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Municipality of Beijing
Clockwise from top: Tiananmen, Temple of Heaven, National Grand Theatre, and Beijing National Stadium
Location of Beijing Municipality within China
Location of Beijing Municipality within China
CountryPeople's Republic of China
 - County-level
 - Township-level

16 districts, 2 counties
289 towns and villages
 • TypeMunicipality
 • CPC Ctte SecretaryGuo Jinlong
 • MayorWang Anshun (acting)
 • Municipality16,801.25 km2 (6,487.00 sq mi)
43.5 m (142.7 ft)
 • Municipality20,693,000
 • Density1,200/km2 (3,200/sq mi)
 • Ranks in China
Population: 26th;
Density: 4th
Major ethnic groups
 • Han96%
 • Manchu2%
 • Hui2%
 • Mongol0.3%
Time zoneUTC+8 (China Standard)
Postal code
Area code(s)10
 - TotalCNY 1.6 trillion
US$ 247.7 billion (13th)
 - Per capitaCNY 80,394
US$ 12,447 (3rd)
 - GrowthIncrease 8.1%
HDI (2008)0.891 (2nd)—very high
License plate prefixes京A, C, E, F, H, J, K, L, M, N, P, Q
京B (taxis)
京G, Y (outside urban area)
京O (police and authorities)
京V (in red color) (military headquarters,
central government)
City treesChinese arborvitae (Platycladus orientalis)
 Pagoda tree (Sophora japonica)
City flowersChina rose (Rosa chinensis)
 Chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum morifolium)

Template:Contains Chinese text

Hanyu PinyinBěijīng
About this sound[Listen] 
Literal meaningNorthern capital

Beijing (/[invalid input: 'icon']bˈɪŋ/; Chinese: 北京; pinyin: Běijīng, [peɪ˨˩ t͡ɕiŋ˥]), sometimes romanized as Peking[4] (/[invalid input: 'icon']pˈkɪŋ/, /pˈkɪŋ/), is the capital of the People's Republic of China and one of the most populous cities in the world. The population as of 2012 was 20,693,000.[2] The metropolis, located in northern China, is governed as a direct-controlled municipality under the national government, with 14 urban and suburban districts and two rural counties.[5] Beijing Municipality is surrounded by Hebei Province with the exception of neighboring Tianjin Municipality to the southeast.[6]

Beijing is the second largest Chinese city by urban population after Shanghai and is the nation's political, cultural, and educational center.[7] It is home to the headquarters of most of China's largest state-owned companies, and is a major hub for the national highway, expressway, railway, and high-speed rail networks. The Beijing Capital International Airport is the second busiest in the world by passenger traffic.

The city's history dates back three millenia. As the last of the Four Great Ancient Capitals of China, Beijing has been the political center of the country for much of the past seven centuries.[8] The city is renowned for its opulent palaces, temples, gardens, tombs, walls and gates,[9] and its art treasures and universities have made it a center of culture and art in China.[9] Few cities in the world have been the political and cultural center of an area as immense for so long.[10]


Over the past 3,000 years, the city of Beijing has had numerous other names. The name Beijing, which means "Northern Capital" (from the Chinese characters for north and for capital), was applied to the city in 1403 during the Ming Dynasty to distinguish the city from Nanjing (the "Southern Capital").[11] The English spelling is based on the pinyin romanization of the two characters as they are pronounced in Standard Mandarin. An older English spelling, Peking, is the Postal Map Romanization of the same two characters as they are pronounced in Chinese dialects spoken in the southern port towns first visited by European traders and missionaries.[12] Those dialects preserve the Middle Chinese pronunciation of as kjaeng,[13] prior to a phonetic shift in the northern dialects to the modern pronunciation.[14]

The single Chinese character abbreviation for Beijing is "", which appears on automobile license plates in the city. The official Latin alphabet abbreviation for Beijing is "BJ".[15]


The museum at Zhoukoudian

Early history

The earliest traces of human habitation in the Beijing municipality were found in the caves of Dragon Bone Hill near the village of Zhoukoudian in Fangshan District, where Peking Man lived. Homo erectus fossils from the caves date to 230,000 to 250,000 years ago. Paleolithic homo sapiens also lived there more recently, about 27,000 years ago.[16] Archaeologists have found neolithic settlements throughout the municipality including Wangfujing in downtown Beijing.

The first walled city in Beijing was Ji, a city-state from the 11th to 7th century BC. Within modern Beijing, Ji was located south of the present Beijing West Railway Station.[17] This settlement was later conquered by the state of Yan and made its capital under the name Yanjing.

Early Imperial China

The Tianning Pagoda, built around 1120.

After the fall of the Yan during the Warring States period, the early imperial dynasties continued to employ the city as the prefectural capital of the area[1] under various names. During the Three Kingdoms period, it was held by Gongsun Zan and Yuan Shao before falling to Wei. The AD 3rd-century Western Jin demoted the town, placing the prefectural seat elsewhere, and the Wu Hu emperors of the various "Yan" dynasties of the Sixteen Kingdoms similarly chose other locations for their capitals.

The site was revived by the many canals dug by the Sui dynasty to provision Emperor Yang's otherwise disastrous invasion of Korea. Youzhou was a major headquarters under the Tang and, as Fanyang, it was briefly the capital of the Great Yan during the 8th-century An Shi Rebellion. By 936, the Later Jin Dynasty was forced to cede the entire region to the Khitan Liao dynasty. Two years later, the Liao established a secondary capital at the site, which they called Nanjing (their "Supreme Capital" of Shangjing was located near the modern Baarin Left Banner in Inner Mongolia). Some of the oldest surviving structures in Beijing date to the Liao period, including the Tianning Pagoda.

