Kublai Khan established this Ancient Observatory found in the southeastern corner of Beijing in the mid-15th century. The observatory is perched on what used to be the battlements of a watchtower and visitors can view the city from an interesting angle. Most come to admire the superb collection of Ming and Qing dynasty (1368-1911AD) astronomical instruments designed by the Jesuits. 8 well kept bronze instruments remain at the site and are displayed on the observatory terrace, including 3 armillary spheres, a quadrant, a sextant, a celestial globe, a horizon circle and a quadrant altazimuth. These European designed instruments are decorated with bronze dragons and are a beautiful blend of east and west. The downstairs garden houses display similarly well maintained navigational equipment.
Kublai Khan and later Ming and Qing emperors relied heavily on astrologers and the Ancient Observatory was an important center for astronomical calculations and astrological predications. Today, it is partly functioning in conjunction with the more modern Beijing observatory, but is also an interesting tourist destination.