—  Municipality  —
Municipality of Beijing • 北京市
Clockwise from top: Tiananmen, Temple of Heaven, Beijing's CBD, and Beijing National Stadium

Location of Beijing Municipality within China
Coordinates: 39°54′50″N 116°23′30″E / 39.91389°N 116.39167°E / 39.91389; 116.39167Coordinates: 39°54′50″N 116°23′30″E / 39.91389°N 116.39167°E / 39.91389; 116.39167
Country People's Republic of China
 - County-level
 - Township-level

16 districts, 2 counties
289 towns and villages
 - Type Municipality
 - CPC Ctte Secretary Liu Qi
 - Mayor Guo Jinlong
 - Municipality 16,801.25 km2 (6,487 sq mi)
Elevation 43.5 m (143 ft)
Population (2010)[2]
 - Municipality 19,612,368
 - Density 1,167.3/km2 (3,023.3/sq mi)
 - Ranks in China Population: 26th;
Density: 4th
Demonym Beijinger
Major ethnic groups
 - Han 96%
 - Manchu 2%
 - Hui 2%
 - Mongol 0.3%
Time zone China standard time (UTC+8)
Postal code 100000 – 102629
Area code(s) 10
GDP[3] 2010
 - Total CNY 1,377.79 billion
US$ 209.3 billion (13th)
 - Per capita CNY 70,251
US$ 10,672 (3rd)
 - Growth increase 10.2%
HDI (2008) 0.891 (2nd) – high
License plate prefixes 京A, C, E, F, H, J, K, L, M, N, P
京B (taxis)
京G, Y (outside urban area)
京O (police and authorities)
京V (in red color) (military headquarters,
central government)
City trees Chinese arborvitae (Platycladus orientalis)
  Pagoda tree (Sophora japonica)
City flowers China rose (Rosa chinensis)
  Chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum morifolium)
Chinese 北京
Hanyu Pinyin Běijīng
About this sound [Listen]
Literal meaning Northern capital

Beijing (pronounced /beɪˈdʒɪŋ/, Chinese: 北京; pinyin: Běijīng, [peɪ˨˩ t͡ɕiŋ˥]), also known as Peking (pronounced /piːˈkɪŋ/ or /peɪˈkɪŋ/), is the capital of the People's Republic of China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of 19,612,368 as of 2010. The city is the country's political, cultural, and educational center,[4] and home to the headquarters for most of China's largest state-owned companies. The metropolis, located in northern China, borders Hebei Province to the north, west, south, and a small section to the east, and Tianjin Municipality to the southeast.[5]

Governed as a municipality under the direct administration of the national government, Beijing is divided into 14 urban and suburban districts and two rural counties.[6] It is a major transportation hub, with dozens of railways, roads and motorways passing through the city, and the destination of many international flights to China.

Few cities in the world have served as long as the political and cultural centre of an area as immense.[7] Beijing is one of the Four Great Ancient Capitals of China. It has been the heart of China’s history for centuries,[8] and there is scarcely a major building of any age in Beijing that does not have at least some national historical significance.[7] The city is renowned for its opulent palaces, temples, and huge stone walls and gates.[9] Its art treasures and universities have long made it a centre of culture and art in China.[9]


Etymology and names

"Beijing" means "northern capital", following the common East Asian tradition of explicitly naming capitals as such. Similarly named cities include Nanjing (南京), China, meaning "southern capital"; Tokyo, Japan, and Đông Kinh, now Hanoi, Vietnam, both meaning "eastern capital" (東京); as well as Kyoto (京都), Japan, and Gyeongseong (; now Seoul), Korea, both meaning "capital city".

Peking is the name of the city according to Chinese Postal Map Romanisation, and the traditional customary name for Beijing in English. It, together with its variants, is still used in many languages. The name originated with missionaries four hundred years ago and corresponds to an older pronunciation predating a sound change in Mandarin from [kʲ] to [tɕ].[10] ([tɕ] is represented in pinyin as j, as in Beijing. The latter is best approximated in English as "bay-DJING", rather than the hyperforeign pronunciation "bay-ZHING".) The pronunciation "Peking" is also closer to the Fujianese dialect of Amoy or Min Nan spoken in the city of Xiamen, a port where European (Portuguese) traders first landed in the 16th century, while "Beijing" more closely approximates the Mandarin pronunciation of the city's name.[11][12]

