There is something mysterious and dangerous about the idea of Communist military forces. From the Iron Curtain in Russia to the huge upheavals in China throughout the 20th century, military conflict has defined the region and its ideologies. Thankfully those days are over, and instead of running away in terror you can delight in exploring China’s military past in Beijing.
For those military aficionados staying in town, one of the first places you should visit is the Museum of the Revolutionary Military. Located in the West part of Beijing, this impressive but quite traditional museum is home to five halls of China’s military past. The most important exhibits include items from the Red Army’s famous Long March as well as a collection of weapons through the ages. Not the most advanced museum you will ever go to, but there are lots of exhibits that you will not see anywhere else. Whilst the Revolutionary Military Museum may be ranked as one of the ten best military museums in the world, the far more modern and in my opinion far more interesting museum is located some 40km outside of the centre of Beijing. Located in Changping County, the Chinese Aeronautics Museum (Otherwise known as the National Aviation Museum) is a feast of military hardware from China’s history. Not to be confused with the far smaller University Aeronautics Museum in town, this huge museum is located on the site of an old airbase where they used to fly MIG defences for Beijing. With such an authentic feel and over 200 flying machines to explore, this is a plane enthusiast’s dream come true. There are machines ranging from some of the earliest planes in China to modern MIGs and explanations of China’s space program. Most of it is outdoors so it is best to go in the warmer months when you can take a picnic and enjoy a glimpse into China’s military history.
Not everyone is interested in the relics of war, but understanding the past of this country is important because it is has helped to shape the China of today. And if you’re a boy, then climbing into the cockpit of a Communist MIG is pretty exciting!