2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Geography of Asia

Beijing - 北京

The Temple of Heaven, an enduring symbol of Beijing
Location in the People's Republic of China
Beijing is highlighted on this map

Basic Information
Origin of name: běi - north
jīng - capital
"Northern Capital"
Abbreviation: Jīng
Area: 16,808 km² ( 29th)
Population ( 2004): 14,930,000 ( 26th) Municipality
approx. 7.5 million Urban Area
Density ( 2004): 888/km² ( 4th) Municipality
GDP ( 2004):
 - per capita
CNY 428.3 billion ( 15th)
CNY 28,700 ( 2nd)
HDI ( 2005) 0.882 ( 2nd) — high
Major nationalities ( 2000): Han - 96%
Manchu - 2%
Hui - 2%
Mongolian - 0.3%
City trees: Chinese arborvitae
(Platycladus orientalis)
Pagoda tree
(Sophora japonica)
City flowers: Chrysanthemum
(Chrysanthemum morifolium)
Chinese rose
(Rosa chinensis)
Elevation: 43.5m
Coordinates: 39°54′20″N, 116°23′29″E
Postal code: 100000 - 102600
Area code: +86/10
License plate prefixes : 京A, C, E, F, H, J
京B (taxis)
京G (outside urban area)
京O (police and authorities)
京V (military headquarters
& central government)
ISO 3166-2: cn-11
Time zone : UTC+8
Website : (English)
Administration Type: Municipality
CPC Beijing
Committee Secretary:
Liu Qi
Mayor: Wang Qishan
County-level divisions: 18
Township-level divisions: 273

Beijing [ English Pronunciation] (Chinese: 北京 [ Chinese Pronunciation]; Pinyin: Běijīng; IPA: [pei˨˩˦ tɕɪŋ˥˥]), a city in northern China, is the capital of the People's Republic of China (PRC). It was formerly known in English as Peking or Peiking [ English Pronunciation]. Beijing is also one of the four municipalities of the PRC, which are equivalent to provinces in China's administrative structure. Beijing Municipality borders Hebei Province to the north, west, south, and for a small section in the east, and Tianjin Municipality to the southeast.

Beijing is China's second largest city in terms of population, after Shanghai. It is a major transportation hub, with dozens of railways, roads and expressways entering and leaving it in all directions. It is also the focal point of many international flights to China. Beijing is recognized as the political, educational, and cultural centre of the People's Republic of China, while Shanghai and Hong Kong predominate in economic fields.

Beijing is one of the Four Great Ancient Capitals of China. It will also host the 2008 Summer Olympics.


Beijing (北京) literally means "Northern capital", in line with the common East Asian tradition whereby capital cities are explicitly named as such. Other cities similarly named include Nanjing (南京), China, meaning "southern capital"; Tokyo (東京), Japan, and Đông Kinh (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".

Peking is the name of the city according to Chinese Postal Map Romanization, and the traditional customary name for Beijing in English. The term originated with French missionaries four hundred years ago and corresponds to an older pronunciation predating a subsequent sound change in Mandarin from [kʲ] to [tɕ]. ([tɕ] is represented in pinyin as j, as in Beijing), and is still used in some languages (for example, the Portuguese name is Pequim).

In China, the city has had many names. Between 1928 and 1949, it was known as Peiping (北平; Pinyin: Beiping; Wade-Giles: Pei-p'ing), literally "Northern Peace". The name was changed — with the removal of the element meaning "capital" (jing or king, 京) — to reflect the fact that, with the Kuomintang government having established its capital in Nanjing (pinyin: Nanjing), Peking was no longer the capital of China, and that the warlord government based in Peking was not legitimate.

The Communist Party of China reverted the name to Beijing (Peking) in 1949 again in part to emphasize that Beijing had returned to its role as China's capital. The government of the Republic of China on Taiwan has never formally recognized the name change, and during the 1950s and 1960s it was common in Taiwan for Beijing to be called Beiping to imply the illegitimacy of the PRC. Today, almost all of Taiwan, including the ROC government, uses Beijing, although some maps of China from Taiwan still use the old name along with pre-1949 political boundaries.

Yanjing (燕京; Pinyin: Yānjīng; Wade-Giles: Yen-ching) is and has been another popular informal name for Beijing, a reference to the ancient State of Yan that existed here during the Zhou Dynasty. This name is reflected in the locally-brewed Yanjing Beer as well as Yenching University, an institution of higher learning that was merged into Peking University. During the Yuan Dynasty, Beijing was known as Khanbaliq which is the Cambuluc described in Marco Polo's accounts.

(The history section below outlines other historical names of Beijing.)


There were cities in the vicinities of Beijing by the 1st millennium BC, and the capital of the State of Yan, one of the powers of the Warring States Period (473-221 BC), Ji (薊/蓟), was established in present-day Beijing.

Remnants of city walls around Beijing (August 2004 image).
Remnants of city walls around Beijing (August 2004 image).