The Liao fell to the Jurchen Jin dynasty in the 12th century and the Jin moved their capital to Nanjing in 1153, renaming it Zhongdu, the "Central Capital".[1] The city was besieged by Genghis Khan's invading Mongolian army in 1213 and razed to the ground in two years later.[18] Two generations later, Kublai Khan ordered the construction of Dadu (or Daidu to the Mongols, commonly known as Khanbaliq), a new capital for his Yuan dynasty to be located adjacent to the Jin ruins. The construction took from 1264 to 1293,[1][18][19] but greatly enhanced the status of a city on the northern fringe of China proper. The city was centered on the Drum Tower slightly to the north of modern Beijing and stretched from the present-day Chang'an Avenue to the Line 10 subway. Remnants of the Yuan packed earth wall still stand and are known as the Tucheng.[20]

Detail from a 1682 Italian map displaying the region of "Peking" and the capital city of "Peking or Shuntian" (Xuntieu).

Ming Dynasty

In 1368, soon after declaring the new Hongwu era of the Ming Dynasty, the rebel leader Zhu Yuanzhang sent an army to Khanbaliq and burnt it to the ground.[21] Since the Yuan continued to occupy Shangdu and Mongolia, however, a new town was established to supply the military garrisons in the area.[22] This was called Beiping[23] and under the Hongwu Emperor's feudal policies it was given to Zhu Di, one of his sons, who was created "Prince of Yan".

One of the corner towers of the Forbidden City.

The early death of Zhu Yuanzhang's heir led to a succession struggle on his death, one that ended with the victory of Zhu Di and the declaration of the new Yongle era. Since his harsh treatment of the Ming capital Yingtian (Nanjing) alienated many there, he established his fief as a new co-capital. The city of Beiping became Shuntian – now Beijing in 1403.[11] The construction of the new imperial residence, the Forbidden City, took from 1406 to 1420;[18] this period was also responsible for several other of the modern city's major attractions, such as the Temple of Heaven[24] and Tian'anmen (although the square facing it was not cleared until 1651[25]). When everything was completed in 1421, Beijing became the empire's primary capital (Jingshi) and Yingtian – now called Nanjing – lost much of its importance. (A 1425 order by Zhu Di's son, the Hongxi Emperor, to return the capital to Nanjing was never carried out: he died, probably of a heart attack, the next month. He was buried, like almost every Ming emperor to follow him, in an elaborate necropolis to Beijing's north.)

By the 15th century, Beijing had essentially taken its current shape. The Ming city wall continued to serve until modern times, when it was pulled down and the 2nd Ring Road was built in its place.[26] It is generally believed that Beijing was the largest city in the world for most of the 15th, 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries.[27] The first known church was constructed by Catholics in 1652 at the former site of Matteo Ricci's chapel; the modern Nantang Cathedral was later built upon the same site.[28]

The capture of Beijing by Li Zicheng's peasant army in 1644 ended the dynasty, but he and his Shun court abandoned the city without a fight when the Manchu army of Prince Dorgon arrived 40 days later.

Map of Beijing, 1914.

Qing Dynasty

Dorgon established the Qing Dynasty as a direct successor of the Ming (delegitimizing Li Zicheng and his followers)[29] and Beijing became China's sole capital.[30] The Qing emperors made some modifications to the Imperial residence but, in large part, the Ming buildings and the general layout remained unchanged. Facilities for Manchu worship were introduced, but the Qing also continued the traditional state rituals. Signage was bilingual or Chinese. This early Qing Beijing later formed the setting for the classic Chinese novel Dream of the Red Chamber.

A postcard displaying one of the Summer Palace, c. 1900.

During the Second Opium War, Anglo-French forces captured the city, looting and burning the Old Summer Palace in 1860. Under the Convention of Peking ending that war, Western powers for the first time secured the right to establish permanent diplomatic presences within the city. In 1900, the attempt by the "Boxers" to eradicate this presence, as well as Chinese Christian converts, led to Beijing's reoccupation by foreign powers.[31] During the fighting, several important structures were destroyed, including the Hanlin Academy and the (new) Summer Palace.

Republican era

The fomenters of the Xinhai Revolution of 1911 sought to replace Qing rule with a republic and leaders like Sun Yat-sen originally intended to return the capital to Nanjing. After the Qing general Yuan Shikai forced the abdication of the last Qing emperor and ensured the success of the revolution, the revolutionaries accepted him as president of the new Republic of China. Yuan maintained his capital at Beijing and quickly consolidated power, declaring himself emperor in 1915. His death less than a year later[32] left China under the control of the warlords commanding the regional armies. The most powerful factions fought frequent wars – the Zhili-Anhui War and the First and Second Zhili-Fengtian War – to take control of the capital. Following the success of the Nationalists' Northern Expedition, the capital was formally removed to Nanjing in 1928. On 28 June the same year, Beijing's name was returned to Beiping (written at the time as "Peiping").[7][33]

During the Second Sino-Japanese War,[7] Beiping fell to Japan on 29 July 1937[34] 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.[35] This government was later merged into the larger Wang Jingwei government based in Nanjing.[36]

Mao Zedong proclaiming the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949
A scene from the opening ceremonies of the 2008 Summer Olympic Games.

People's Republic

In the final phases of the Chinese Civil War, the People's Liberation Army seized control of the city peacefully on 31 January 1949 in the course of the Pingjin Campaign. On 1 October that year, Mao Zedong announced the creation of the People's Republic of China from atop Tian'anmen. He restored the name of the city, as the new capital, to Beijing,[37] a decision that had been reached by the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference just a few days earlier.

