Beijing (; ; Postal System Pinyin: Peking), is the capital city of the People's Republic of China.
Beijing is one of the 4 municipalities of the People's Republic of China, which have a provincial-level status, and is under the direct control of the central government. Beijing has been a municipality since the beginning of the PRC.
Beijing is one of the largest cities in China, second only to Shanghai as the nation's biggest in terms of population. It is also a major transportation hub, with dozens of railways, roads and expressways connecting the capital city in all directions. Currently Beijing is recognized as the political, cultural, and social center in the People's Republic of China.
Beijing (北京) literally means "northern capital", the result of an East Asian tradition to name capital cities as such: other cities similarly named include Nanjing (南京), China, meaning "southern capital"; Tokyo (東京), Japan, and Tonkin (東京; now Hanoi), Vietnam, both meaning "eastern capital"; as well as Kyoto (京都), Japan, and Gyeongseong (京城; now Seoul), Korea, both meaning simply "capital". An older English name for Beijing is Peking. The term originated with French missionaries four hundred years ago, and corresponds to an archaic pronunciation which does not take into account a /k/ to /tɕ / sound change in Mandarin that occurred during the Qing dynasty. (/tɕ / is represented in pinyin as j, as in Beijing.)
In China, the city has had many names. Between 1928  and 1949, it was known as Peiping (北平, Pinyin Beiping, Wade-Giles Peip'ing) or "Northern Peace". The name was changed because jing means "capital" and the Kuomintang government in Nanking (now Nanjing) wanted to emphasize that Peking was not the capital of China, and Peking's warlord government was not legitimate.
The name was changed back to Beijing by the Japanese, since Beijing was the capital of a North China; at the end of World War II the Republic of China changed the name back. The Communist Party of China changed the name to Beijing in 1949 again in part to emphasize that Beijing was the capital of China. The government of the Republic of China on Taiwan has not formally recognized the name change, and during the 1950s and 1960s it was common for Beijing to be called Peiping on Taiwan. Today, almost everyone on Taiwan, including the ROC government, uses the term Beijing, although some maps of China from Taiwan still use the old name along with pre-1949 provincial boundaries.
For the historical names of Beijing, see Capital of China.
There were cities in the vicinities of Beijing by the 1st millennium BC, and the capital of the State of Yan (燕), one of the powers of the Warring States Period, was established at Ji (蓟), near modern Beijing. Ji has often been claimed to be the beginning of Beijing; but in reality Ji had been abandoned no later than the 6th century. The exact location of Ji remains unknown despite much effort in recent decades to identify the site.
During the great Tang and Song dynasties, only townships existed in this area. Numerous ancient poets came here to mourn the lost city, as testified by their surviving compositions.
The Later Jin Dynasty ceded a large part of its northern frontier, including modern Beijing, to the Khitan Liao Dynasty in the 10th century. Soon the Liao Dynasty had set up a "secondary capital" in the city proper, and called it Nanjing ("the Southern Capital").
The Jin Dynasty that annexed Liao and ruled northern China built its capital there, called Zhongdu (中都), or "the Central Capital". Zhongdu was situated in what is now the area centred around Tianningsi , which is currently slightly off-centre and to the southwest of central Beijing.
Mongol forces burned Zhongdu to the ground in 1215 and rebuilt its own "Grand Capital," Taidu (大都, also Ta-tu), to the north of the Jin capital in 1267, which was the true beginning of contemporary Beijing. This site is known as Cambaluc in Marco Polo's accounts. Apparently, Kublai Khan, who wanted to become a Chinese emperor, established his capital in Beijing instead of more traditional sites in central China because Beijing was closer to his power base in Mongolia. The decision of the Khan greatly enhanced the status of a city that had been situated on the northern fringe of China proper. Dadu was situated further north; it centred on what is now the northern stretch of the 2nd Ring Road, and even stretched between the 3rd and 4th Ring Roads. There are now remnants of wall still standing.
In 1403, the 3rd Ming emperor Zhu Di (朱棣）, who had just grabbed the throne by killing his nephew after a bloody civil war and moved the capital from southern China to his own power base in the north, renamed the city Beijing (北京), or "Northern Capital". Beijing, as of the Ming Dynasty, took its current shape, with the city wall forming what is now the exact 2nd Ring Road.