After the fall of the Yan, the subsequent Qin, Han, and Jin dynasties set-up local prefectures in the area. In Tang Dynasty it became the headquarter for Fanyang jiedushi, the virtual military governor of current northern Hebei area. An Lushan lauched An Shi Rebellion from here in 755. This rebellion is often regarded as a turning point of Tang dynasty, as the central government began to lose the control of the whole country.

In 936, the Later Jin Dynasty (936-947) of northern China ceded a large part of its northern frontier, including modern Beijing, to the Khitan Liao Dynasty. In 938, the Liao Dynasty set up a secondary capital in what is now Beijing, and called it Nanjing (the "Southern Capital"). In 1125, the Jurchen Jin Dynasty annexed Liao, and in 1153 moved its capital to Liao's Nanjing, calling it Zhongdu (中都), "the central capital." Zhongdu was situated in what is now the area centred around Tianningsi, slightly to the southwest of central Beijing.

Mongol forces burned Zhongdu to the ground in 1215 and rebuilt it to the north of the Jin capital in 1267. In preparation for the conquest of all of China, Yuan (Mongol) Dynasty founder Kublai Khan made this his capital as Khanbaliq ( Mongolian for "great residence of the Khan") or Dadu (大都, Chinese for "grand capital"). This site is known as Cambuluc in Marco Polo's accounts. Apparently, Kublai Khan, who wanted to become a Chinese emperor, established his capital at this location instead of more traditional sites in central China because it 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. Khanbaliq was situated north of modern central Beijing. It centred on what is now the northern stretch of the 2nd Ring Road, and stretched northwards to between the 3rd and 4th Ring Roads. There are remnants of Mongol-era wall still standing.

After the fall of the Yuan Dynasty in 1368, the city was later rebuilt by the Ming Dynasty and Shuntian (順天) prefecture was established in the area around the city. In 1403, the third Ming Emperor Yongle moved the Ming capital from Nanjing (Nanking) to the renamed Beijing (Peking) (北京), the "northern capital", situated in the north. The capital was also known as Jingshi 京師, simply meaning capital. During the Ming Dynasty, Beijing took its current shape, and the Ming-era city wall served as the Beijing city wall until modern times, when it was pulled down and the 2nd Ring Road was built in its place.

It is believed that Beijing was the largest city in the world from 1425 to 1650 and from 1710 to 1825 .

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 People's Republic of China and is featured on its emblem, was burned down twice during the Ming Dynasty and the final reconstruction was carried out in 1651.

The Forbidden City, home to the Emperors of the Ming and Qing Dynasties.
The Forbidden City, home to the Emperors of the Ming and Qing Dynasties.
Beijing's Tian'anmen Square, as seen from the Tian'anmen Chenglou Building (taken in July of 2004).
Beijing's Tian'anmen Square, as seen from the Tian'anmen Chenglou Building (taken in July of 2004).

After the Manchus overthrew the Ming Dynasty and established the Qing Dynasty in its place, Beijing remained China's capital throughout the Qing period. Just like during the preceding dynasty, Beijing was also known as Jingshi, which corresponded to the Manchu Gemun Hecen with the same meaning. It was the scene of the siege of the foreign legations during the Boxer Rebellion in 1900.

The Xinhai Revolution of 1911, aimed at replacing Qing rule with a republic, originally intended to establish its capital at Nanjing. After high-ranking Qing official Yuan Shikai forced the abdication of the Qing emperor in Beijing and ensured the success of the revolution, the revolutionaries in Nanjing accepted that Yuan should be the president of the new Republic of China, and that the capital should remain at Beijing.

Yuan gradually consolidated power, culminating in his declaration of a Chinese Empire in late 1915 with himself as emperor. The move was highly unpopular, and Yuan himself died less than a year later, ending his brief reign. China then fell under the control of regional warlords, and the most powerful factions fought frequent wars (the Zhili-Anhui War, the First Zhili-Fengtian War, and the Second Zhili-Fengtian War) to take control of the capital at Beijing.

Following the success of the Kuomintang's Northern Expedition which pacified the warlords of the north, Nanjing was officially made the capital of the Republic of China in 1928, and Beijing was renamed Beiping (Peip'ing) (北平), "northern peace" or "north pacified", to emphasize that the warlord government in Beijing was not legitimate.

During the Second Sino-Japanese War, Beiping fell to Japan on 29 July 1937. During the occupation, the city was reverted to its former name, Beijing, and made the seat of the Provisional Government of the Republic of China, a puppet state that ruled the ethnic Chinese portions of Japanese-occupied North China. It was later merged into the larger Wang Jingwei Government based in Nanjing. With Japan's surrender in World War II, on 15 August 1945, however, Beijing's name was changed back to Beiping.

On January 31, 1949, during the Chinese Civil War, Communist forces entered Beijing 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 had decided that Beiping would be the capital of the new government, and that its name would be changed back to Beijing.

