China Insight Series - Beijing (北京)

The Insight Series for 2014 continues! This series focuses on the Eight Great Ancient Capitals of China as defined by the China Ancient Capital Society.

These capitals include the cities of Luoyang, Xi'an, Beijing, Kaifeng, Nanjing, Anyang, Zhengzhou and Hangzhou. Each of these cities has served as the Capital between 216 and 1,309 for various governments in China. 

Beijing (北京) 

Beijing, sometimes romanised as Peking, is the capital of the People's Republic of China and one of the most populous cities in the world. The city's history dates back three millennia and it has been the political centre of the country for much of the past eight centuries. Renowned for its opulent palaces, temples, parks and gardens, tombs, walls and gates, and its art treasures and universities, Beijing is a centre of culture and art in China. Encyclopædia Britannica notes that "few cities in the world have served for so long as the political headquarters and cultural centre of an area as immense as China."

Prior to the unification of China by the First Emperor in 221 BC, Beijing was for centuries the capital of the ancient states of Ji and Yan. During the first millennia of imperial rule, Beijing was a provincial city in northern China. Its stature grew in the 10th to the 13th centuries when the nomadic Khitan and forest-dwelling Jurchen peoples from beyond the Great Wall expanded southward and made the city a capital of their dynasties, the Liao and Jin. When Kublai Khan made Dadu the capital of the Mongol-led Yuan Dynasty (1279–1368), all of China was ruled from Beijing for the first time.

From 1279 onward, with the exception of two interludes from 1368 to 1420 and 1928 to 1949, Beijing would remain as China's capital, serving as the seat of power for the Ming Dynasty (1421–1644), the Manchu-led Qing Dynasty (1644–1912), the early Republic of China (1912–1928) and now the People's Republic of China (1949–present).

Beijing, the heart of China, is always the first choice of visitors. Its numerous royal buildings with long history endow it with incomparable charm, exceptional not only in the national context but global context as well.

The national flag-raising ceremony Tian'an Men

The solemn and respectful Tiananmen Square is the largest central city square in the world, which serves not only as the city's symbol but also as the symbol of the nation at large. This immense courtyard is surrounded by a variety of significant edifices such as the Tiananmen Tower, Great Hall of the People, Mao Zedong Memorial Hall, Monument to the People's Heroes and National Museum.

The magnificent Forbidden City is the largest and best preserved imperial palace complex in the world. It has 9,999 rooms, just a single room short of the number that ancient Chinese belief represents 'Divine Perfection', and is surrounded by a moat six metres deep and a ten metre high wall. For five centuries, this palace functioned as the administrative centre of the country.

The Forbidden City The Great Wall

The Great Wall of China is one of the 'Eight Wonders of the World' and is enlisted in the World Heritage Directory. This immense wall was built to keep out invaders as well as to retain inhabitants. It spans five provinces from Shanhaiguan Pass in the east to Jiayuguan Pass in the west, looking like a gigantic dragon snaking across deserts, grasslands and mountains.

Having served as the capital city of several Dynasties, besides spectacular imperial palaces, the city also possesses the most luxurious royal gardens—the well-preserved Summer Palace with an area of 727 acres, the elegant Beihai Park and the destroyed Old Summer Palace. In addition, emperors also constructed spectacular mausoleums for themselves. The Ming Tombs of the 13 emperors is an impressive necropolis.

Given the relationship between religion and supreme imperial power, Beijing has also served as the focus of religious life with lots of beautiful temples. The Temple of Heaven, where the emperors paid homage to the glory of heaven, is the largest group of structures in the country dedicated to ritual. The Altar of Earth was used to worship the God of the Earth, while the Great Bell Temple is where the emperor prayed for rainfall in the Qing Dynasty.

Summer Palace The Temple of Heaven

If you would like to experience Beijing local life, there are a great number of hutongs and courtyards distributed throughout the city. Prince Gong's Mansion is the most magnificent courtyard; the former residence of an official and then prince. Other famous historical sites within the city's hutongs and courtyards include the Bell and Drum Towers, the Colored Glaze Factory (Liulichang) Street for people interested in Chinese calligraphy, painting or other artwork, and the Lugou Bridge carved with marvelous stone lions.

Old Beijing is wonderful and amazing while New Beijing is fantastic and exciting. Economic reform and preparation for the 29th Olympic Games have accelerated the pace and scale of change and has outfitted the city with a sense of modernity. Present-day Beijing offers an endless mixture of theatres, discos, bars, business centres, all kinds of restaurants and shopping malls that will delight visitors.
798 Art Zone, the exhibition centre of modern Chinese art, hosts the annual 798 art festival. The International Music Festival was initiated in 1998 and is an annual event. Beijing boasts more than a hundred shopping malls, including the traditional shopping areas like Wangfujing, Qianmen Dashilan, and Xidan and the newly emerged business areas like Guomao, Oriental Xin Tian Di and Zhongguancun Square. If you are searching for international clothing labels, you cannot miss Xiushui and Yaxiu.

Hutong The Water Cube

Want a drink in the evening? Just find a bar and relax. Beijing has many bar streets and bar areas with colourful neon lights calling for those bar lovers of the night. Besides drinking in a bar, visitors can go to listen to Peking Opera at night. Peking Opera is a form of traditional Chinese theatre which combines music, vocal performance, mime, dance and acrobatics. It is extremely popular in the capital and has come to be regarded as one of the cultural treasures of China.

Seven hundred years ago, amazed by his unbelievable description of China, people asked Marco Polo whether his stories were true. He answered: What I have told you was not even half of what I saw. Actually, what has been mentioned above represents only a fraction of the Beijing that awaits visitors from all over the world.

Confucian Saying Of The Month

知之者不如好之者,好之者不如乐之者

zhī zhī zhě bùrú hào zhī zhě, hǎo zhī zhě bùrú lè zhī zhě

To prefer it is better than only to know it. To delight in it is better than merely to prefer it.

Chinese Character Of The Month

知 

zhī 

Know, inform, knowledge

This Chinese character is an associative compound. It is made up of two elements: the left element (矢) means arrow; the right element (口) means mouth.

In the extended sense, arrow (矢) means the arrow is shot in a very fast speed and perfectly hit the bullseye.

And mouth (口) refers to the words spoken from the mouth.

The original meaning of the character is to accurately speak out what you know. Currently it means knowledge, or being aware of something.

知道 zhīdào - know, be wise to

知识 zhīshì - knowledge, information

通知 tōngzhī - notify;notice

知己 zhījǐ - confidant, bosom friend

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