Beijing enjoys a time-honored history. Some five hundred millennia ago, Zhou Koudian in the southwestern suburbs were already teeming with the activities of Peking Men, the ancestor of the humankind. As a world-renowned ancient cultural city, Beijing's history as a city goes back to 3,000 years ago, but Beijing was not the always the dynastic capital, it as the dynastic capital since the 13th century, Beijing has an indisputable pedigree, annihilated by Genghis Khan, esteemed by Marco Polo, reshaped by the Ming Dynasty, courted by the West and plunged into Chaos by Mao Zedong. And it has served as the nation's capital during different historical periods for nearly 800 years. The venerated history has bestowed splendid culture and rich cultural relics and historical remains on Beijing.
History of Beijing
After the fall of the Yan State, 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 launched 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 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, ("the central capital"). Zhongdu was situated in what is now the area centre 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 (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 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), the "northern capital", situated in the north. 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.
Panorama view of the Forbidden City, home to the Emperors of the Ming and Qing Dynasties.The Forbidden City was constructed soon after that (1406-1420), followed by the Temple of Heaven (1420), and numerous other construction projects. Tiananmen, 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.
In 1928, Nanjing was officially made the capital of the Republic of China, and Beijing was renamed Beiping (northern Peace).
On October 1, 1949, Beiping became the capital of the People's Republic of China and its name was changed back to Beijing.
Geography of Beijing
The urban area of Beijing, 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, 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.
Culture of Beijing
People native to urban Beijing speak the Beijing dialect, which belongs to the Mandarin subdivision of spoken Chinese. Beijing dialect is the basis for Standard Mandarin, the language used in Great China. 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.
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, 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.