At the time of the founding of the People's Republic, Beijing Municipality consisted of just its urban area and immediate suburbs. The urban area was divided into many small districts inside what is now the 2nd Ring Road. Since then several surrounding counties have been incorporated into the Municipality, enlarging the limits of Beijing Municipality by many times and giving it its present shape. The Beijing city wall was torn down between 1965 and 1969 to make way for the construction of the 2nd Ring Road.

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 and 6th Ring Road (currently under construction), 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 centre of electronics in China.

As the national capital, Beijing has also been the site of political turmoil in recent years. Tian'anmen Square, a well-known landmark in the city, was the site of the Tiananmen Square protests of 1976 and then the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, which ended in a military crackdown. Tian'anmen 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 significant influx of migrants from poorer regions of the country, especially rural areas.

Early 2005 saw the approval by government of a plan to finally stop the sprawling development of Beijing in all directions. 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 has sparked nationalistic pride across China.

Geography and climate

A simulated-color image of Beijing, taken by NASA's Landsat 7.
A simulated-colour image of Beijing, taken by NASA's Landsat 7.

Beijing is situated at the northern tip of the roughly triangular North China Plain which opens to the south and east of the city. Mountains to the north, northwest and west shield the city and northern China's agricultural heartland from the encroaching desert steppes. The northwestern part of the municipality, especially Yanqing County and Huairou District, are dominated by the Jundu Mountains, while the western part of the municipality is framed by the Xishan Mountains. The Great Wall of China, which stretches across the northern part of Beijing Municipality, made use of this rugged topography to defend against nomadic incursions from the steppes. Mount Dongling in the Xishan ranges and on the border with Hebei is the municipality's highest point, with an altitude of 2303 m. Major rivers flowing through the municipality include the Yongding River and the Chaobai River, part of the Hai River system, and flowing in a southerly direction. Beijing is also the northern terminus of the Grand Canal of China which was built across the North China Plain to Hangzhou. Miyun Reservoir, built on the upper reaches of the Chaobai River, is Beijing's largest reservoir, and crucial to its water supply.

The urban area of Beijing, located at 39°54′20″N, 116°23′29″E (39.9056, 116.3914), is situated in the south-central part of the municipality and occupies a small but expanding part of the municipality's area. It spreads out in bands of concentric ring roads, of which the fifth and outermost (the Sixth Ring Road; the numbering starts at 2) passes through several satellite towns. Tian'anmen (Gate of Heavenly Peace) and Tian'anmen Square are at the centre of Beijing, and are directly to the south of the Forbidden City, former residence of the emperors of China. To the west of Tian'anmen is Zhongnanhai, current residence of the paramount leaders of the People's Republic of China. Running through central Beijing from east to west is Chang'an Avenue, one of Beijing's main thoroughfares.

The city's climate is harsh, characterized by hot, humid summers due to the East Asian monsoon, and cold, windy, dry winters that reflect the influence of the vast Siberian anticyclone. Average temperatures in January are at around -7 to -4 ° C, while average temperatures in July are at 25 to 26 ° C. Annual precipitation is over 600 mm, with 75% of that in summer.

Beijing also suffers from heavy pollution and poor air quality from industry and traffic. Dust from erosion of deserts in northern and northwestern China result in seasonal dust storms that plague the city. In the first four months of 2006 alone, there were no fewer than eight such storms. Efforts have been made of late to clean up Beijing in preparation for the 2008 Summer Olympics.

City layout


Southern end of Wangfujing Road (July 2004 image).
Southern end of Wangfujing Road (July 2004 image).
Beijing by night
Beijing by night
Beijing Bookstore at Xidan
Beijing Bookstore at Xidan

Major neighbourhoods in urban Beijing include the following. Neighborhoods may overlap across multiple districts (see below):

  • Andingmen 安定门
  • Beiyuan 北苑
  • Chaoyangmen 朝阳门
  • Dongzhimen 东直门
  • Fangzhuang 方庄
  • Fuchengmen 阜成门
  • Fuxingmen 复兴门
  • Guomao 国贸
  • Hepingli 和平里
  • Wangjing 望京
  • Wangfujing 王府井
  • Wudaokou 五道口
  • Xidan 西单
  • Yayuncun 亚运村
  • Zhongguancun 中关村

Several place names in Beijing end with men (门), meaning "gate", as they were the locations of gates in the former Beijing city wall. Other place names end in cun (村), meaning "village", as they were originally villages outside the city wall.


Towns within Beijing Municipality but outside the urban area include:

  • Changping 昌平
  • Huairou 怀柔
  • Miyun 密云
  • Liangxiang 良乡
  • Liulimiao 琉璃庙
  • Tongzhou 通州
  • Yizhuang 亦庄


Beijing Municipality currently comprises 18 administrative sub-divisions, county-level units governed directly by the municipality (second-level divisions). Of these, 16 are districts and 2 are counties.