The Forbidden City was constructed soon after that (1406-1420), followed by the Temple of Heaven (1420), and numerous other construction projects. Tian'anmen, which has become a state symbol of the PRC in modern times, was burned down twice during the Ming Dynasty and the final reconstruction was carried out in 1651.
The shape and form of Beijing as seen and as recognised today (in particular within the confines of the current-day 2nd Ring Road) took form after the Ming Dynasty settled in Beijing and made it its capital.
While on the mainland, the Republic of China established its capital in Nanjing. During the early days of the Republic, Yuan Shikai seized power in Beijing and declared an empire nation from Beijing (the Beiyang Government). In 1928, Nanjing was officially made the capital of the Republic of China, and Beijing was renamed Beiping. (See "Name" section, above)
During the second Sino-Japanese War, Beiping fell to Japan on July 29, 1937. During the occupation, Beiping was renamed Beijing, and made the seat of the North China Executive Committee , a puppet state that ruled Japanese-occupied North China. This lasted until Japan's surrender in World War II, on August 15, 1945, and Beijing's name was changed back to Beiping.
On January 31, 1949, during the Chinese Civil War, communist forces entered Beiping without a fight. On October 1 of the same year, the Communist Party of China, under the leadership of Mao Zedong, announced in Tian'anmen the creation of the People's Republic of China in Beijing. Just a few days earlier, the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference decided that Beiping would be the capital of the PRC, and that its name be changed back to Beijing.
At the time of the founding of the People's Republic, Beijing consisted of just its urban area and immediate suburbs. The urban area was divided into many district inside the 2nd Ring Road, with most of the city wall still intact until the 1950s. Since then several surrounding counties have been incorporated as well, enlarging the city limits of Beijing by many times.
Following the economic reforms of Deng Xiaoping, the urban area of Beijing has expanded greatly. Formerly within the confines of the 2nd Ring Road and the 3rd Ring Road, the urban area of Beijing is now pushing at the limits of the recently-constructed 5th Ring Road, with many areas that were formerly farmland now developed residential or commercial neighborhoods. A new commercial area has developed in the Guomao area; Wangfujing and Xidan have developed into flourishing shopping districts, while Zhongguancun has become a major center of electronics in China.
As the capital of the nation, Beijing has also been the site of political turmoil in recent years. Tiananmen Square, widely regarded as the spiritual center of China, was the site of the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, which ended in a military crackdown that remains highly controversial. Tiananmen Square has also been the site of protests by Falun Gong.
In recent years, the expansion of Beijing has also brought to the forefront some problems of urbanization, such as heavy traffic, poor air quality , the loss of historic neighborhoods, and a drastic influx of migrants from poorer regions of the country, especially the countryside.
Early 2005 saw the approval by government of a plan to finally stop the "ringing" of Beijing. Development of the Chinese capital would now proceed in two semicircular bands just outside of the city centre (both west and east) instead of being in concentric rings.
Beijing has been chosen to host the 2008 Summer Olympics, an event that sparked a high tide of patriotic emotion across China.
- Main article: Geography of Beijing
Beijing borders Hebei province to the north, west, south, and for a tiny fraction to the east. The southwestern part borders Tianjin municipality. Hills dominate the scene to the north, northwest and west of Beijing.
The city's climate is harsh, characterized by hot, humid summers (due to the East Asian monsoon), and cold, windy, dry winters (reflecting the influence of the vast Siberian anticyclone, or high-pressure system).
The urban area of Beijing spreads out in bands of concentric ring roads. Tian'anmen is right at the centre of Beijing, and is directly to the south of the well-known Forbidden City, and to the east of Zhongnanhai, current residence of the paramount leaders of the People's Republic of China. Running through central Beijing from east to west is the well-known Chang'an Avenue.
Most of the area of Beijing Municipality, however, is found outside the urban area of Beijing, and extends in all directions, especially northwards into the Yanshan Mountains .
Major neighbourhoods in urban Beijing include:
The municipality currently governs 18 county-level divisions: 16 districts and 2 counties. (Some districts outside of the city centre were previously counties.)