In the 1950s, the city began to expand beyond the old walled city and its surrounding neighborhoods, with heavy industries in the west and residential neighborhoods in the north. Many areas of the Beijing city wall were torn down in the 1960s to make way for the construction of the Beijing Subway and the 2nd Ring Road.

During the Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976, the Red Guard movement began in Beijing and the city's government fell victim to one of the first purges. By the fall of 1966, all city schools were shut down and over a million Red Guards from across the country gathered in Beijing for eight rallies in Tian'anmen Square with Mao.[38] In April 1976, a large public gathering of Beijing residents against the Gang of Four and the Cultural Revolution in Tiananmen Square was forcefully suppressed. In October 1976, the Gang was arrested in Zhongnanhai and the Cultural Revolution came to an end. In December 1978, the Third Plenum of the 11th Party Congress in Beijing under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping reversed the verdicts against victims of the Cultural Revolution and instituted the "policy of reform and opening up."

Since the early 1980s, the urban area of Beijing has expanded greatly with the completion of the 2nd Ring Road in 1981 and the subsequent addition of the 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th Ring Roads.[39][40] According to one 2005 newspaper report, the size of newly-developed Beijing was one-and-a-half times larger than before.[41] Wangfujing and Xidan have developed into flourishing shopping districts,[42] while Zhongguancun has become a major center of electronics in China.[43] 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 significant influx of migrants from less-developed areas of the country.[44] Beijing has also been the location of many significant events in recent Chinese history, principally the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989[45] and the 2008 Summer Olympics. This city was awarded to host the 2015 World Championships in Athletics.[46]


Beijing satellite view from Landsat 5 8 August 2010
Beihai Park, an extensive imperial garden in the center of Beijing

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 is framed by the Western Hills, or Xishan. 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 Western Hills and on the border with Hebei, is the municipality's highest point, with an altitude of 2,303 metres (7,556 ft).

Major rivers flowing through the municipality include the Yongding River and the Chaobai River, part of the Hai River system, and flow 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 is in the south-central part of the municipality and occupies a small but expanding portion 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 two), passes through several satellite towns. Tian'anmen and Tian'anmen Square are at the center of Beijing, directly to the south of the Forbidden City, the former residence of the emperors of China. To the west of Tian'anmen is Zhongnanhai, home to the paramount leaders of the PRC. Running through central Beijing from east to west is Chang'an Avenue, one of the city's main thoroughfares.


Beijing has a rather dry, monsoon-influenced humid continental climate (Köppen climate classification Dwa), characterized by hot, humid summers due to the East Asian monsoon, and generally cold, windy, dry winters that reflect the influence of the vast Siberian anticyclone.[47] Spring can bear witness to sandstorms blowing in from the Mongolian steppe, accompanied by rapidly warming, but generally dry, conditions. Autumn, like spring, sees little rain, but is crisp and short. The monthly daily average temperature in January is −3.7 °C (25.3 °F), while in July it is 26.2 °C (79.2 °F). Precipitation averages around 570 mm (22.4 in) annually, with close to three-fourths of that total falling from June to August. Extremes have ranged from −27.4 °C (−17 °F) to 42.6 °C (109 °F).[48]

Air quality

Joint research between American and Chinese researchers in 2006 concluded that much of the city's pollution comes from surrounding cities and provinces. On average 35–60% of the ozone can be traced to sources outside the city. Shandong Province and Tianjin Municipality have a "significant influence on Beijing's air quality",[53] partly due to the prevailing south/southeasterly flow during the summer and the mountains to the north and northwest.

Heavy air pollution has resulted in widespread smog. These photographs, taken in August 2005, show the variations in Beijing's air quality.

In preparation for the 2008 Summer Olympics and to fulfill promises to clean up the city's air, nearly 17 billion USD was spent. Beijing also implemented a number of air improvement schemes for the duration of the Games, including stopping work on all construction sites, closing many factories in and around Beijing, closing some gas stations,[54] and cutting motor traffic by half by limiting drivers to odd or even days (based on their license plate numbers)[55] Two new subway lines were opened and thousands of old taxis and buses were replaced to encourage residents to use public transport. The Beijing government encouraged a discussion to keep the odd-even scheme in place after the Olympics,[56] and although the scheme was eventually lifted on 21 September 2008, it was replaced by new restrictions on government vehicles[57] and a new restriction that does not allow the use of a car once a week.[58][59] In addition, staggered office hours and retail opening times have been encouraged to avoid the rush hour, and parking fees were increased.

Beijing became the first city in China to require the Chinese equivalent to the Euro 4 emission standard.[60] Some 357,000 "yellow label" vehicles (whose emission levels are too high) have been banned from Beijing altogether.[58][61]

The government regularly uses cloud-seeding measures to increase the likelihood of rain showers in the region to clear the air prior to large events[62] as well as to combat drought conditions in the area.

