Beijing, commonly referred to as “Beijing” or simply “京” in Chinese, is the capital and municipality of the People’s Republic of China. It is the political, cultural, technological, educational, military, and international communication center of the country, as well as a global city with significant international influence. Beijing is the third most populous city in the world and the most populous capital city. It is located on the northwest edge of the North China Plain, with the Yanshan Mountains to its north and the Yongding River flowing through the old city to the southwest. It borders Tianjin Municipality and Hebei Province, and is an important component of the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei urban agglomeration.
Beijing, the second-largest Chinese city by urban population after Shanghai, is a megacity that hosts most of China’s largest state-owned companies and the largest number of Fortune Global 500 companies in the world. It is also home to the world’s four biggest financial institutions by total assets and serves as a major hub for national highways, expressways, railways, and high-speed rail networks. With the Beijing Capital International Airport being the second busiest in the world by passenger traffic (Asia’s busiest) since 2010, and the city’s subway network being the busiest and longest in the world as of 2016, Beijing is a transportation powerhouse.
Additionally, the recently opened Beijing Daxing International Airport, the largest single-structure airport terminal in the world, further cements Beijing’s position as a global transportation hub.
If you’re visiting China, a visit to Beijing is essential due to its rich cultural and historical significance, which includes famous attractions such as the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven, and the Summer Palace. To explore these landmarks, you can take the subway, which is the fastest mode of transportation in China. Another recommended activity is hiking the Great Wall, with popular sections such as Mutianyu and Jinshanling. The Chinese have a saying, “He who has not climbed the Great Wall is not a true hero.”
For those interested in Chinese history, the Ming Tombs and Sacred Way, also known as the Ming Ling Shengdao or Ming Tombs Divine Road, is a fascinating attraction featuring the resting place of several Ming Dynasty emperors, including the famous Changling Tomb.
In the evening, taking a stroll through the Hutongs is a must-do activity. These narrow streets or alleys, lined with traditional courtyard residences called Siheyuan, are a symbol of civilian life and are different from the grandeur of imperial architecture seen in the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven, and the Summer Palace. Unfortunately, many Hutongs have been demolished and replaced by modern buildings and roads, but there are still some surviving around Shichahai Lake, Beihai Park, Drum Tower, and Bell Tower. You can have a taste of local life by trying dumplings or enjoying a cup of tea with the locals in one of the Hutongs.
Area: 16,410 km²
Altitude: 43 m
Annual average temperature: 13 degrees
Geography: North of China
Population: 21,893,000 (2021)
Nationalities: Han majority, Manchu, Hui (Muslim), Mongol, and other minorities.
Economies: Science and technology, tourism, finance, etc.
How to Go to Beijing?
All roads lead to Rome! Yes, it is the same for Beijing. As the center of the national highways, Beijing is the starting point for eleven series-100 China National Highways from 101 to 111. These are major routes intended to connect Beijing with the rest of China. Tiananmen (The Gate of Heavenly Peace) is considered “km 0” for all China National Highways. Beijing is also the major hub for the railway and high-speed rail networks. You can take a normal train from Beijing to Lhasa for 41 hours and 17 minutes, or a high-speed trail to Shanghai for 4 hours. Of course, if you do not like the train, you can have a flight from the Beijing Capital International Airport, which was the second busiest in the world since 2010. Now the new airport, Beijing Daxing International Airport, is the largest single-structure airport terminal in the world.
When to Visit Beijing?
We can visit Beijing all the year, so that’s why you see every day lots of tourists in Forbidden City, the Summer Palace, etc. It said 380 million tourists were visiting Beijing in 2019, including Chinese and foreign. Most Chinese tourists visit Beijing during festivals, like the National Day (1st-7th October), Spring festival (normally In early February), etc.
Summer also has many tourists, but it is very hot and humid because of the East Asian monsoon. It rains from June to August, with a precipitation average of around 570 mm annually. In winter due to the influence of the vast Siberian anticyclone, it is very cold and dry. In spring you may suffer the sandstorms blowing in from the Gobi Desert across the Mongolian steppe. Autumn is a good season, and you can have sunshine and a blue sky. The monthly average temperature in January is −3 °C, while in July it is 28 °C.
