Beijing and China Tour Expert

Beijing Ancient Observatory

  • Being a museum focused on nature science of Chinese astronomy, Beijing Ancient Observatory display ancient astronomical equipment and building in downtown Beijing.


  • ID : 15
  • City : beijing
  • English name : Ancient Observatory
  • Chinese name : 北京古观象台
  • Type : Planetarium,
  • Level : easy
  • Kids : Suggested
  • Elders: Available
  • Best season : Spring and Autumn
  • Visiting length : 1 hour
  • Distance to city center : 3 km
  • Constraction time: 1442
  • Subway Station nearby: Jianguomen
  • Area: 273 hectares

Introduction of Beijing Ancient Observatory

  • Initially built in the Ming Dynasty (around AD. 1442), Beijing Ancient Observatory has been used in astronomical observation for more than 500 years.
    Beijing Ancient Observatory was built by the astronomers Wang Xun and Guo Shoujing. The original name of the ancient observatory was the Administration of Heavenly Observatory. The name was changed to Constellation Observatory in the 7th year (1442) of Emperor Zhentong of the Ming Dynasty. In the Qing dynasty it is only known as Observatory.
    Ancient Observatory covers an area of about 10,000 square meters. It consists of a ten-meter high brick Watching Star Platform and some affiliated buildings, which located besides the platform.
    Except the main tower, there are affiliated buildings such as Ziwei Hall, Leaking House and Yujingtang. All buildings are in a harmonious arrangement.
    The height of the observatory tower is about 14 meters high. The top of the platform is 20.4 meters long from north to south and 23.9 meters long from east to west.

Photo of Ancient Observatory

  • Beijing Ancient Observatory photo was taken to provides images of astronomical instruments and platform.
  • Ancient Observatory photo

Highlights of visiting Beijing Ancient Observatory

  • Eight Bronze astronomical instruments of ancient China,
  • Chinese Traditional Style buildings and Platform.

Helper to visit Ancient Observatory

  • Address in English : No.2, Dongbiaobei Hutong, Jianguomen, Dongcheng District, Beijing, China.
  • Address in Chinese : 北京市东城区建国门东裱褙胡同2号
  • Tel : +8610-65128923
  • Post code : 100000
  • Ticket time : 09:00 - 16:30
  • Open time : 9:00 - 17:00
  • Closing time : Monday
  • Location : Ancient Observatory is around 3 km to downtown beijing


  • Subway: Gate c, Jianguomen Station of Line 1 or Line 2.
  • Public bus: 1, 4, 8, 9, 20, 43, 44, or 57 (Jianguomen Station)
  • Private car is the best method to visit Ancient Observatory with local tour operator.


  • high season : 20 RMB/person.
  • shoulder season : 20 RMB/person.
  • low season : 20 RMB/person.

Map of Beijing Ancient Observatory

  • Map of Ancient Observatory Beijing provides location of this attraction in Beijing city.
  • Ancient Observatory map