According to the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP), China has spent $17 billion over the last three years on a large-scale green drive.[63] Beijing has added 3,800 natural gas buses, one of the largest fleets in the world.[63] Twenty percent of the Olympic venues' electricity comes from renewable energy sources.[64] The city has also planted hundreds of thousands of trees and increased green space in an effort to make the city more livable.[65]

One year after the 2008 Olympics, Beijing's officials reported that the city was enjoying the best air quality this decade because of the measures taken during the Games. Nonetheless, Beijing still faces air pollution problems.[66][67] The US embassy recorded levels of pollution beyond measurable levels on 21 February 2011, and advised people to stay indoors as a thick smog was covering the city.[68] Measurements in January 2013 showed levels of air pollution, as measured by the density of particulate matter smaller than 2.5 micrometres in size – higher than the maximum 755mcg the US Embassy's equipment can measure.[69]

Daily pollution readings at 27 monitoring stations around the city are reported on the website of the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau (BJEPB).[70] The United States Embassy in Beijing also reports hourly fine particulate (PM2.5) and ozone levels on Twitter.[71] Although the BJEPB and US Embassy measure different pollutants according to different criteria the media has noted that pollution levels and the impact to human health reported by the BJEPB are often lower than that reported by the US Embassy.[71]

Dust storms

Dust from the erosion of deserts in northern and northwestern China results in seasonal dust storms that plague the city; the Beijing Weather Modification Office sometimes artificially induces rainfall to fight such storms and mitigate their effects.[72] In the first four months of 2006 alone, there were no fewer than eight such storms.[73] In April 2002, one dust storm alone dumped nearly 50,000 tons of dust onto the city before moving on to Japan and Korea.[74]

Politics and government

Municipal government is regulated by the local Communist Party of China (CPC), led by the Beijing CPC Secretary (北京市委书记). The local CPC issues administrative orders, collects taxes, manages the economy, and directs a standing committee of the Municipal People's Congress in making policy decisions and overseeing the local government.

Government officials include the mayor and vice-mayor. Numerous bureaus focus on law, public security, and other affairs. Additionally, as the capital of China, Beijing houses all of the important national governmental and political institutions, including the National People's Congress.[75]

Administrative divisions

Beijing Municipality currently comprises 16 administrative county-level subdivisions including 14 urban and suburban districts and two rural counties. On 1 July 2010, Chongwen (崇文区) and Xuanwu Districts (宣武区) were merged into Dongcheng and Xicheng Districts, respectively.

Map District / County Chinese Population
(per km²)
Dongcheng District 东城区 919,000 40.6 22,635
Xicheng District 西城区 1,243,000 46.5 26,731
Chaoyang District 朝阳区 3,545,000 470.8 7,530
Haidian District 海淀区 3,281,000 426.0 7,702
Fengtai District 丰台区 2,112,000 304.2 6,943
Shijingshan District 石景山区 616,000 89.8 6,860
Tongzhou District 通州区 1,184,000 870.0 1,361
Shunyi District 顺义区 877,000 980.0 895
Changping District 昌平区 1,661,000 1,430.0 1,162
Daxing District 大兴区 1,365,000 1,012.0 1,349
Mentougou District 门头沟区 290,000 1,331.3 218
Fangshan District 房山区 945,000 1,866.7 506
Pinggu District 平谷区 416,000 1,075.0 387
Huairou District 怀柔区 373,000 2,557.3 146
Miyun County 密云县 468,000 2,335.6 200
Yanqing County 延庆县 317,000 1,980.0 160

Color key

  •      Old city formerly enclosed by city walls, now inside the 2nd Ring Road
  •      Urban districts between the 2nd and 5th Ring Road
  •      Inner suburbs linked by the 6th Ring Road
  •      Outer suburbs and rural areas.
Wudaokou, a popular student hangout in northwestern Beijing
Shichahai, in the Xicheng District, is traditionally considered one of Beijing's most beautiful and charming scenic areas.
Changpu River Park near the Forbidden City


Beijing's 16 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. Towns within Beijing Municipality but outside the urban area include (but are not limited to):

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


Neighbourhoods may extend across multiple districts. Major neighbourhoods in urban Beijing include:


Beijing Financial Street, the economic center of Beijing
Wangfujing Street is one of the busiest streets in Beijing, with nearly 100,000 visitors daily (August 2008).
Zhongguancun is a technology hub in Haidian District

Beijing is among the most developed cities in China, with tertiary industry accounting for 73.2% of its gross domestic product (GDP); it was the first post industrial city in mainland China.[77] Beijing is home to 41 Fortune Global 500 companies, the second most in the world behind Tokyo,[78] and over 100 of the largest companies in China.[79] Its overall economic influence has been ranked number 1 by PwC.[80]

Finance is one of the most important industries.[81] By the end of 2007, there were 751 financial organizations in Beijing generating revenue of 128.6 billion RMB, 11.6% of the total financial industry revenue of the entire country. That also accounts for 13.8% of Beijing's GDP, the highest percentage of any Chinese city.[82]

In 2010, Beijing's nominal GDP reached 1.37 trillion RMB. Its per capita GDP was 78,194 RMB. In 2009, Beijing's nominal GDP was 1.19 trillion RMB (US$174 billion), a growth of 10.1% over the previous year. Its GDP per capita was 68,788 RMB (US$10,070), an increase of 6.2% over 2008. In 2009, Beijing's primary, secondary, and tertiary industries were worth 11.83 billion RMB, 274.31 billion RMB, and 900.45 billion RMB respectively. Urban disposable income per capita was 26,738 yuan, a real increase of 8.1% from the previous year. Per capita pure income of rural residents was 11,986 RMB, a real increase of 11.5%.[83] The Engel's coefficient of Beijing's urban residents reached 31.8% in 2005, while that of the rural residents was 32.8%, declining 4.5 and 3.9 percentage points respectively compared to 2000.