There is a proverb in China that emphasizes the importance of food for the people, and in the capital city of Beijing, there are plenty of dishes and snacks to discover.
One must-try dish in Beijing is the Beijing Roast Duck, also known as Peking duck. This duck has a crispy exterior and juicy interior and is typically sliced within 2 minutes and 30 seconds. It is served wrapped in pancakes with shredded scallions, cucumber, and sweet bean sauce.
Another popular dish in the north of China is Jiaozi, or Chinese dumplings, which are typically made with wheat flour and filled with chopped pork or prawn, along with chives and cabbage. These dumplings can be fried, boiled, or steamed and are often served with dipping sauces like black rice vinegar and smoky chili oil.
Zhajiangmian is another local favorite in Beijing, made with fried soybean paste, chopped pork, soybean paste, sweet flour paste, and other condiments, served over boiled noodles with fresh vegetables like julienned cucumber and crunchy radish. Chili oil and vinegar can also be added for extra flavor.
Beijing Hotpot is a milder version of the famous Sichuan or Chongqing hotpot, made with lamb, vegetables, and noodles, and typically flavored with sesame paste and leek paste. Additional seasonings like red bean curd, coriander, and chili can also be added to taste.
Finally, since its introduction in 2001, Spicy Crayfish has become a popular snack in Beijing. Served on Gui Jie street, these crayfish are cooked with chili peppers and Sichuan peppercorns and eaten by breaking open the shell to get to the meat. Beer is a popular beverage choice to accompany this spicy treat.
Beijing, previously known as “Peking”, has a historical significance as the Northern Capital, a role it has played in China’s past for numerous occasions. The city’s history dates back several thousand years, but it gained notable recognition in Chinese history after being made the capital of the State of Yan under the name Yanjing during the Warring States Period about 2,000 years ago. Following the fall of Yan, the Beijing area became a prominent prefecture of northern China during the later Han and Tang dynasties.
In 938, Beijing was conquered by the Khitans, who declared it the capital of the Liao Dynasty. The city was later seized by the Mongols in 1215, and from 1264 onwards, it served as the capital of a united China under Kublai Khan, who renamed the city Great Capital (大都) after his victorious Mongol forces claimed it. Kublai and his descendants governed their empire from the northern city, which was closer to the Mongol homelands. During this period, the walled city was expanded, and numerous palaces and temples were constructed.
Following the fall of the Mongol-founded Yuan dynasty in 1368, the capital was relocated to Nanjing. However, in 1403, Emperor Yongle, also known as Zhu Di, the third Ming emperor, moved the capital back to Beijing and gave the city its present name. The Ming era is often referred to as the golden age of Beijing, as it was during this period that the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven, and many other iconic landmarks were constructed, propelling the city into a hub of religion and culture for all of Asia.
In 1644, the Ming Dynasty was toppled by Li Zicheng, a rebel leader, but his reign was short-lived as he was swiftly replaced by the Manchus, who established China’s last imperial line, the Qing dynasty. Despite the political turbulence, Beijing remained the capital, with the Manchu imperial family residing in the Forbidden City until 1911. During their reign, the Qing built both the Summer Palace and Old Summer Palace, which served as summer retreats for the emperors and their entourages. In the 19th century, Western nations established foreign legations in the Qianmen area south of the Forbidden City, which came under siege during the Boxer Rebellion in 1900.
The Republic of China was established in 1911 after the fall of the Qing dynasty, and Sun Yat-sen became its first president. In the early years of the republic, Beijing was plagued by conflict between warlords. After the Northern Expedition, the Kuomintang government relocated the capital to Nanjing in 1928, renaming Beijing as Beiping, which means “Northern Peace”, to reflect its diminished status as no longer being a capital. Despite this, Beijing remained a hub of education and culture throughout the Republican Era. When the Communists defeated the Kuomintang in 1949, they established the People’s Republic with Beijing as its capital.
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