Hotel Near Beijing Ancient Observatory

  • Sofitel Beijing
  • KingLong Hotspring Hotel
  • Golden Inns (Beijing Railway Station)
  • Beijing International Hotel
  • Location of Ancient Observatory Beijing
  • Located in the southeast part of the city, east of Tiananmen Square in the middle of Beijing, ancient observatory high up on the top of a fort-like building at Jianguo Gate.
  • Instruments
  • There are eight main astronomical instruments on top of the main tower of Beijing Ancient Observatory. The eight instruments start from the southeast corner, the Start from the southeast corner, travelers may find the eight astronomical instrument.
  • Detailed Introduction of Each Instrument of Beijing Ancient Observatory
  • 1. Equatorial armillary sphere, Equatorial theodolite (赤道经纬仪) Equatorial theodolite of Ancient ObservatoryEquatorial Theodolite The Equatorial theodolite ( Equatorial armillary sphere ) is one of the eight large-scale copper astronomical instruments manufactured during Qing Dynasty (around in 1673). Weighing 2,720 kilograms, this important ancient astronomical observation instrument consists of three large rings and one bearing. The outermost large ring is called “meridian ring”, erected in a north-south direction with dials on both sides. The high end of the middle ring is in the south and the low end in the north, parallel to the equator. So it is also called the "equator ring." The ring is engraved with 24 large cells, representing 24 hours. Each large cell is divided into 4 small cells, representing 15 minutes. A bearing is erected vertically at the center of the equatorial torus, called the "polar axis". Connected to the meridian ring, the upward end points to the North Pole and the downward end points to the South Pole. The bearing is supported by two quadrant arcs extending from the south pole. The inner ring is called the "right ascension ring", which can be rotated around the polar axis. Instruemnt on the platform of Ancient Observator The whole observation part is set in a semi-circular seat, which is held up by a dragon. The four claws of the dragon respectively grasp one end of the cross-beam below. Eeach end of the beam is equipped with an bolt to adjust instrument level. Equatorial theodolite is mainly used to measure the position of stars and celestial bodies such as the sun, moon, and planets.
  • 2. Sextant(纪限仪) Sextant of Ancient ObservatorySextant of Ancient Observatory Made in 1673, Sextant weighs 802 kilograms. It is an ancient astronomical instrument used to measure the distance between any two stars in the sky. Its basic observation method is measuring the angle of the sight line from two star to the observers. In astronomy, this angle is called "the angular distance of celestial bodies". The main body of the Sextant is a 60-degree arc with a radius of about two meters. Decorated with fine symmetrical patterns, the arc include calibrated 30 degrees to both direction from the central point. There is a copper rod from zero point to the vertex of the arc surface. The whole arc surface is fixed on the copper rod and can rotate from top to bottom. The cylinder behind the copper rod is connected with the transverse axis of the copper rod and is steadily inserted into a dragon shaped base. At the top of the copper rod, there is also a horizontal axis with a peeper ruler and a spreadsheet, which attached to the arc surface.
  • 3. Altazimuth, astronomical theodolite, Horizon theodolite (地平经纬仪) Altazimuth of Ancient ObservatoryAltazimuth of Ancient Observatory The horizon theodolite was manufactured at around 1713-1715 AD. The function is measuring the horizon coordinates of stars. It was supervised by a Jesuit missionaries from Germany. It is 1.8 meters wide and 4.12 meters tall, with a weight of 7368 kg. The instrument mainly consists of four parts: horizon circle, quadrant circle, pillar and peepscope. It is an astronomical instrument made in style of the French art decoration during the Western Renaissance. In 1900, the instrument and four other instruments were grabbed into the French Embassy. And then returned back in 1902 under the pressure of public opinion. Today we can still find the bullet holes left on the windshield.
  • 4. Horizon Theodolite, Horizon Circle, Ground Leveling Instrument (地平经仪) Horizon Theodolite of Ancient ObservatoryHorizon Theodolite Made in 1673 (the twelfth year of Emperor Kangxi in Qing Dynasty), The horizon theodolite is an astronomical observation instrument of ancient China. With a weight 811 kg, the Horizontal theodolite is mainly used to measure the azimuth of stars. Built based on a cross beams, there are three standing dragons and a copper pillar, which is used a four pillars to support a large copper ring with a diameter of more than two meters. The large copper ring, called "horizon circles", is parallel to the ground level. The circle is divided into four directions: southeast, southwest, northwest and northeast by two straight lines intersecting east-west and north-south. The north and south end of the circle is marked as zero degree. The degree scale is extended along anticlockwise direction from the two zero degree. Two dragons rise along the pillars on both east and west end of the large copper ring. These two dragon meet there claws at a fireball around one and half meters above the center of the large copper ring. A square shaped hollow pillar is erected vertically from the center of the large copper ring and connected with the fireball. The two ends of the pillar point to the zenith of the sky and the center of the base. Horizon Theodolite of Ancient Observatory There is a horizontal crossbar at the bottom of the pillar, lying in the same level with the big copper ring. There are two straight lines to connect each end of the horizontal crossbar with the top of the pillar. In actual observation, the crossbar is moved to drive the pillar to rotate, till the celestial body (to be measured) can be watched from the hollow part. The azimuth angle is available pointed by the horizontal crossbar when the celestial body in the same plane with the hollow part of the pillar and the crossbar.