The urban and suburban areas of the city are divided into eight (8) districts:

District Population (2000 census) Area (km²) Density (per km²)
Dongcheng District (东城区: Dōngchéng Qū) 536,000 24.7 21,700
Xicheng District (西城区: Xīchéng Qū) 707,000 30.0 23,567
Chongwen District (崇文区: Chóngwén Qū) 346,000 15.9 21,761
Xuanwu District (宣武区: Xuānwǔ Qū) 526,000 16.5 31,879
Chaoyang District (朝阳区: Cháoyáng Qū) 2,290,000 470.8 4,864
Haidian District (海淀区: Hǎidiàn Qū) 2,240,000 426.0 5,258
Fengtai District (丰台区: Fēngtái Qū) 1,369,000 304.2 4,500
Shijingshan District (石景山区: Shíjǐngshān Qū) 489,000 89.8 5,445
City proper + inner suburbs 8.50 million 1377.9 6,171

The following six districts encompass the more distant suburbs and satellite towns, constituting part of the metropolitan area:

District Population (2000 census) Area (km²) Density (per km²)
Mentougou District (门头沟区: Méntóugōu Qū) 267,000 1,331.3 201
Fangshan District (房山区: Fángshān Qū)
Fangshan County until 1986
814,000 1,866.7 436
Tongzhou District (通州区: Tōngzhōu Qū)
Tong County until 1997
674,000 870.0 775
Shunyi District (顺义区: Shùnyì Qū)
Shunyi County until 1998
637,000 980.0 650
Changping District (昌平区: Chāngpíng Qū)
Changping County until 1999
615,000 1,430.0 430
Daxing District (大兴区: Dàxīng Qū)
Daxing County until 2001
672,000 1,012.0 664
Outer suburbs 3.68 million 7,490 491

The other two districts and the two counties located further out govern semirural and rural areas:

District Population (2000 census) Area (km²) Density (per km²)
Pinggu District (平谷区: Pínggǔ Qū)
Pinggu County until 2001
397,000 1,075.0 369
Huairou District (怀柔区: Huáiróu Qū)
Huairou County until 2001
296,000 2,557.3 116
Miyun County (密云县: Mìyún Xiàn) 420,000 2,335.6 180
Yanqing County (延庆县: Yánqìng Xiàn) 275,000 1,980.0 139
Peripheral areas 1.39 million 7,947.9 175

Source: Geohive

Beijing's 18 districts and counties are further subdivided into 273 lower (third)-level administrative units at the township level: 119 towns, 24 townships, 5 ethnic townships and 125 subdistricts.


The Beijing CBD area around Dawangqiao and Dabeiyao, as seen from the Jingtong Expressway.
The Beijing CBD area around Dawangqiao and Dabeiyao, as seen from the Jingtong Expressway.

In 2005, Beijing's nominal GDP was 681.45 billion RMB (about 84 billion USD), a year-on-year growth of 11.1% from the previous year. Its per capita GDP was 44,969 RMB, an increase of 8.1% from the previous year and nearly twice as much as in 2000. Beijing's primary, secondary, and tertiary industries were worth 9.77 billion RMB, 210.05 billion RMB, and 461.63 billion RMB. Urban disposable income per capita was 17,653 yuan, a real increase of 12.9% from the previous year. Per capita pure income of rural residents was 7,860 RMB, a real increase of 9.6%. Per capita disposable income of the 20% low-income residents increased 16.7%, 11.4 percentage points higher than the growth rate of the 20% high-income residents. The Engel's coefficient of Beijing's urban residents reached 31.8% in 2005 and that of the rural residents was 32.8%, declining 4.5 percentage points and 3.9 percentage points, respectively, compared with 2000.

Beijing's real estate and automobile sectors continue to bloom in recent years. In 2005, a total of 28.032 million square metres of housing real estate was sold, for a total of 175.88 billion RMB. The total number of automobiles registered in Beijing in 2004 was 2,146,000, of which 1,540,000 were privately-owned (a year-on-year increase of 18.7%).

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 centre. The Wangfujing and Xidan areas are major shopping districts. Zhongguancun, dubbed "China's Silicon Valley", continues to be a major centre in electronics- and computer-related industries, as well as pharmaceuticals-related research. Meanwhile, Yizhuang, located to the southeast of the urban area, is becoming a new centre in pharmaceuticals, IT, and materials engineering. Urban Beijing is also known for being a centre of pirated goods and anything from the latest designer clothing to the latest DVDs can be found in markets all over the city, often marketed to expatriates and international visitors.

A corner of the emerging Beijing CBD.
A corner of the emerging Beijing CBD.

Major industrial areas include Shijingshan, located on the western outskirts of the city. Agriculture is carried out outside the urban area of Beijing, with wheat and maize (corn) being the main crops. Vegetables are also grown in the regions closer to the urban area in order to supply the city.

Beijing is increasingly becoming known for its innovative entrepreneurs and high-growth start-ups. This culture is backed by large community of both Chinese and foreign venture capital firms, such as Sequoia Capital, whose head office in China resides in Chaoyang, Beijing. Though Shanghai is seen as the economic center of China, this is typically based on the numerous large corporations based there, rather than as a centre for Chinese entrepreneurs.