The city has been renamed several times. During the Jin Dynasty, it was known as Zhongdu (中都), then later, under the Mongol Yuan Dynasty, as Dadu () to the Chinese[13] and Daidu to Mongols[14] (also recorded as Cambuluc[4] by Marco Polo). Twice in the city's history, the name was changed from Beijing (Peking) to Beiping (Peiping) (北平; Pinyin: Běipíng; Wade-Giles: Pei-p'ing), literally "northern peace", first under the Hongwu Emperor of the Ming Dynasty, and again in 1928 by the Kuomintang (KMT) government of the Republic of China.[4] On each occasion, the character meaning "capital" (京) was deleted to reflect the fact the national capital had moved to Nanjing, in Jiangsu Province. Each renaming was reverted, the first under the Yongle Emperor of the Ming Dynasty, who moved the capital from Nanjing back to Beijing, and again in 1949, when the Communist Party of China restored Beijing as its capital after the founding of the People's Republic of China.[4] The abbreviation of the municipality is its second character (京) and is used on licence plates, among other things.

Yanjing (; 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.


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.[15] There were cities in the vicinity of the site of present-day Beijing by the 1st millennium BC, and Ji (薊/蓟), the capital of the state of Yan, one of the powers of the Warring States Period (473–221 BC), was established there.[16]

After the fall of the Yan, the following Qin, Han, and Jin dynasties set up local prefectures in the area.[1] During the fall of the Han, it was the seat of the warlord Gongsun Zan. During the Tang Dynasty, it became the headquarters for Fanyang jiedushi, the virtual military governor of what is now the northern Hebei region. The An Shi Rebellion began here in AD 755.

Medieval period

The pagoda of Tianning Temple, built by 1120 during the Liao Dynasty

In 936, the Later Jin Dynasty (936–947) of northern China ceded a large part of its northern frontier, including the site of modern Beijing, to the Khitan Liao Dynasty. In 938, the Liao Dynasty set up a secondary capital on modern Beijing's location, and called it Nanjing (the "southern capital"). In 1125, the Jurchen Jin Dynasty conquered Liao, and moved its capital to Liao's Nanjing in 1153, calling it Zhongdu (中都), the "central capital".[1] Zhongdu was situated in what is now the area centered around Tianningsi, slightly to the southwest of central Beijing. Some of the oldest surviving relics in Beijing, such as the Tianning Temple, date to the Liao period.

Mongol forces burned Zhongdu to the ground in 1215 in what is now known as the Battle of Beijing.[17] 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,[18] and in 1272, he made this city his capital, renamed Dadu (大都, Chinese for "great capital"),[17] or Daidu to the Mongols, spelled Cambaluc or Cambuluc in Marco Polo's accounts. Construction of Dadu was completed in 1293.[1] Kublai Khan's decision greatly enhanced the status of a city on the northern fringe of China proper. Dadu was centered slightly north of modern central Beijing, on what is now the northern stretch of the 2nd Ring Road, and stretched northwards to between the 3rd and 4th Ring Roads. Remnants of the Yuan-era wall still stand, and are known as the Tucheng (土城, literally the "earth wall").[19]

Ming and Qing period

An Italian map applying both the names of "Peking" (Beijing) and "Xuntieu" (Shuntian) to the city, published in 1682

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.[20] The city was renamed Beiping (北平) in the same year,[21] and Shuntian (順天) prefecture was established in the area around the city.[22] In 1403, the new (and third) Ming emperor – the Yongle Emperor – renamed this city Beijing,[21] and designated it the co-capital, alongside the (then) current capital of Nanjing. Beijing was the site of a major construction project for a new Imperial residence, the Forbidden City that lasted nearly 15 years, from 1406 to 1420.[17] When the palace was finished, the Yongle Emperor ceremoniously took up residence. From 1421 onwards, Beijing, also known as Jingshi (京师),[21] 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.

A corner tower of the Forbidden City

By the 15th century, Beijing had essentially taken its current shape. 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.[23] It is believed that Beijing was the largest city in the world from 1425 to 1650 and from 1710 to 1825.[24] Another notable building constructed during the Ming period was the Temple of Heaven (built by 1420).[25] 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.[26] 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 (南堂, Southern Cathedral) has been built over the original cathedral.[27]

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

When Dorgon established the Qing Dynasty as the direct successor of the Ming, Beijing remained China's capital.[28] 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.[29] The classic Chinese novel Dream of the Red Chamber is set in Beijing during the early years of Qing rule at the end of the 17th century.