Beijing's real estate and automobile sectors have continued to boom in recent years. In 2005, a total of 28,032,000 square metres (301,730,000 sq ft) of housing real estate was sold, for a total of 175.88 billion RMB. The total number of cars registered in Beijing in 2004 was 2,146,000, of which 1,540,000 were privately owned (a yearly increase of 18.7%).[84]

The Beijing central business district (CBD), centered on 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 precincts, and high-end housing. 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. Meanwhile, Yizhuang, located to the southeast of the urban area, is becoming a new center in pharmaceuticals, information technology, and materials engineering.[85] Shijingshan, on the western outskirts of the city, is among the major industrial areas.[86] Specially designated industrial parks include Zhongguancun Science Park, Yongle Economic Development Zone, Beijing Economic-technological Development Area, and Tianzhu Airport Industrial Zone.

Agriculture is carried on outside the urban area, with wheat and maize (corn) being the main crops.[47] Vegetables are also grown closer to the urban area in order to supply the city.

Beijing is increasingly becoming known for its innovative entrepreneurs and high-growth startup companies. This culture is backed by a large community of both Chinese and foreign venture capital firms, such as Sequoia Capital, whose head office in China is 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 for being a center for entrepreneurship.

Less legitimate enterprises also exist. Urban Beijing is known for being a center of pirated goods; anything from the latest designer clothing to DVDs can be found in markets all over the city, often marketed to expatriates and international visitors.[87]

The development of Beijing continues at a rapid pace, and the vast expansion has created a multitude of problems for the city. Beijing is known for its smog as well as the frequent "power-saving" programmes instituted by the government. To reduce air pollution, a number of major industries have been ordered to reduce emissions or leave the city. Beijing Capital Steel, once one of the city's largest employers and its single biggest polluter, has been relocating most of its operations to Tangshan, in nearby Hebei Province.[88][89] Residents and tourists alike frequently complain about the water quality and the cost of the basic services such as electricity and natural gas.


Historical population
Population size may be affected by changes on administrative divisions.

The registered population of Beijing Municipality consists of people holding either Beijing permanent residence hukou permits or temporary residence permits. The 2010 census revealed that the official total population in Beijing was 19,612,368,[90] representing a 44% increase over the last decade.[91] In 2006, the population of the urban core was 13.33 million, 84.3 percent of the total municipal population, which officially stood at 15.81 million.[5] Urban sprawl continues at a rapid pace.[92]

After Chongqing and Shanghai,[90] Beijing is the third largest of the four directly controlled municipalities of the People's Republic of China. In the PRC, a directly controlled municipality (直辖市 in pinyin: zhíxiáshì) is a city with status equal to a province.

According to the statistical yearbook issued in 2005 by the National Bureau of Statistics of China, out of a total population in 2004 of 14.213 million in Beijing, 1.415 million (9.96%) were 0–14 years old, 11.217 million (78.92%) were 15–64 and 1.581 million (11.12%) 65 and over.[93]

Most of Beijing's residents belong to the Han Chinese majority. Ethnic minorities include the Manchu, Hui, and Mongol.[47] A Tibetan-language high school exists for youth of Tibetan ancestry, nearly all of whom have come to Beijing from Tibet expressly for their studies.[94] A sizable international community resides in Beijing, many attracted by the highly growing foreign business and trade sector, others by the traditional and modern culture of the city. Many of these foreigners live in the areas around the Beijing CBD, Sanlitun, and Wudaokou. In recent years, there has also been an influx of South Koreans, an estimated 200,000 in 2009,[95] predominantly for business and study. Many of them live in the Wangjing and Wudaokou areas.[96][97]

Ethnic groups in Beijing, 2000 census[98]
(excluding members of the People's Liberation Army in active service)
Ethnicity Population Percentage
Han 12,983,696 95.69%
Manchu 250,286 1.84%
Hui 235,837 1.74%
Mongols 37,464 0.28%
Koreans 20,369 0.15%
Tujia 8372 0.062%
Zhuang 7322 0.054%
Miao 5291 0.039%
Uyghur 3129 0.023%
Tibetan 2920 0.022%


A scene from a Beijing opera
A Chinese cloisonné dish from the Qing dynasty

People native to urban Beijing speak the Beijing dialect, which belongs to the Mandarin subdivision of spoken Chinese. This speech is the basis for putonghua, the standard spoken language used in mainland China and Taiwan, and one of the four official languages of Singapore. Rural areas of Beijing Municipality have their own dialects akin to those of Hebei province, which surrounds Beijing Municipality.

Beijing or Peking opera (京剧, Jīngjù) is a traditional form of Chinese theater well known throughout the nation. 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 involving gestures, movement, fighting and acrobatics. Much of Beijing opera is carried out in an archaic stage dialect quite different from Modern Standard Chinese and from the modern Beijing dialect.[99]

Beijing cuisine is the local style of cooking. Peking Roast Duck is perhaps the best known dish. Fuling Jiabing, a traditional Beijing snack food, is a pancake (bing) resembling a flat disk with a filling made from fu ling, a fungus used in traditional Chinese medicine. Teahouses are common in Beijing.

The cloisonné (or Jingtailan, literally "Blue of Jingtai") metalworking technique and tradition is a Beijing art specialty, and is one of the most revered traditional crafts in China. Cloisonné making requires elaborate and complicated processes which include base-hammering, copper-strip inlay, soldering, enamel-filling, enamel-firing, surface polishing and gilding.[100] Beijing's lacquerware is also well known for its sophisticated and intrinsic patterns and images carved into its surface, and the various decoration techniques of lacquer include "carved lacquer" and "engraved gold".