The development of Beijing continues to proceed at a rapid pace, and the vast expansion of Beijing has created a multitude of problems for the city. Beijing is known for its smog as well as the frequent "power-saving" programs instituted by the government. Citizens of Beijing as well as tourists frequently complain about the quality of the water supply and the cost of the basic services such as electricity and natural gas. The major industrial areas outside of Beijing were ordered to clean their operations or leave the Beijing area in an effort to alleviate the smog that covers the city. Most factories, unable to update, have moved and relocated to other cities such as Xi'an, China.


Three styles of architecture predominate in urban Beijing. First, the traditional architecture of imperial China, perhaps best exemplified by the massive Tian'anmen (Gate of Heavenly Peace), which remains the PRC's trademark edifice, the Forbidden City, and the Temple of Heaven. Next there is what is sometimes referred to as the "Sino-Sov" style, built between the 1950s and the 1970s, which tend to be boxy, bland, and 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.

A bizarre and striking mixture 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 influence of American urban form and social values in manifest in the creation of Orange County, China, a suburban development about one hour north of the city.


The Wangjing neighbourhood, in Chaoyang District, Beijing, is known for its large number of South Korean residents.
The Wangjing neighbourhood, in Chaoyang District, Beijing, is known for its large number of South Korean residents.

The population of Beijing Municipality, defined as the total number of people who reside in Beijing for 6 months or more per year, was 15.38 million in 2005. 11.870 million people in Beijing Municipality had Beijing hukou (permanent residence) and the remainder were on temporary residence permits. In addition, there is a large but unknown number of migrant workers (min gong) who live illegally in Beijing without any official residence permit (also termed hei ren which means "black people" (as in "black market") or unregistered people). The population of Beijing's urban core (city proper) is around 7.5 million.

Over 95% of Beijing's residents belong to the Han Chinese majority. Other major ethnic minorities include the Manchu, Hui, and Mongol, etc. A Tibetan high school exists for youth of Tibetan ancestry, nearly all of whom have come to Beijing from Tibet expressly for their studies.

A sizable international community exists in Beijing, mostly attracted by the highly growing foreign business and trade sector, and many live in the Beijing urban area's densely populated northern, northeastern and eastern sections. In recent years there has also been an influx of South Koreans who live in Beijing predominantly for business and study purpose. Many of them live in the Wangjing and Wudaokou areas.

Wangfujing Cathedral
Wangfujing Cathedral
Ethnic groups in Beijing, 2000 census
Nationality Population Percentage
Han Chinese 12,983,696 95.69%
Manchu 250,286 1.84%
Hui 235,837 1.74%
Mongol 37,464 0.28%
Korean 20,369 0.15%
Tujia 8372 0.062%
Zhuang 7322 0.054%
Miao 5291 0.039%
Uyghur 3129 0.023%
Tibetan 2920 0.022%

Excludes members of the People's Liberation Army in active service.
Source: Department of Population, Social, Science and Technology Statistics of the National Bureau of Statistics of China (国家统计局人口和社会科技统计司) and Department of Economic Development of the State Ethnic Affairs Commission of China (国家民族事务委员会经济发展司), eds. Tabulation on Nationalities of 2000 Population Census of China (《2000年人口普查中国民族人口资料》). 2 vols. Beijing: Nationalities Publishing House (民族出版社), 2003. ( ISBN 7-105-05425-5)


A Beijing performance of the classic opera Farewell my Concubine (September 2002).
A Beijing performance of the classic opera Farewell my Concubine (September 2002).

People native to 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. Rural areas of Beijing Municipality have their own dialects akin to those of Hebei province, which surrounds Beijing Municipality.

Beijing Opera, or Peking Opera (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 song, spoken dialogue, and codified action sequences, such as gestures, movement, 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. As a result, 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. Siheyuans line Hutongs (胡同), or alleys, which 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.

A Hutong (胡同) in eastern urban Beijing near Dongsishitiao. When photographed in March 2003, the left side was still standing; it has since given way to a new construction project.
A Hutong (胡同) in eastern urban Beijing near Dongsishitiao. When photographed in March 2003, the left side was still standing; it has since given way to a new construction project.

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. Some particularly historic or picturesque hutongs are being preserved and restored by the government, especially for the 2008 Olympics. One such example can be seen at Nanchizi.

Mandarin cuisine is the local style of cooking in Beijing. Peking Roast 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 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.

The Jingtailan is a cloisonné metalworking technique and tradition originating from Beijing, and one of the most revered traditional crafts in China. Beijing lacquerware is well known for the patterns and images carved into its surface.

The Fuling Jiabing is a traditional Beijing snack food, a pancake (bing) resembling a flat disk with filling, made from fu ling ( Poria cocos (Schw.) Wolf, or "tuckahoe"), an ingredient common in traditional Chinese medicine.


Beijingers are stereotypically held to be open, confident, humorous, majestic in manner, enthusiastic about politics, art, culture, or other "grand" matters, unconcerned with thrift or careful calculation, and happy to take centre stage. They are 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, and the high concentration of officials and other notables in Beijing that has resulted. Needless to say, these stereotypes are generally untrue.