  • 5. Ecliptic Theodolite, Ecliptic Armillary Sphere, Zodiac Theodolite (黄道经纬仪) Ancient Observatory Instrument - Ecliptic TheodoliteEcliptic Theodolite The outer layer of the ecliptic theodolite is the "Meridian Circle" in north-south direction. A large circle in the Meridian Circle is called . It is fixed on the Meridian Circle by steel shaft of two poles. There is "ecliptic circle" lying diagonally within the "Jizhi circle". This circle is parallel to the ecliptic that the earth rotates around the sun. The ecliptic circle is engraved with the pattern of degree scale and zodiac. There is a steel shaft perpendicular to the ecliptic plane, connecting the south and north poles of the ecliptic. The innermost ring is called the "Zodiac circle", which is connected to the south and north poles of the ecliptic. Engraved with degrees, this ring can also be rotated around the steel shaft. The position of the sun and the planet can be determined according to the degree scale of the zodiac and the ecliptic. The Ecliptic theodolite is placed in a semi-circular base, which is held up by two dragons standing back to back. The claws of the dragon grasped the cross-beams to fix the whole instrument.
  • 6. Celestial Instrument, celestial globe (天体仪) Celestial InstrumentPhoto of Celestial Instrument Known in the ancient China as "浑象", The Celestial Instrument is an instrument used to demonstrate the astronomical phenomena. It can be used to display the mutual position and movement laws of the Earth, Sun, Moon and stars. The main component of the Celestial Instrument is a hollow copper ball and two large annular brackets surrounding it. The hollow copper ball is model of the Earth. The two ring-shaped large brackets include a large north-south erected ring and a horizontal lying large ring. The horizontal circle is supported by four pillars toped with dragon head, which hold the entire celestial instrument. The hollow copper ball is fixed in the inner north-south erected ring. Same with the Earth, the copper ball has north and south poles, which are connected by a metal shaft inside the copper ball. The copper ball can be rotated around the metal shaft to simulate the rotation of Earth. The copper ball turning 360 degree represents a day and night of the Earth. The spherical surface is engraved with a criss-crossing grid for measuring the specific position of the celestial body. The small protruding dots on the spherical surface represent the bright stars in the sky. They are strictly marked according to the mutual position between the bright stars. Celestial Instrument The celestial body is the ancestor of the modern celestial sphere. The Celestial Instrument of Beijing Ancient Observatory is the earliest celestial instrument in China. It was built during the Kangxi reign of the Qing Dynasty, weighed 3,850 kg. With the help of Celestial Instrument, people may always know the starry sky pattern that should appear in the sky, during sunny day or cloudy night.
  • 7. Quadrant, Range Quadrant (象限仪/地平纬仪) Quadrant Instrument of Ancient ObservatoryPhoto of Quadrant Built in 1673, Quadrant is an observation instrument for measuring the level over the ground of celestial bodies. “Level over the Ground” refers to the angle between the watching line (from the star to observer) and the ground plane. In astronomy, this angle is called "the height of the celestial body." The structure of the quadrant includes base, bottom beam, supporting column, top beam, and a fan shaped ring. The lower end of the quadrant is a beam and a cross base. Supporting pillars of three meters high is erected on both sides of the bottom beam. There is a dragon stand on both sides of the pillars, for decoration and reinforcement. The top ends of the two pillars support a top beam with a cloud shaped pattern. A rotatable vertical shaft connect the upper and lower beams to fix a fan-shaped quadrant ring, which include a dragon pattern inside. Quadrant Instrument The lateral border of the quadrant ring are horizontally placed, which is perpendicular to the vertical border. A pointer is hung at the intersection of the two border. In celestial observation, turn the quadrant ring, aim the pointer to the star to be measured. Observer can know the level over the ground of star after looking at the scale on the arc surface indicated by the pointer.
  • 8. Elaborate Equatorial Armillary Sphere (玑衡抚辰仪/清代浑仪) Elaborate Equatorial Armillary SphereElaborate Equatorial Armillary Sphere Elaborate Aquatorial Armillary Sphere was manufactured in the Qing Dynasty (1744) and weighed five tons. The instrument consists of Meridian double circle, Equatorial circle, Movable equatorial circle and Righteous circle. The outer layer of the observation part is the North-South vertical meridian circle fixed on the base. The meridian circle is a double circle, and the gap between the two circles is meridian. There are total three rings inside the double circle, called Equatorial circle, Movable equatorial circle and Circle of Right Ascension. The equatorial circle is supported by dragon pillars located on the East and west side. The Movable equatorial is connected to the polar circle and can move along the equatorial plane. The innermost ring is called the "Circle of Right Ascension". It is fixed on the two poles of the meridian double circle by a hollow copper shaft. There is also a watching hole in the middle of the hollow copper shaft. The instrument is supported and fixed by a base and a supporting side column.
  • Except the above eight instrument, there are several insturments in the courtyard in front of the affiliated building.

