Beijing in Brief

Early History of Beijing

The earliest remnants of human habitation in the Beijing municipality are found in the caves of Dragon Bone Hill near the village of Zhoukoudian in Fangshan District, where the Peking Man lived. Homo erectus fossils from the caves date to 230,000 to 250,000 years ago. Paleolithic homo sapiens also lived there about 27,000 years ago. 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 , was established in present-day Beijing.

Forbidden City

Forbidden City

After the fall of the Yan, the subsequent Qin, Han, and Jin dynasties set up local prefectures in the area.During the fall of the Han, it was the seat of the warlord Gongsun Zan. In Tang Dynasty it became the headquarters for Fanyang jiedushi, the virtual military governor of current northern Hebei area. The An Shi Rebellion was also launched from here in AD 755.

Medieval Period

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 conquered Liao, and in 1153 moved its capital to Liao's Nanjing, calling it Zhongdu, the "central capital." Zhongdu was situated in what is now the area centered around Tianningsi, slightly to the southwest of central Beijing. Some of the oldest existing relics in Beijing, such as the Tianning Temple, date to the Liao.

Mongol forces burned Zhongdu to the ground in 1215 in what is now known as the Battle of Beijing.[19] Later in 1264, in preparation for the conquest of all of China to establish the Yuan Dynasty, Kublai Khan decided to rebuild it slightly north to the center of the Jin capital,[20] and in 1272, he made this city his capital as Dadu (Chinese for "great capital"),or Daidu to the Mongols, otherwise spelled as Cambaluc or Cambuluc in Marco Polo's accounts. Construction of Dadu finished in 1293.The decision of Kublai Khan greatly enhanced the status of a city that had been situated on the northern fringe of China proper. The center of Dadu was situated slightly north of modern central Beijing. It centered 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 the Yuan-era wall still standing, and they are known as the Tucheng (literally, the 'earth wall').

Summer Palace

Summer Palace

Ming and Qing Period

In 1368, Zhu Yuanzhang, soon after declaring himself the first emperor of the Ming Dynasty, sent an army toward Dadu, still held by the Yuan. The last Yuan emperor fled north to Shangdu, and Zhu razed the Yuan palaces in Dadu to the ground.The city was renamed Beiping in the same year,and Shuntian prefecture was established in the area around the city.[24] In 1403, the new (and third) Ming emperor - the Yongle Emperor - renamed this city 'Beijing',and designated Beijing the co-capital alongside the (then) current capital of Nanjing. Beijing was the subject of a major construction project for a new Imperial residence, the Forbidden City that lasted nearly 15 years (1406 to 1420). When the palace was finished, the Yongle Emperor ceremoniously took up residence. From 1421 onwards, Beijing, also known as Jingshi,was the "official" capital of the Ming Dynasty while Nanjing was demoted to the status of "secondary" capital. This system of dual capitals (with Beijing being vastly more important) continued for the duration of the Ming Dynasty. Thirteen of the sixteen Ming Emperors are buried in elaborate tombs near Beijing.

By the 15th century, Beijing had essentially taken 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.Other notable buildings constructed during the Ming period include the Temple of Heaven (built by 1420).Tiananmen, now a state symbol of the People's Republic of China and featured on its emblem, was first built in 1420, and rebuilt several times later. Tiananmen Square was built in 1651 and enlarged in 1958. Jesuits finished building the first Beijing-area Roman Catholic church in 1652 at the Xuanwu Gate, where Italian Jesuit Matteo Ricci (1552-1610) had lived; the modern Nantang (Southern Cathedral) has been built over the original cathedral.

The end of the Ming came in 1644 when, for 40 days, Li Zicheng's peasant army captured Beijing and overthrew the Ming government. When the powerful Manchu army arrived at the outskirts of the city, Li and his followers abandoned the city and as a result the Manchu forces, under Prince Dorgon, captured Beijing without a fight.

Prince Dorgon established the Qing Dynasty as a direct successor to the Ming, and Beijing remained China's capital.The Qing Emperors made some modifications to the Imperial residence, but in large part, the Ming buildings and the general layout remained unchanged. Beijing at this time was also known as Jingshi, which corresponded to the Manchu Gemun Hecen with the same meaning.The classic Chinese novel Dream of the Red Chamber is set in Beijing during the early years of Qing rule (the end of the 1600s).

Mao Zedong proclaiming the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949

Mao Zedong proclaiming the establishment of China

During the Second Opium War, Anglo-French forces captured the city, looted and burned the Summer Palace and Old Summer Palace in 1860. Under the Convention of Peking that ended the war, Western powers secured the right to establish permanent diplomatic presence in the Beijing Legation Quarter. In 1900, Beijing was again invaded by foreign powers to quell the Boxer Rebellion.Some important Imperial structures in the city were destroyed during the fighting, including the Hanlin Academy and Summer Palace.

Republican Era

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 the capital remains at Beijing. Yuan gradually consolidated power and became by 1915 the new emperor of China, but died less than a year into his 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 (KMT)'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) on 28 June that year, in English meaning "northern peace" or "north pacified".During the Second Sino-Japanese War,Beiping fell to Japan on 29 July 1937, and was made the seat of the Provisional Government of the Republic of China, a puppet state that ruled the ethnic Chinese portions of Japanese-occupied northern China; the government was later merged into the larger Wang Jingwei Government based in Nanjing.

People's Republic

On 31 January 1949, during the Chinese Civil War, Communist forces entered Beijing without battling. On 1 October of the same year, the Communist Party of China, under the leadership of Mao Zedong, announced in Tiananmen the creation of the People's Republic of China and renamed the city back to Beijing.Just a few days earlier, the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference had decided that Beijing would be the capital of the new government.

The Temple of heaven

The Temple of Heaven

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. The Beijing city wall was torn down to make way for the construction of the 2nd Ring Road, which was finished by 1981 in accord with the 1982 city plan. That road was the first of a series of new ring roads intended for Vehicles rather than for bicycles.

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, with many areas that were formerly farmland now developed residential or commercial districts.According to a 2005 newspaper report, the size of the newly developed Beijing land was one and a half times larger than the land of old Beijing within the 2nd Ring Road. Wangfujing and Xidan have developed into flourishing shopping districts,while Zhongguancun has become a major centre of electronics in China. 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 neighbourhoods, and significant influx of migrants from various regions of the country, especially rural areas.

On 13 July 2001,the International Olympic Committee selected Beijing as, the host for the 2008 Summer Olympics.