco Polo Bridge). First built in 1189, the bridge provides a great view of the Yongding River and is the site where the first shots of the second Sino-Japanese War were fired. The Venetian traveler Marco Polo believed its beauty to be unrivaled. Over 260 meters in length, the whole stretch is lined with hundreds of handcrafted stone lions, each one unique. Head back to Chengnei Jie for dinner and stop by one of the many re nao (hot and noisy) restaurants that line this ancient street.

Photos: Ken

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