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Beijing Ancient Observatory


Beijing Ancient Observatory belongs to China’s key national units of cultural relics protection. Among the existing ancient observatories in the world, the observatory has maintained the longest continuous observation record in history. Moreover, it has long enjoyed a good international reputation with its well-preserved buildings and complete instruments. The observatory not only holds practical astronomical observation tools, but also unique historical treasures of the world. The Beijing Ancient Observatory was rebuilt as the Beijing Ancient Astronomical Instrument Exhibition Hall, and still plays an important role in the fields of technology and science.


As one of the oldest observatories in the world, Beijing Ancient Observatory covers 10,000 square meters. The observatory itself is located on a 15-meter tall brick platform that is about 40 x 40 square meters in area. Located at the southwest of Jianguomen overpass in Beijing, Beijing Ancient Observatory was the national observatory during the Ming and Qing dynasties.

The eight pieces of copper astronomical instruments made During the Qing Dynasty are large, attractive and exquisitely carved. Although their appearance, floriation and workmanship are traditionally Chinese, they also reflect the progress and achievements made by large astronomical instruments after the Renaissance period in Western Europe in aspects such as scale and structure. They have become historical witnesses of cultural exchange between the East and the West.

Beijing Ancient Observatory owns the large bronze astronomical instruments copied by craftsmen during the Yuan Dynasty, as well as precise new instruments designed by Xu Guangqi (a famous Chinese scientists of Qing dynasty) and other foreign missionaries. The instruments show the exchange of cultural achievements between Chinese and Western countries, and are vital pieces of information for studying ancient astronomical achievements.

Eight large copper astronomical instruments

Elaborate equatorial armillary sphere

This instrument is displayed in the northeastern area of the Beijing Ancient Observatory. It weighs 5,145 kilograms and is 3,379 meters high. This elaborate equatorial armillary sphere was the last large copper apparatus made during the Qing Dynasty, and reflects the development level at that time in terms of metallurgical manufacturing and carving mode.


The sextant is on display at the southern area of the Beijing Ancient Observatory and is next to the equatorial armillary sphere. It weighs 802 kilograms and is 3.274 meters high. In China, such instruments were made during the Qing Dynasty.

Ecliptic armillary sphere

The ecliptic armillary sphere weighs 2,752 kilograms and is 3.492 meters high. It is China's first observation apparatus for an independent frame zodiac coordinate system.


The altazimuth weighs 7,368 kilograms and is 4.125 meters high. It was the only astronomical instrument that adopted French decorative arts during the western Renaissance period.

Horizon circle 

Displayed at the southern end of the Beijing Ancient Observatory, the horizon circle weighs 1,811 kilograms and is 3.201 meters high.

Equatorial armillary sphere

The equatorial armillary sphere weighs 2,720 kilograms and is 3.380 meters high. It was often used as an astronomical observation instrument in ancient China, and has more than fourteen usages, mainly to measure right ascensions and declinations of stars.

Celestial globe 

The celestial globe weighs 3,850 kilograms and is 2.735 meters high. It is displaced at the middle-west side on top of the Beijing Ancient Observatory.


The quadrant is also called the zenith sector, and is displayed on the northwest side on top of the Beijing Ancient Observatory. It weighs 2,483 kilograms and is 3.611 meters high. The instrument is mainly used for measuring the distance of the stars on the horizon or the distance to the zenith.

Other exhibitions

The Time and the Calendar

Mainly introduces the process of the formation and development of the time calendar and the main research achievements. It also exhibits other time measuring tools from ancient China, such as the sundial and the gnomon, among others.

Chronicle of astronomical phenomena

This mainly introduces some of the major historical events observational achievements of ancient Chinese astronomy. The exhibition also introduces achievements made in the area of astronomy research during ancient China, such as research on sunspots, Halley’s comet and the supernovae. It is also a base for educating teenagers and extracurricular activities.


Built during the Ming Dynasty (about A.D. 1442 years), the Beijing Ancient Observatory engaged in astronomical observations for nearly 500 years, from the Ming Dynasty to 1929. It has maintained the longest continuous observation records among all of the existing observatories in the world.

China Highlights can help you customize a tour to visit Beijing Ancient Observatory and other highlights in Beijing.

Travel Essentials

Open: closed on Tuesdays and open on other days from 9:00am to 11:30am and from 1 pm to 4:30pm.
Bus line: take buses No. 1, 4, 8, 9, 20, 43, 44, 57, or take the circle line to Jianguomen.
Address: Hutong No. 2 at East Biaobei, Dongcheng District, Beijing. (北京市东城区东裱褙胡同2号)