Districts of Beijing
The urban and suburban areas of the city are made up of 8 districts:
The other 8 districts are found further out, and govern distant suburbs, satellite towns, and some rural areas:
Mentougou District (门头沟区: Méntóugōu Qū)
- Fangshan District (房山区: Fángshān Qū) — Fangshan County until 1986
- Tongzhou District (通州区: Tōngzhōu Qū) — Tong County until 1997
Shunyi District (顺义区: Shùnyì Qū) — Shunyi County until 1998
- Changping District (昌平区: Chāngpíng Qū) — Changping County until 1999
- Daxing District (大兴区: Dàxīng Qū) — Daxing County until 2001
Pinggu District (平谷区: Pínggǔ Qū) — Pinggu County until 2001
- Huairou District (怀柔区: Huáiróu Qū) — Huairou County until 2001
Counties of Beijing
The 2 counties of Beijing govern very distant towns and rural areas:
- Miyun County (密云县: Mìyún Xiàn)
- Yanqing County (延庆县: Yánqìng Xiàn)
The above districts and counties are further subdivided into 318 township-level divisions: 142 towns, 40 townships, 5 ethnic townships and 131 subdistricts.
In 2002 Beijing's total gross domestic product was 313 billion Renminbi, an increase of 10.2% from the previous year. GDP per capita was 27,746 Renminbi, which converts to about US$ 3355 by market exchange rates. (Note that GDP per capita is usually converted by purchasing power parity instead, which would yield a US$ value about four times higher in this case.)
Beijing's real estate and automobile sectors continue to boom in recent years. In 2002 a total of 16.044 million square metres of housing real estate was sold, for a total of 81.38 billion Renminbi. In the same period Beijing saw the sale of 260,000 automobiles. The total number of automobiles registered in Beijing has now exceeded two million, of which 64% are privately-owned.
The Beijing CBD, centered at the Guomao area, has been identified as the city's new central business district, and is home to a variety of corporate regional headquarters, shopping malls, and high-end housing. The Beijing Financial Street, in the Fuxingmen and Fuchengmen area, is a traditional financial center. The Wangfujing and Xidan areas are major shopping districts. Zhongguancun, dubbed "China's Silicon Valley", continues to be a major center in electronics- and computer-related industries, as well as pharmaceuticals-related research.
There are three predominant styles of architecture in Beijing. First, there's the "traditional" architecture of imperial times gone by (examples include the massive gate north of Tian'anmen, despite being the PRC's trademark building). Next there is what is sometimes referred to as the "Sino-Sov" style from the 1950s and the 1970s; boxy and generally poorly made. Finally, there are much more modern architectural forms — most noticeably in the area of the Beijing CBD. Pictured below are some images of Beijing architecture — blending the old and the new in a sometimes bizarre, sometimes beautiful, but always very Beijing manner.
A bizarre and striking mix of both old and new styles of architecture can be seen at the Dashanzi Art District, which mixes 1950s-design with a blend of the new.
The total population of Beijing municipality in 2003 was 14.56 million, of whom about 11.49 million had a Beijing hukou (residency card) and 3.07 million were on temporary residence permits. In addition, there is a large but unknown number of migrant workers who live illegally in Beijing without any sort of residence permit. The population of the city proper itself is about 7.5 million.
The vast majority of Beijing residents are Han Chinese. There are also some Manchu, Hui, and Mongol people who call the city home. In recent years there has been an influx of South Koreans, who live in Beijing predominantly for business and study, and are concentrated in the Wangjing and Wudaokou areas.
The northern, northeastern and eastern parts of the Beijing urban area are densely populated and house the foreign community in the capital. The southwest and southern parts of the Beijing urban area are less densely populated.
People from urban Beijing speak the Beijing dialect, which belongs to the Mandarin subdivision of spoken Chinese. Beijing dialect provides the basis for Standard Mandarin, the standard Chinese language used in the People's Republic of China, the Republic of China on Taiwan, and Singapore. Outlying areas of Beijing have their own dialects akin to those of Hebei.
Beijing opera, or Jingju, is well-known throughout the national capital. Commonly lauded as one of the highest achievements of Chinese culture, Beijing opera is performed through a combination of singing, spoken dialogue, and codified action sequences, such as gestures, walking, fighting and acrobatics. Much of Beijing opera is carried out in an archaic stage dialect quite different from modern Standard Mandarin and from the Beijing dialect; this makes the dialogue somewhat hard to understand, and the problem is compounded if one is not familiar with Chinese, although modern theaters often have electronic titles in Chinese and English.
The siheyuan (四合院）) is a traditional architectural style of Beijing. A siheyuan consists of a square housing compound, with rooms enclosing a central courtyard. This courtyard often contains a pomegranate or other type of tree, as well as potted flowers or a fish tank.