A German postcard of Beijing from 1900

During the Second Opium War, Anglo-French forces captured the city, and looted and burned the Summer Palace and the Old Summer Palace in 1860. Under the Convention of Peking that ended the war, Western powers secured the right to establish permanent diplomatic presences in the Beijing Legation Quarter. In 1900, Beijing was again invaded by foreign powers, this time to quell the Boxer Rebellion.[30] Some important Imperial structures in the city were destroyed during the fighting, including the Hanlin Academy and the Summer Palace.

Republican era

The fomenters of the Xinhai Revolution of 1911 sought to replace Qing rule with a republic, and originally intended to establish the 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 Yuan as the president of the new Republic of China, and the capital remained at Beijing. Yuan gradually consolidated power and became by 1915 the new emperor of China, but died less than a year into his reign.[31]

China then fell under the control of regional warlords. 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. 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 on 28 June of that year, Beijing was renamed Beiping (Peip'ing) (北平),[32] meaning "northern peace" or "north pacified".[4]

During the Second Sino-Japanese War,[4] Beiping fell to Japan on 29 July 1937,[33] 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;[34] the government was later merged into the larger Wang Jingwei government based in Nanjing.[35]

People's Republic

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

On 31 January 1949, during the Chinese Civil War, Communist forces entered Beijing without opposition. 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.[36] Just a few days earlier, the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference had decided that Beijing would be the capital of the new government.

At the time of the founding of the People's Republic, Beijing Municipality consisted of just its urban area and its 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 accordance with the 1982 city plan. That road was the first of a series of new ring roads intended for motor vehicles rather than bicycles.[37]

Following the economic reforms of Deng Xiaoping, the urban area of Beijing has expanded greatly. Formerly within the confines of the 2nd and 3rd Ring Roads, the urban area of Beijing is now pushing at the limits of the recently constructed 5th and 6th Ring Roads, with many areas that were formerly farmland now developed residential or commercial districts.[38] According to a 2005 newspaper report, the size of the newly developed Beijing was one and a half times larger than that of old Beijing within the 2nd Ring Road.[39] Wangfujing and Xidan have developed into flourishing shopping districts,[40] while Zhongguancun has become a major centre of electronics in China.[41] 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 a significant influx of migrants from various regions of the country, especially rural areas.[42]

On 13 July 2001,[43] the International Olympic Committee selected Beijing as the host for the 2008 Summer Olympics.


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 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 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 (the Gate of Heavenly Peace) and Tian'anmen Square are at the centre 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 People's Republic of China. Running through central Beijing from east to west is Chang'an Avenue, one of the city's main thoroughfares.


The city has a rather dry, monsoon-influenced humid continental climate (Köppen climate classification Dwa), characterised 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.[44] 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 the great majority of it falling in the summer months. Extremes have ranged from −27.4 to 42.6 °C (-17 to 109 °F).[45]

Climate data for Beijing (1971−2000)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 1.8
Average low °C (°F) −8.4
Precipitation mm (inches) 2.7
humidity 44 44 46 46 53 61 75 77 68 61 57 49 56.8
Avg. precipitation days (≥ 0.1 mm) 1.8 2.3 3.3 4.3 5.8 9.7 13.6 12.0 7.6 5.0 3.5 1.7 70.6
Sunshine hours 194.1 194.7 231.8 251.9 283.4 261.4 212.4 220.9 232.1 222.1 185.3 180.7 2,670.8
Source: China Meteorological Administration [46]

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",[47] 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 US$17 billion 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,[48] and cutting motor traffic by half by limiting drivers to odd or even days (based on their license plate numbers)[49] 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,[50] and although the scheme was eventually lifted on 21 September 2008, it was replaced by new restrictions on government vehicles[51] and a new restriction that does not allow the use of a car once a week.[52][53] 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.[54] Some 357,000 "yellow label" vehicles – those that have too high emission levels – have been banned from Beijing altogether.[52][55]

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[56] 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.[57] Beijing has added 3,800 natural gas buses, one of the largest fleets in the world.[57] Twenty percent of the Olympic venues' electricity comes from renewable energy sources.[58] The city has also planted hundreds of thousands of trees and increased green space in an effort to make the city more livable.

