China's oldest observatory opens free to public

Indo Asian News Service

Beijing, May 3 (IANS) China's oldest observatory in Dengfeng city is free to the public in a move to attract tourists at home and abroad, officials have said.

The new ticket policy for Dengfeng Observatory took effect on April 29, the first day of the International Workers' Day holiday, Xinhua news agency cited Dengfeng tourism bureau in Henan province as saying.

Previously, tickets cost 30 yuan ($4) per person.

During the three-day holiday, the scenic spot received 12,230 tourists, more than 66 times during the previous year.

"The new policy aims to woo more young tourists, especially students. They may be curious about the story of the oldest structure for astronomical observation in the country," said Wang Shaofeng, head of the bureau.

With a history of more than 700 years, the observatory was built by Guo Shoujing, a prestigious ancient Chinese astronomer.

Guo and others observed the regularity of the sun, moon and the stars, and calculated, correctly, that there were 365.24 days in a year.

Dengfeng is also famous for its Shaolin Temple, home of Chinese Kung Fu and Zen Buddhism.

Kong Xiaohong, with general aviation operator Reignwood Star, said the company provided a scenic helicopter tour linking the observatory with the Shaolin Temple.

Using a helicopter, travel time can be cut to seven minutes from more than 40 minutes when driving. Each helicopter can carry five tourists who need to pay a total of 8,000 yuan for the trial service.

"Dengfeng will gradually open 12 free tourist attractions to the public in the near future. We aim to turn the city into an international tourist destination," Wang said.

The historical architecture complex in Dengfeng, including the observatory and Shaolin Temple, was added to the World Cultural Heritage List in 2010.