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. Three other railway stations in Metropolitan Beijing handle regular passenger traffic: Beijing East, Beijing North, and Fengtai. There are also several other small stations serving suburban area.

As for August 1, 2006, Beijing Railway Station has 167 trains stopping daily, while Beijing West Railway Station has 176 trains.

Beijing is a railway hub. There are railway lines from Beijing to Guangzhou, Shanghai, Harbin, Baotou, Taiyuan, Chengde and Qinhuangdao.

International trains, including lines to cities in Russia and Pyongyang, North Korea (DPRK), all run through Beijing. Direct trains to Kowloon, Hong Kong SAR also depart from Beijing.

Construction on a Beijing-Tianjin high-speed rail began on July 4, 2005, and is scheduled to be completed in 2007.

Roads and expressways

The Badaling Expressway near the intersection with the Northern 6th Ring Road (November 2002 image)
The Badaling Expressway near the intersection with the Northern 6th Ring Road (November 2002 image)

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 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, drivers do not need to pass through intersections with traffic lights. This may finally solve the difficulties in "hopping between one ring and another".

Another problem is that public transportation is underdeveloped (the subway system is presently minimal) and that even buses are jam-packed with people around rush hour. Beijing was poorly designed in terms of zoning and in terms of transportation system , . Compounding the problem is patchy enforcement of traffic 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.

Chang'an Avenue runs east-west through the centre of Beijing, past Tian'anmen. It is a major through route and is often called the "First Street in China" by authorities.

Roads and Expressways of Beijing Expressway Overpass
Main Roads: Chang'an Avenue ( East, West) | Ping'an Avenue | Zhongzhou Road ( North, South)
Ring Roads: Open: 2nd Ring Road | 3rd Ring Road | 4th Ring Road | 5th Ring Road | 6th Ring Road
Projected: 7th Ring Road |
Expressways: Open: Badaling Expressway ( Jingda Expressway) | Jingcheng Expressway | Airport Expressway | Jingtong Expressway | Jingha Expressway | Jingshen Expressway | Jingjintang Expressway ( Jinghu Expressway) | Jingkai Expressway | Jingshi Expressway ( Jingzhu Expressway)
Partially under construction: Jingcheng Expressway | Jingkai Expressway | Northern Airport Line | Jingping Expressway | Jingbao Expressway | Litian Expressway
Projected: 2nd Airport Expressway | Jingjin Expressway ( North, South)
7 National Expressways: Jingtai Expressway (projected) | Jinghu Expressway | Jinggang'ao Expressway (partially complete) | Jingkun Expressway | Jingla Expressway (projected) | Jingwu Expressway (projected) | Jingha Expressway (alternate route)
National Highways G101 | G102 | G103 | G104 | G105 | G106 | G107 | G108 | G109 | G110 | G111


Beijing's main airport is the Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK) near Shunyi, which is about 20 km northeast of Beijing city centre. Most domestic and nearly all international flights arrive and depart at Capital Airport. Capital Airport is the main hub for Air China. It is linked to central Beijing by the Airport Expressway and is a roughly 40-minute drive from the city centre during good traffic hours. In preparation for the 2008 Olympics, another expressway is being built to the Airport, as well as a lightrail system.

Other airports in the city include Liangxiang Airport, Nanyuan Airport, Xijiao Airport, Shahe Airport and Badaling Airport. However, these are primary for military use and less well-known to the public.

Inside a Beijing Subway station
Inside a Beijing Subway station

Public transit

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 were 599 bus and trolleybus routes in Beijing as of 2004.

Bus fares cost 2 Renminbi for Air Conditioned Buses under 10km, and another 2 RMB per 10km. Non-air conditioned buses are 1 RMB per 10km. Subway tickets cost 3 Renminbi for the 1, 2, 13, and 8T lines; 5 RMB for tickets allowing a transfer to Line 13, and 4 RMB for tickets allowing a transfer to Line 8T.

Taxis are nearly ubiquitous, including a large number of unregistered taxis. As of June 30, 2006 all fares on legal taxies start at 10 Renminbi for the first 3km (idling time is also a factor), and are 2.00 Renminbi per extra kilometer. Most taxis are a mixed fleet of new Hyundai Elantra and Volkswagen Jetta (Borla) cars. After 15km, the base fare is increased by 50% (but only applied to the portion of the distance over 15km, so that the passenger is not retroactively charged extra for the first 15km). Between 11pm and 6am, the fee is increased by 20%, starting at 11 RMB and increasing at a rate of 2.4 RMB per km. Rides over 15km and between 11pm and 6am apply both charges, for a total increase of 80% (120%*150%=180%).


