Beijing Travel Guide
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Beijing has embarked on a new millennium rollercoaster and it's taking the rest of China with it. Today's youth are more interested in MTV than Mao, rhetorical slogans from the Cultural Revolution have given way to butchered English splashed across designer-copy T-shirts, and expats, tourists, foreign investors and a mobile phone-toting hip-oisie are mixing it up with the bureaucrats.

City´s old alleys and buildings are being demolished, new buildings are going up, small things are giving way to big things and big things are giving way to even bigger things. The capital of the People's Republic of China doesn't look like it's slowing down any time soon.

Facts in a glance

Area: 750 sq km
Population: 13 million
Country: China
Time Zone: GMT/UTC +8 (Standard Time)
Telephone Area Code: 010

History

Some half a million years ago, Peking man lived in Zhoukoudian, in the southwestern suburbs of Beijing. The climate of that time was warmer and more humid than it is today. Forests and lakes in the area supported large numbers of living creatures. The fossil remains of Peking man, his stone tools and evidence of use of fire, as well as later tools of 18,000 years ago, bone needles and article of adornment from the age of Upper Cave Man are the earliest cultural relics on record in China today.

Some four to five thousand years ago, settlements to the southwest of Beijing were thriving on basic agriculture and animal husbandry. Story has it that the legendary Yellow Emperor (Huang Di) battled against the tribal leader Chiyou in the “wilderness of the prefecture of Zhuo.”Zhuolu, a town west of present-day Beijing, is perhaps the site of the first metropolis in the area. Yellow Emperor’s successor, Emperor Yao, was said to have established a legendary capital Youdu (City of Quietude) that was where the city of Ji was actually built.

475–221BC: During the Warring States Period, the Marquis of Yan annexed the territory of the Marquis of Ji, making the city of Ji his new capital. The approximate location was north of Guang’ anmen Gate in present–day Beijing near the White Cloud Temple (Baiyunguan).

221-207 B.C.: From the Qin Dynasty and the Han Dynasty (206 B.C.) to the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127),Beijing was a major city and also a strategic point in northern China.

581-618: Two emperors during that period, Emperor Yang of the Sui Dynasty and Emperor Taizong of the Tang Dynasty, left their mark on the city. Emperor Yang amassed troops and supplies at Ji for expeditions against Korea. Emperor Taizong also used the city for military training. He built the Temple for Compassion for the Loyal (Minzhongsi), which is dedicated to troops who died in battle. This temple was the precursor of the Temple of the Origin of the Dharma (Fayuansi) located outside the old walls of the city.

907-1125: The Qidan (Khitan) people founded the Liao Dynasty, they established Beijing, which was then under their occupation and was called Jiuzhou, as the secondary capital under the name of Nanjing (southern capital).

1115-1234: In the early 12th century, the Nuzhen (Jurchen) conquered the Liao and established the Jin Dynasty. In 1153, Wan Yanliang moved the Jin capital from Huiningfu in presen, day Liaoning Province to Yanjing and renamed it Zhongdu (Central Capital) as a challenge to the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279), which had its capital at Lin’an (Hangzhou). Before the ascension of Wan Yanliang to the throne, the city of Yanjing had changed little from the Liao period.

1151: The rebuilding of the new city began with expansion to the east, west and south. Palaces were constructed on a scale similar to the Northern Song (960-1127) capital at Bianliang (modern Kaifeng), and many of the actual building materials were transported from Bianliang. The new expanded city, with its splendid buildings in the center measured roughly five kilometers in circumference. The registered population of the Imperial Palace in the center measured roughly five kilometers in circumference. The registered population of Zhongdu amounted to 225,592 households, or approximately one million people.

1215: Mongol forces burned Zhongdu to the ground and rebuilt its own "Grand Capital," Taidu, 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.

1403: The 3rd Ming emperor Zhu Di, 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, 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.

1406-1420: The Forbidden City was constructed soon after that, 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.

1928: 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). Nanjing was officially made the capital of the Republic of China, and Beijing was renamed Beiping.

1937: During the second Sino-Japanese War, Beiping fell to Japan on July 29. 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.

1949: On January 31, 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.

1950: 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 . 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.

1989: A massive pro-democracy student protest in Tiananmen Square was brutally crushed by Deng Xiaoping's government forces. That such an event could happen while capitalist-style reforms flooded the city with shopping malls and foreign money typifies Beijing.

1995: Beijing played host to the United Nations' Conference on Women. Having lobbied the UN hard to get the conference, the Chinese then denied visas to at least several hundred people who wanted to attend because they were regarded as politically incorrect. Beijing continued to frighten the horses when it fired missiles into the waters just off Taiwan in early 1996 in an unsuccessful effort to affect the outcome of the Taiwanese presidential election. They tried a similar stunt in Taiwan's 2000 presidential elections.

1997:The Chinese takeover of Hong Kong soon after Deng Xiaoping's death in July was something of an orgy of nationalism. The hand-over of Macau in December 1999 was a much tamer event.

2005: Governmentaw has approved 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.

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