Hutongs, or alleyways, connect the interior of Beijing's old city. They are usually straight and run east-to-west so that doorways can face north and south for Feng Shui reasons. They vary in width — some are very narrow, enough for only a few pedestrians to pass through at a time.
Once ubiquitous in Beijing, siheyuans and hutongs are now rapidly disappearing, as entire city blocks of hutongs are leveled and replaced with high-rise buildings. Residents of the hutongs are entitled to apartments in the new buildings of at least the same size as their former residences. Many complain, however, that the traditional sense of community and street life of the hutongs cannot be replaced.
Particularly historic or picturesque hutongs are being preserved and restored by the government, with the objective that by the 2008 Olympics, at least some hutongs will remain, albeit in a tidy, gleaming, showcase fashion. One such example can be seen at Nanchizi .
Mandarin cuisine is the local style of cooking in Beijing. Peking duck is perhaps the most well-known dish. The Manhan Quanxi ("Manchu-Han Chinese full banquet") is a traditional banquet originally intended for the ethnic-Manchu emperors of the Qing Dynasty; it remains very prestigious and very expensive.
Teahouses are also common in Beijing. Chinese tea comes in many varieties and some (rather expensive) types of Chinese tea are said to cure an ailing body extraordinarily well.
Beijingers are stereotypically held to be open, confident, humorous, majestic in manner, concerned with politics or other "grand" matters, unconcerned with thrift or careful calculation, and happy to take center stage. They are also very enthusiastic about arts. They are however also stereotypically aristocratic, arrogant, laid back, disdainful of "provincials", always "lording it over others", and strongly conscious of social class. These stereotypes may have originated from Beijing's status as China's capital for most of the past 800 years. As a Confucian culture, China places a very high emphasis on government bureaucracy and hierarchy, and the high concentration of officials and other notables in Beijing have made an indelible mark, both on Beijing itself and on the opinions of Beijing that other Chinese hold.
- Main article: Transportation of Beijing
With the growth of the city following economic reforms, Beijing has evolved as an important transportation hub. Encircling the city are five ring roads, nine expressways and city express routes, eleven China National Highways, several railway routes, and an international airport.
Beijing has two major railway stations: Beijing Railway Station (or the central station) and Beijing West Railway Station. Five other railway stations in Metropolitan Beijing handle regular passenger traffic: Beijing East , Beijing North, Beijing South , Fengtai , and Guanganmen .
Beijing is a railway hub for China. Railway lines to Guangzhou, Shanghai, Harbin, Baotou, Taiyuan, Chengde and Qinhuangdao radiate out of Beijing.
International trains, including lines to cities in Russia and Pyongyang, North Korea (DPRK), all run through Beijing. Direct trains to Kowloon, in the Hong Kong SAR also leave Beijing.
Roads and expressways
- See: Ring Roads of Beijing, Expressways of Beijing and China National Highways of Beijing for more related information.
Beijing is connected via road links from all parts of China. Nine expressways of China (with six wholly new expressways under projection or construction) connect with Beijing, as do eleven China National Highways. Within Beijing itself, an elaborate network of five ring roads has developed, but they appear more rectangular than ring-shaped. Roads in Beijing often are in one of the four compass directions (unlike, for example, Tianjin).
One of the biggest concerns with traffic in Beijing deals with its apparently ubiquitous traffic jams. Traffic in the city centre is often gridlocked, especially around rush hour. (Even outside of rush hour, several roads still remain clogged up with traffic.) Urban area ring roads and major through routes, especially near the Chang'an Avenue area, are often clogged up during rush hour.
Recently, however, expressways have been extended (in some cases reconstructed as express routes) into the territories within the 3rd Ring Road. As they are either expressways or express routes, no traffic lights will lie in its trajectory. This may finally attempt to solve the question of "hopping between one ring and the other".
One big problem is that public transportation is underdeveloped (the underground system is presently minimal) and that even buses are jam-packed with people around rush hour. Compounding the problem is problematic enforcement of road regulations and road rage. Beijing authorities claim that traffic jams may be a thing of a past come the 2008 Olympics. The authorities have introduced several bus lanes where, during rush hour, all vehicles except for public buses must keep clear of the special lanes. An express bus route will be opened on Christmas Day 2004.