The Summer Palace in Beijing - photographed by Felice Beato in October 1860.
The Summer Palace in Beijing - photographed by Felice Beato in October 1860.
Wansong Pagoda
Wansong Pagoda
Miaoying Temple, one of the most renowned Buddhist temples in Beijing
Miaoying Temple, one of the most renowned Buddhist temples in Beijing
The Temple of Azure Clouds
The Temple of Azure Clouds

Despite the turmoil of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries — including damage caused by European military intervention, the Japanese invasion of WWII and the Cultural Revolution — and the recent intense urbanisation and transformation, including the demolition of hutongs, Beijing still maintains tourist attractions that are rich in history.

Although more known for its political significance in the West, the Tian'anmen (Gate of Heavenly Peace) has long been one of the most important tourist sites of Beijing, both by itself and as the main entrance to the Forbidden City. Other world-renowned sites include the Badaling section of the Great Wall of China, the Summer Palace, and the Temple of Heaven.

Within the Beijing metropolitan area

Buildings, monuments, and landmarks

  • Forbidden City (World Heritage Site)
  • Tiananmen Square, site of the Tiananmen Square protests of May 4, 1919, 1976, and 1989
    • Tiananmen (The Gate of Heavenly Peace)
    • Great Hall of the People (National Legislature)
    • National Museum of China
    • Monument to the People's Heroes
    • Mausoleum of Mao Zedong
  • The Summer Palace (World Heritage Site)
  • Ruins of the Old Summer Palace
  • Bell Tower and Drum Tower
  • Historic Hutongs and Siheyuans in many older neighborhoods
  • Lugou Bridge (Marco Polo Bridge)
  • Prince Gong Mansion (Gong Wang Fu)
  • Zheng Yici Peking Opera Theatre
  • Liulichang Culture Street
  • Beijing Ancient Observatory

Temples, cathedrals, and mosques

  • Temple of Heaven (World Heritage Site), situated in the southern area of urban Beijing
  • Temple of Earth, located in northern Beijing
  • Temple of Sun, situated in the eastern area of urban Beijing
  • Temple of Moon, located in western Beijing
  • Tanzhe Temple
  • Jietai Temple
  • Yunju Temple
  • Yonghegong (Lama Temple)
  • Guangji Temple
  • Confucius Temple
  • Great Bell Temple
  • Fa Yuan Temple
  • Miaoying Temple
  • Zhen Jue Temple
  • Wanshou Temple
  • Five Pagoda Temple
  • Zhihua Si Temple
  • Temple of Azure Clouds
  • Temple of Recumbent Buddha
  • White Dagoba Temple in Beihai Park
  • Badachu
  • Immaculate Conception Cathedral
  • Holy Saviour Church
  • Niujie Mosque

Parks and gardens

  • Beihai Park
  • Shichahai
  • Jingshan Park
  • The Fragrant Hills (Xiangshan)
  • The Grandview Garden (Daguanyuan)
  • Beijing Botanical Garden
  • Taoranting Park
  • Beijing Zoo

Shopping and commercial districts

  • Wangfujing: Beijing's most upscale, globalized shopping district
  • Xidan
  • Silk Street
  • Beijing CBD
  • Beijing Financial Street
  • Zhongguancun
  • Yizhuang

Outside the metropolitan area, but within the municipality

Hotels and lodging

In first two decades following the PRC's foundation in 1949, Beijing had virtually no hotels (at least by Western standards), due to economic and social conditions at the time. One system of institution providing a place for individuals traveling to Beijing from other locations to spend the night was the zhaodaisuo (literally, "accommodation centre"). Zhaodaisuo were subordinate to state organisations or state organs. Older ones had communal public conveniences and amenities. Some zhaodaisuos still remain in use today.

In the late 1970s, Beijing, alongside much of China during the period of reform and economic opening under Deng Xiaoping, saw greater attempts at attracting and catering to international business. A large number of hotels and other facilities to accommodate business, tourist, and other visitors began to be constructed. Today, given Beijing's size and status as one of the most frequently visited and economically, politically, and culturally important cities in Asia, a great number of hotels exist, many rivalling the highest international standards.

The most well-known hotel is the Beijing Hotel, which is state-owned. Other notable hotels are the Great Wall Sheraton Hotel, the Jianguo Hotel, Raffles Beijing Hotel the China World Hotel, the St. Regis, Grand Hyatt at Oriental Plaza and the Peninsula Palace Hotel, operated by the Hong Kong-based Peninsula Group.

Youth hostels have become more and more popular in the last few years and there are now quite a few in Beijing. Most hostels are located in the downtown area of Beijing, on the East 3rd Ring Road or in the old Hutongs.


Nightlife in Beijing is varied. Most clubs are situated in the area around Sanlitun or in the region near the Workers Stadium, especially to the north and to the west. New clubs opened on Gongrentiyuchang West Road.

Wudaokou, in northwestern Beijing, is also a bustling centre of nightlife. There are more Koreans and other foreigners, mostly students, in the area.

Bar-wise, the following areas of Beijing are known as hubs for bars which open until late:

  • Sanlitun
  • Houhai
  • Yuandadu


Beijing is home to a great number of colleges and universities, including several well-regarded universities of international stature, especially including China's two most prestigious institutions, Peking University, and Tsinghua University.