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  • Architecture
  • Ancient Observatory covers an area of about 10,000 square meters. It consists of a ten-meter high brick Watching Star Platform and some affiliated buildings, which located besides the platform.
    Except the main tower, there are affiliated buildings such as Ziwei Hall, Leaking House and Yujingtang. All buildings are in a harmonious arrangement.
    The height of the observatory tower is about 14 meters high. The top of the platform is 20.4 meters long from north to south and 23.9 meters long from east to west.

    There are courtyards in front of the affiliated buildings, travelers may find some exhibits related with astronomy in the courtyard or buildings.
    There is China Ancient Astronomical Achievement Exhibition in second exhibition room inside the platform. Four exhibition rooms are included.
    The Ziwei Palace and East Wing-room exhibited the "Lingtai Equipment", which introduces the site of Lingtai, the reform of existing ancient observatory and the production of astronomical equipment.
    The exhibition in the West Wing-room show you the calendars and important calendar reforms in China.
    The Shadow Observation House is the place that the astronomers in Ming and Qing Dynasty used to ascertain the time and conduct sun shadow measure.
    • The Best Visiting Time to Beijing Ancient Observatory
    • Beijingservice team suggest travelers to visit Beijing Ancient Observatory on the morning. The light of morning is suitable for taking photo.
    • Dinning Suggestion
    • There are some good restaurant in Sanlitun Embassy area. Travelers may walk from Beijing Ancient Observatory to discover local dishes there.
    • Related Info
    • Related topic: Chinese Calender(中国历法), Twenty-four solar terms of China(二十四节气), Three enclosures(三垣), Twenty-eight stars(二十八星宿图), four symbols(四象), Related book: Book of Han/汉书, Five Elements/五行志 Astronomical Treatise of Nanqi / 南齐书 天文志 Related person: Shenkuo(沈括), Guoshoujing (郭守敬), Yixing(一行), Nanhuiren(南怀仁), Tangruowang(汤若望), Zhangheng (张恒), Xuguangqi(徐光启), Zuchongzhi(祖冲之), Copernicus (哥白尼),
    More Photo
    • Present condition of Beijing Ancient Observatory
    • Beijing Ancient Observatory was opened to the public with the name of "Beijing Ancient Astronomical Instruments Display Hall" in 1956. Sinces around 1959, the Observatory was used as offices. In 1979, the north-east corner of Ancient Observatory fell as it was washed by days of heavy rain and its south-east corner was seriously split. Ancient Observatory received a careful repair for 3 years. In 1983, Ancient Observatory was opened to the tourists again as a museum named as "Beijing Ancient Observatory". It was visited by a large number of tourists include heads of countries, government officials and famous scientists from all over the world.
    • Review of Beijing Ancient Observatory from Jasper
    • Beijing Ancient Observatory is not a big attraction, but it worth a visit if you had never been there. It give you an glimpse of ancient Chinese Astonomy. The visiting will be more interesting if you read the article about the insturment on the Ancient Observatory platform. Considering its location, travelers may visit Beijing Ancient Observatory on the morning in a Beijing downtown tour.
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