Younger residents of Beijing have become more attracted to the nightlife, which has flourished in recent decades, breaking prior cultural traditions that had practically restricted it to the upper class.[101]

Places of interest

...the city remains an epicenter of tradition with the treasures of nearly 2,000 years as the imperial capital still on view—in the famed Forbidden City and in the city's lush pavilions and gardens...

Classical gardens in Beijing

At the historical heart of Beijing lies the Forbidden City, the enormous palace compound that was the home of the emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties;[103] the Forbidden City hosts the Palace Museum, which contains imperial collections of Chinese art. Surrounding the Forbidden City are several former imperial gardens, parks and scenic areas, notably Beihai, Shichahai, Zhongnanhai, Jingshan and Zhongshan. These places, particularly Beihai Park, are described as masterpieces of Chinese gardening art,[104] and are popular tourist destinations with tremendous historical importance;[105] in the modern era, Zhongnanhai has also been the political heart of various Chinese governments and regimes and is now the headquarters of the Communist Party of China and the State Council. From Tiananmen Square, right across from the Forbidden City, there are several notable sites, such as the Tiananmen, Qianmen, the Great Hall of the People, the National Museum of China, the Monument to the People's Heroes, and the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong. The Summer Palace and the Old Summer Palace both lie at the western part of the city; the former, a UNESCO World Heritage Site,[106] contains a comprehensive collection of imperial gardens and palaces that served as the summer retreat for the Qing emperors.

Beijing's Temple of Heaven as photographed in the early 20th century

Among the best known religious sites in the city is the Temple of Heaven (Tiantan), located in southeastern Beijing, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site,[107] where emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties made visits for annual ceremonies of prayers to Heaven for good harvest. In the north of the city is the Temple of Earth (Ditan), while the Temple of the Sun (Ritan) and the Temple of the Moon (Yuetan) lie in the eastern and western urban areas respectively. Other well-known temple sites include the Dongyue Temple, Tanzhe Temple, Miaoying Temple, White Cloud Temple, Yonghe Temple, Fayuan Temple, Wanshou Temple and Big Bell Temple. The city also has its own Confucius Temple, and a Guozijian or Imperial Academy. The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, built in 1605, is the oldest Catholic church in Beijing. The Niujie Mosque is the oldest mosque in Beijing, with a history stretching back over a thousand years.

Beijing contains several well-preserved pagodas and stone pagodas, such as the towering Pagoda of Tianning Temple, which was built during the Liao Dynasty from 1100 to 1120, and the Pagoda of Cishou Temple, which was built in 1576 during the Ming Dynasty. Historically noteworthy stone bridges include the 12th-century Lugou Bridge, the 17th-century Baliqiao bridge, and the 18th-century Jade Belt Bridge. The Beijing Ancient Observatory displays pre-telescopic spheres dating back to the Ming and Qing dynasties. The Fragrant Hills (Xiangshan) is a popular scenic public park that consists of natural landscaped areas as well as traditional and cultural relics. The Beijing Botanical Garden exhibits over 6,000 species of plants, including a variety of trees, bushes and flowers, and an extensive peony garden. The Taoranting, Longtan, Chaoyang, Haidian, Milu Yuan and Zizhu Yuan parks are some of the notable recreational parks in the city. The Beijing Zoo is a center of zoological research that also contains rare animals from various continents, including the Chinese giant panda.

There are over one hundred museums in Beijing.[108][109] In addition to the Palace Museum in the Forbidden City and the National Museum of China, other major museums include the National Art Museum of China, the Capital Museum, the Beijing Art Museum, the Military Museum of the Chinese People's Revolution, the Geological Museum of China, the Beijing Museum of Natural History and the Paleozoological Museum of China.[109]

Located at the outskirts of urban Beijing, but within its municipality are the Thirteen Tombs of the Ming Dynasty, the lavish and elaborate burial sites of thirteen Ming emperors, which have been designated as part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Imperial Tombs of the Ming and Qing Dynasties.[110] The archaeological Peking Man site at Zhoukoudian is another World Heritage Site within the municipality,[111] containing a wealth of discoveries, among them one of the first specimens of Homo erectus and an assemblage of bones of the gigantic hyena Pachycrocuta brevirostris. There are several sections of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Great Wall of China,[112] most notably Badaling, Jinshanling, Simatai and Mutianyu.


Inside the Forbidden City

Three styles of architecture predominate in urban Beijing. First, there is the traditional architecture of imperial China, perhaps best exemplified by the massive Tian'anmen (Gate of Heavenly Peace), which remains the People's Republic of China's trademark edifice, the Forbidden City, the Imperial Ancestral Temple and the Temple of Heaven. Next, there is what is sometimes referred to as the "Sino-Sov" style, with structures tending to be boxy and sometimes poorly constructed, which were built between the 1950s and the 1970s.[113] Finally, there are much more modern architectural forms, most noticeably in the area of the Beijing CBD and Beijing Financial Street.

In the early 21st century, Beijing has witnessed tremendous growth of new building constructions, exhibiting various modern styles from international designers. A mixture of both old and new styles of architecture can be seen at the 798 Art Zone, which mixes 1950s design with the new.

Beijing is famous for its siheyuans, a type of residence where a common courtyard is shared by the surrounding buildings. Among the more grand examples are the Prince Gong Mansion and Residence of Soong Ching-ling. These courtyards are usually connected by alleys called hutongs. The hutongs are generally straight and run east to west so that doorways face north and south for good Feng Shui. They vary in width; some are so narrow only a few pedestrians can pass through at a time. Once ubiquitous in Beijing, siheyuans and hutongs are rapidly disappearing,[114] as entire city blocks of hutongs are replaced by high-rise buildings.[115] Residents of the hutongs are entitled to live in the new buildings in apartments 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,[116] and these properties are often government owned.[117]


Television and radio

Beijing Television broadcasts on channels 1 through 10. Three radio stations feature programmes in English: Hit FM on FM 88.7, Easy FM by China Radio International on FM 91.5, and the newly launched Radio 774 on AM 774. Beijing Radio Stations is the family of radio stations serving the city.