Owing to Beijing's status as the political and cultural capital of China, a larger proportion of tertiary-level institutions are concreated here than probably any other city in China, reaching at least 59 in number. Many international students from Japan, Korea, North America, Europe, Southeast Asia, and elsewhere come to Beijing to study every year, a growing trend, especially among Western students. The institutions listed here are administered by China's Ministry of Education.

  • Peking University (北京大学) (founded in 1898), which is best in Humanities, natural sciences, business and law.
  • Tsinghua University (清华大学) (founded in 1911), which is best in engineering
  • Renmin University of China (中国人民大学) (founded in 1937)
  • Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics (北京航空航天大学)
  • Beijing Normal University (北京师范大学) (founded 1902)
  • Beijing Institute of Technology (北京理工大学)
  • Beijing Jiaotong University (北京交通大学)
  • Central University of Finance and Economics (中央财经大学)
  • University of International Business and Economics (对外经济贸易大学)
  • University of International Relations (国际关系学院)
  • University of Science and Technology Beijing (北京科技大学)
  • China University of Political Science and Law (中国政法大学)
  • Beijing University of Technology (北京工业大学)
  • Beijing Foreign Studies University (北京外国语大学)
  • Beijing Language and Culture University (北京语言大学)
  • China Agricultural University (中国农业大学)
  • Beijing University of Chemical Technology (北京化工大学)
  • Beijing University of Chinese Medicine (北京中医药大学)
  • Beijing University of Petroleum (石油大学)
  • Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications (北京邮电大学)
  • Capital Normal University (首都师范大学)
  • Beijing Forestry University (北京林业大学)
  • Communication University of China (中国传媒大学)
  • Central Academy of Drama (中央戏剧学院)
  • Central Conservatory of Music (中央音乐学院)
  • Central Institute of Fine Arts (中央美术学院)
  • Beijing Film Academy (北京电影学院)
  • Central University for Nationalities (中央民族大学)


Beijing will host the 2008 Summer Olympics and the 2008 Summer Paralympics.

Professional sports teams based in Beijing include:

  • Chinese Football Association Super League
    • Beijing Guoan
  • Chinese Basketball Association
    • Beijing Ducks
    • Beijing Olympians

The Beijing Aoshen Olympians of the ABA, formerly a CBA team, kept their name and maintained a roster of primarily Chinese players after moving to Maywood, California in 2005.

City and regional partnerships

Beijing maintains partnerships or "sister city" status with the following international locations. (Note: some locations are provinces or regional-level units, not cities properly. Beijing itself is not technically a city, being a municipality).

City Country Sister City since:
Tokyo Flag of Japan Japan March 14, 1979
New York City Flag of United States United States February 25, 1980
Algiers Flag of Algeria Algeria September 11, 1989
Belgrade Flag of Serbia Serbia October 14, 1980
Lima Flag of Peru Peru November 21, 1983
Washington, D.C. Flag of United States United States May 15, 1984
Madrid Flag of Spain Spain September 16, 1985
Rio de Janeiro Flag of Brazil Brazil November 24, 1986
Île-de-France Flag of France France July 2, 1987
Cologne Flag of Germany Germany September 14, 1987
Ankara Flag of Turkey Turkey June 20, 1990
Cairo Flag of Egypt Egypt October 28, 1990
Islamabad Flag of Pakistan Pakistan October 8, 1992
Jakarta Flag of Indonesia Indonesia October 8, 1992
Bangkok Flag of Thailand Thailand May 26, 1993
Tel Aviv Flag of Israel Israel May 29, 1993
Buenos Aires Flag of Argentina Argentina July 13, 1993
Seoul Flag of South Korea Republic of Korea October 23, 1993
Kiev Flag of Ukraine Ukraine December 13, 1993
Berlin Flag of Germany Germany April 5, 1994
Brussels Flag of Belgium Belgium September 22, 1994
Hanoi Flag of Vietnam Vietnam October 6, 1994
Amsterdam Flag of Netherlands Netherlands October 29, 1994
Moscow Flag of Russia Russia May 16, 1995
Paris Flag of France France October 23, 1997
Rome Flag of Italy Italy May 28, 1998
Gauteng Flag of South Africa South Africa December 6, 1998
Ottawa Flag of Canada Canada October 18, 1999
Canberra Flag of Australia Australia September 14, 2000
Manila Flag of Philippines Philippines November 14, 2005
London Flag of United Kingdom United Kingdom April 10, 2006
Tehran Flag of Iran Iran April 10, 1999
  1. ^ French region hosting the largest part of Paris metropolitan area
  2. ^ A province of South Africa


  • The Diaries of Sir Ernest Satow, British Envoy in Peking (1900-06) edited by Ian Ruxton in two volumes, Lulu Press Inc., April 2006 ISBN 1-4116-8804-X (Volume One); ISBN 1-4116-8805-8 (Volume Two)

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