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.[59][60] 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.[61]

Daily pollution readings at 27 monitoring stations around the city are reported on the website of the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau (BJEPB).[62] The United States Embassy in Beijing also reports hourly fine particulate (PM2.5) and ozone levels on twitter. [63] 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 far lower than reported by the US Embassy. [64]

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.[65] In the first four months of 2006 alone, there were no fewer than eight such storms.[66] In April 2002, one dust storm alone dumped nearly 50,000 tons of dust onto the city before moving on to Japan and Korea.[67]

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.[68]

Administrative divisions

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 Municipality comprises 16 administrative county-level subdivisions governed directly by the municipality (second-level divisions). Of these, 14 are districts and two are counties. On 1 July 2010, Congwen (崇文区) and Xuanwu Districts (宣武区) were merged into Dongcheng and Xicheng Districts respectively. The urban and suburban areas of the city are divided into six districts:[5]

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

The remaining two districts and the two counties located further out govern semi-rural and rural areas:[69]


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

  • Changping 昌平
  • Huairou 怀柔
  • Miyun 密云
  • Liangxiang 良乡
  • Liulimiao 琉璃庙
  • Tongzhou 通州
  • Yizhuang 亦庄
  • Tiantongyuan 天通苑
  • Beiyuan 北苑
  • Xiaotangshan 小汤山

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.

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.


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


Beijing's CBD with Jianwai SOHO, Park Hyatt, Yintai, CCTV Headquarters, Jingguang
Beijing Financial Street, the economic centre 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 amongst 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.[70] Beijing is home to 26 Fortune Global 500 companies, the third most in the world behind Tokyo and Paris,[71] and over 100 of the largest companies in China.[72]

Finance is one of the most important industries.[73] 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.[74]

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%.[75] 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%).[76]

The Beijing central business district (CBD), centred 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 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, information technology, and materials engineering.[77] Shijingshan, on the western outskirts of the city, is among the major industrial areas.[78] 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.[44] 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 centre of China, this is typically based on the numerous large corporations based there, rather than for being a centre for entrepreneurship.

Less legitimate enterprises also exist. Urban Beijing is known for being a centre 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.[79]

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.[80][81] Residents and tourists alike frequently complain about the water quality and the cost of the basic services such as electricity and natural gas.


Historical populations
Year Pop. ±%
1953 2,768,149
1964 7,568,495 +173.4%
1982 9,230,687 +22.0%
1990 10,819,407 +17.2%
2000 13,569,194 +25.4%
2010 19,612,368 +44.5%
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 total population in Beijing had reached 19.6 million.[2] 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.[6] Urban sprawl continues at a rapid pace.[82]

After Chongqing and Shanghai,[2] 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.[83]

Most of Beijing's residents belong to the Han Chinese majority. Ethnic minorities include the Manchu, Hui, and Mongol.[44] 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.[84] 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 been an influx of South Koreans, an estimated 200,000 in 2009,[85] predominantly for business and study. Many of them live in the Wangjing and Wudaokou areas.[86][87]

Ethnic groups in Beijing, 2000 census[88]
(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 (Jīngjù, 京剧), is a traditional form of Chinese theatre 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.[89]

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.[90] 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.[91]

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...
— National Geographic[92]
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;[93] 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,[94] and are popular tourist destinations with tremendous historical importance;[95] 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. 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,[96] 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,[97] 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 1100–1120, 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.[98][99] 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.[99]

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.[100] The archaeological Peking Man site at Zhoukoudian is another World Heritage Site within the municipality,[101] 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,[102] 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.[103] 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,[104] as entire city blocks of hutongs are replaced by high-rise buildings.[105] 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,[106] and these properties are often government owned.[107]


Television and radio

The China Central Television Headquarters building

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 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.


Beijing hosted the 2008 Summer Olympics and the 2008 Summer Paralympics. City officials relocated 350,000 people for the construction of the Beijing National Stadium,[108] which was completed on 28 June 2008.[109] 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 & High-speed rail

Beijing is one of the largest hubs in China's railway network. Eight 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) 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 which 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.[110]

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.
An air-conditioned articulated bus operating on Beijing Bus Rapid Transit Line 1

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.[111] 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.[112] By the end of 2010, the government forecast 5 million. In 2010, new car registrations in Beijing averaged 15,500 per week.[113]

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.[114]


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 centre. 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 centre 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 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,[115] is currently being built in Daxing District, and is expected to be open by 2017.[116]

Public transit

Line 5 platform at Dongdan station, with platform screen doors

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 fourteen 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.[117] 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 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.[118]

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 (0.6 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 and between 11 pm and 6 am 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.[119]


Beijing is home to a great number of colleges and universities, including several well-regarded universities of international stature, including Peking University and Tsinghua University (two of the National Key Universities).[4] 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:[120][121]

Partner cities

Beijing has two partner cities, both in Europe:

  • France Paris, France (1997)
  • Italy Rome, Italy (1998)

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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