The well-known Beijing Evening News (Beijing Wanbao, 北京晚报), covering news about Beijing in Chinese, is distributed every afternoon. Other newspapers include The Beijing News (Xin Jing Bao, 新京报), the Beijing Star Daily, the Beijing Morning News, and the Beijing Youth Daily (Beijing Qingnian Bao), as well as English-language weeklies Beijing Weekend and Beijing Today (the English-language edition of Youth Daily). The People's Daily, Global Times and the China Daily (English) are published in Beijing as well.

Publications primarily aimed at international visitors and the expatriate community include the English-language periodicals Time Out Beijing, City Weekend, Beijing This Month, Beijing Talk, That's Beijing.


Fireworks above Olympic venues during the opening ceremony of the 2008 Summer Games
Taijiquan practitioners at the Fragrant Hills Park


Beijing has hosted numerous international and national sporting events, the most notable was the 2008 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games. Other multi-sport international events held in Beijing include the 2001 Universiade and the 1990 Asian Games. Single-sport international competitions include the Beijing Marathon (annually since 1981), China Open of Tennis (1993–97, annually since 2004), ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Cup of China (2003, 2004, 2005, 2008, 2009 and 2010), WPBSA China Open for Snooker (annually since 2005), International Cycling Union Tour of Beijing (since 2011), 1961 World Table Tennis Championships, 1987 IBF Badminton World Championships, the 2004 AFC Asian Cup (football), and 2009 Barclays Asia Trophy (football). Beijing will host the 2015 IAAF World Championships in Athletics.

The city hosted the second Chinese National Games in 1914 and the first four National Games of the People's Republic of China in 1959, 1965, 1975, 1979, respectively, and co-hosted the 1993 National Games with Sichuan and Qingdao. Beijing also hosted the inaugural National Peasants' Games in 1988 and the sixth National Minority Games in 1999.


Major sporting venues in the city include the National Stadium, also known as the "Birds' Nest",[118][119] National Aquatics Center, also known as the "Water Cube", National Indoor Stadium, all in the Olympic Green to the north of city center; the MasterCard Center at Wukesong west of the city center; the Workers' Stadium and Workers' Arena in Sanlitun just east of city center and the Capital Arena in Baishiqiao, northeast of the city center. In addition, many universities in the city have their own sporting facilities.


Professional sports teams based in Beijing include:

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


With the growth of the city in the wake of economic reforms, Beijing has evolved as the most important transport hub in the People's Republic of China, and within the larger East Asian region. Encircling the city are five ring roads, nine expressways and city express routes, eleven China National Highways, several railway routes, and an international airport.

Rail and high-speed rail

Beijing is one of the largest hubs in China's railway network. Nine conventional rail lines radiate from Beijing to: Shanghai (Jinghu Line), Guangzhou (Jingguang Line), Kowloon (Jingjiu Line), Harbin (Jingha Line), Baotou (Jingbao Line), Qinhuangdao (Jingqin Line), Chengde (Jingcheng Line), Tongliao, Inner Mongolia (Jingtong Line) and Yuanping, Shanxi (Jingyuan Line). In addition, Beijing has two high-speed rail lines: the Beijing-Shanghai High-Speed Railway, which opened in 2011, and the Beijing-Tianjin Intercity Railway, which opened in 2008.

The city's main railway stations are the Beijing Railway Station, which opened in 1959; the Beijing West Railway Station, which opened in 1996; and the Beijing South Railway Station, which was rebuilt into the city's high-speed railway station in 2008. As of 1 July 2010, Beijing Railway Station had 173 trains arriving daily, Beijing West had 232 trains and Beijing South had 163. The Beijing North Railway Station, first built in 1909 and expanded in 2009, had 22 trains.

Smaller stations in the city including Beijing East Railway Station and Qinghuayuan Railway Station handle mainly commuter passenger traffic. The Fengtai Railway Station has been closed for renovation. In outlying suburbs and counties of Beijing, there are over 40 railway stations.[120]

From Beijing, direct Direct passenger train service is available to most large cities in China. International train service is available to Mongolia, Russia, Vietnam and North Korea. Passenger trains in China are numbered according to their direction in relation to Beijing.

Roads and expressways

See Expressways of Beijing and China National Highways of Beijing for more related information.

Beijing is connected by road links to all parts of China as part of the National Trunk Road Network. Nine expressways of China serve Beijing, as do eleven China National Highways. Beijing's urban transport is dependent upon the five "ring roads" that concentrically surround the city, with the Forbidden City area marked as the geographical center for the ring roads. The ring roads appear more rectangular than ring-shaped. There is no official "1st Ring Road". The 2nd Ring Road is located in the inner city. Ring roads tend to resemble expressways progressively as they extend outwards, with the 5th and 6th Ring Roads being full-standard national expressways, linked to other roads only by interchanges. Expressways to other regions of China are generally accessible from the 3rd Ring Road outward.

Within the urban core, city streets generally follow the checkerboard pattern of the ancient capital. Many of Beijing's boulevards and streets with "inner" and "outer" are still named in relation to gates in the city wall, though most gates no longer stand. Traffic jams are a major concern. Even outside of rush hour, several roads still remain clogged with traffic.