Chang'an Avenue runs through the centre of Beijing, past Tian'anmen. It is a major through route and is often touted as the "First Street in China" by the authorities.
Beijing's main airport is the Beijing Capital International Airport near Shunyi, which is about 20 km northeast of Beijing proper. This is where most domestic and nearly all international flights land and depart. Capital Airport is the hub for Air China. It is linked into central Beijing the Airport Expressway and is a roughly 40-minute drive from the city centre during good traffic hours.
Other airports in the city include Liangxiang Airport , Nanyuan Airport , Xijiao Airport , Shahe Airport and Badaling Airport . However, these are primary for militry use and less well-known to the public.
The evolving Beijing Subway has four lines (two above ground, two underground), with several more being built in preparation for the 2008 Summer Olympics. There are around 1,000 bus routes in Beijing, as well as many trolleybus routes. Taxis are nearly ubiquitous, and some can accept Yikatong cards for payment.
Buses and trolleybus fares cost 1 Renminbi for shorter trips, and more for longer trips. Subway tickets range from 2 to 5 Renminbi. Taxi fares depend on vehicle type: these start at 10 Renminbi for the first 3 to 4 kilometers, and go up by 1.20, 1.60, 2.00, or 2.50 Renminbi per extra kilometer, depending on the relative "quality" of the taxi. Some, too, can accept Yikatong cards for payment.
- Main article: Tourist Attractions of Beijing
Despite the damage caused by the Cultural Revolution and the more recent incessant urbanisation, including the demolition of Hutongs, Beijing still sports (or maintains) tourist attractions which are rich in history. The most well-known ones include the Badaling stretch of the Great Wall of China, The Summer Palace and the Forbidden City. Although more known for its political significance, Tian'anmen also forms part of Beijing, historically; it was part of what used to be the city wall of Beijing .
Famous landmarks around Beijing include:
Hotels and lodging
In the 1950s and 1960s, Beijing had virtually no hotels (at least none by Western standards). What Beijing did have were the zhaodaisuo s, which meant "Accommodation Centres". Every zhaodaisuo was subordinate to a state organisation or state organ, and had communal public conveniences and amenities. Zhaodaisuos still exist to this day.
In the late 1970s, Beijing opened its door to the outside world and built hotels. Now, plenty of exquisite hotels exist.
The most well-known hotel is the Beijing Hotel, which is state-owned. Other noticeable hotels are the Great Wall Sheraton Hotel , the Jianguo Hotel , the China World Hotel , Grand Hyatt at Oriental Plaza and the Peninsula Palace Hotel, which is now run by the Hong Kong-based Peninsula Group and is centrally-located in the Wangfujing district, a few minutes' walk from Tiananmen Square, and next to shops and businesses.
There exist youth hostels but they are few in number. There is one near the centre of town, but accommodation is provided four floors below ground level.
Colleges and universities
- Main article: Colleges and Universities of Beijing
Beijing is home to plenty of well-known colleges and universities. The most famous ones (known even internationally) include Peking University, Tsinghua University, Beijing Normal University, Communication University of China (well known in the Chinese media circle), Beijing Foreign Studies University, and Renmin University of China.
The following are under the Ministry of Education:
TV and radio
Beijing Television (BTV) has nine TV programmes, numbered channels 1 through 9. Unlike CCTV, there is at present no exclusive English-language TV channel on a citywide level in Beijing.
The TV programmes are run by Beijing TV.
There are three radio stations which feature programmes in English. They are Hit FM on FM 88.7, Easy FM by CRI on FM 91.5, and the newly launched Radio 774 on AM 774.
The well-known Beijing Evening News newspaper appears without delay every Beijing afternoon, covering news in Chinese about Beijing. Other newspapers are the Beijing Star Daily, the Beijing Morning News and the English-language Beijing Weekend .
Nationwide newspapers are also available in Beijing.
Publications catering to the expat community include City Weekend , Beijing This Month, Beijing Talk , that's Beijing and MetroZine , among others.
International newspapers in most languages, including English and Japanese, are available in hotels and Friendship Stores, and content often appears complete.
Beijing will host the 2008 Summer Olympics and the 2008 Summer Paralympics.
Sports teams based in Beijing include:
Chinese Football Association Super League
Chinese Basketball Association
Wikisource has an article about solar eclipses as seen from Beijing from 2001 to 3000.