Exacerbating Beijing's traffic problems is its relatively underdeveloped mass transit system. Beijing's urban design layout further exacerbates transportation problems.[121] The authorities have introduced several bus lanes, which only public buses can use during rush hour. In the beginning of 2010, Beijing had 4 million registered automobiles.[122] By the end of 2010, the government forecast 5 million. In 2010, new car registrations in Beijing averaged 15,500 per week.[123]

Towards the end of 2010, the city government announced a series of drastic measures to tackle traffic jams, including limiting the number of new license plates issued to passenger cars to 20,000 a month and barring cars with non-Beijing plates from entering areas within the Fifth Ring Road during rush hour.[124]


Beijing's primary airport is the Beijing Capital International Airport (IATA: PEK; near Shunyi), which is about 20 kilometres (12 mi) northeast of the city center. It is currently the second busiest airport in the world (after Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport) and the busiest in Asia. After renovations for the 2008 Olympics, the airport now boasts three terminals, with Terminal 3 being one of the largest in the world. Most domestic and nearly all international flights arrive at and depart from Capital Airport. it is the main hub for Air China and a hub for China Southern and Hainan Airlines. The airport links Beijing with almost every other Chinese city with regular air passenger service.

The Airport Expressway links the airport to central Beijing; it is a roughly 40-minute drive from the city center during good traffic conditions. Prior to the 2008 Olympics, the 2nd Airport Expressway was built to the airport, as well as a light rail system, which now connects to the Beijing Subway.

Other airports in the city include Liangxiang, Nanyuan, Xijiao, Shahe and Badaling. These airports are primarily for military use and are less well known to the public. Nanyuan serves as the hub for only one passenger airline. A second international airport, to be called Beijing Daxing International Airport,[125] is currently being built in Daxing District, and is expected to be open by 2017.[126]

From January 1, 2013, tourists from 45 countries will be allowed to enjoy a 72-hour visa-free stay in Beijing. The 45 countries include Singapore, Japan, the United States, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Canada, Brazil, Argentina and Australia. The programme benefits transit and business travellers.[127]

Public transit

The Beijing Subway opened in 1971, and had only two lines until Line 13 began operating in 2002. Since then, the subway has expanded to sixteen lines. Line 1 and the Batong Line, its eastern extension, cross almost all of urban Beijing from east to west. Lines 4 and 5 serve as two north-south lines. The fare is a flat 2 yuan, with unlimited transfers except for the Airport Express line, which costs 25 yuan per trip. There are nearly 700 bus and trolleybus routes, including three bus rapid transit routes.[128] All public transport can be accessed with the Yikatong card, which uses radio frequencies scanned at subway stations and on public transit buses.

In May 2010, Beijing's municipal government announced plans to add 21 subway lines by 2020. The plan calls for 30 subway lines and 450 stations in Beijing, reaching 1,050 kilometres (650 mi) in length. When fully implemented, residents within the region encompassed by the Fourth Ring Road will be able walk to a station in 10 to 15 minutes. The suburbs will be connected by new radial lines.[129]

Registered taxis can be found throughout Beijing, as well as a large number of unregistered ones. As of 30 June 2008, all fares on legal taxis start at 10 Renminbi for the first 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) and 2.00 Renminbi per additional kilometer (0.621 mile), not counting idling fees. Most taxis are Hyundai Elantras, Hyundai Sonatas, Peugeots, Citroëns and Volkswagen Jettas. After 15 kilometres (9.3 mi), the base fare increases by 50% (but is only applied to the portion over that distance). Between 11 pm and 5 am, there is also a 20% fee increase, starting at 11 RMB and increasing at a rate of 2.4 RMB per km. Rides over 15 km (9 mi) and between 23:00 and 06:00 incur both charges, for a total increase of 80%.


Beijing has long been well known for the number of bicycles on its streets. Although the rise of motor traffic has created a great deal of congestion and bicycle use has declined, bicycles are still an important form of local transportation. Large numbers of cyclists can be seen on most roads in the city, and most of the main roads have dedicated bicycle lanes. Beijing is relatively flat, which makes cycling convenient. The rise of electric bicycles and electric scooters, which have similar speeds and use the same cycle lanes, may have brought about a revival in bicycle-speed two-wheeled transport. It is possible to cycle to most parts of the city. Because of the growing traffic congestion, the authorities have indicated more than once that they wish to encourage cycling, but it is not clear whether there is sufficient will to translate that into action on a significant scale.[130]


Beijing is home to a great number of colleges and universities, including Peking University and Tsinghua University (two of the National Key Universities).[7] Owing to Beijing's status as the political and cultural capital of China, a larger proportion of tertiary-level institutions are concentrated here than in any other city in China (at least 70). Many international students from Japan, Korea, North America, Europe, Southeast Asia, and elsewhere come to Beijing to study every year, some through third party study abroad providers such as IES Abroad and others as part of an exchange program with their home universities. The schools are administered by China's Ministry of Education.

International relations

Twin towns and sister cities

Beijing has numerous twin towns and sister cities around the world, many of them the capitals of their respective countries:[131][132]

Partner cities

Beijing has two partner cities, both in Europe:[132]

See also

Notes and references

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Further reading

External links

Preceded by
Lin'an (Song Dynasty)
Capital of China (as Dadu)
Succeeded by
Nanjing (Ming Dynasty)
Preceded by
Nanjing (Ming Dynasty)
Capital of China
Succeeded by
Nanjing (ROC)
Preceded by
Nanjing (ROC)
Capital of the People's Republic of China
Succeeded by
present capital

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