Beijing, capital and second largest city (after Shanghai) of China, situated north of Yellow River (Huang He or Hwang Ho) in the north eastern part of the country. The name means "The Northern Capital", as opposed to Nanjing ("The Southern Capital") which used to be the southern capital. The city itself has a population of about 6.6 million, but recent urbanization in China has led to a population of over 11 million people in the greater Beijing area. Over 96% of the population is of the Han ethnic group, but all of China's over 50 ethnic groups are represented in Beijing.  The greater Beijing area is its own administrative district, governed directly by the federal government, and it consists of ten districts and eight counties.

Several cities have been founded in the location of today's Beijing during the centuries, and it's been the capital for many of the Chinese dynasties at different times. The first written records of a city is from 350 B.C., but archeological discoveries show that people have lived in the area for hundreds of thousands years. Finally in 1272 the city became capital of a larger unified country under the Yuan dynasty who named it Dadu. This was soon after the first time that Europe had heard about the city, in form of the stories told by Marco Polo. He reported about its splendor and beauty under the rule of Kublai Kahn, who made it his winter residence in 1260. In the 1300:s, the Ming dynasty moved the capital to Nanjing, but they returned to Beijing in 1420, and they gave it the name "Beiping" and later "Beijing". When the Ming dynasty fell in 1644 and the Manchu dynasty/Qing dynasty took over, the city remained their capital under the name Beijing all the way up until 1912, when the Nationalist Party (Kuomintang) overthrew the over a thousand years old rule of the dynasties . They moved the capital to Nanjing in 1928, but Mao later returned it to Beijing in 1949

The older parts of the city consists of "the inner city" in the north, and "the outer city" in the south. They were both surrounded by high walls, and the inner city was like a fortress with a 23 km long and 11 meter high wall and nine magnificent gates. This was torn down in 1949 when Mao gained power and China became communist. The inner city were where the royal court lived, and it has many palaces and artificial lakes and parks. Within the inner city lies The Forbidden City, where the rulers themselves lived. For almost 500 years, 24 emperors ruled China from the Forbidden City. The whole Forbidden City is a palace (said to have 9999 rooms) surrounded by a moat and a wall. Here, the emperor lived with thousands of eunuchs as slaves, with his consort and concubines, in complete isolation from the people. Today, it is the biggest tourist attraction in Beijing, together with  the nearby Great Wall of China. Today, the actual center of the city lies around the Tiananmen square ("Heavenly Peace square"). 

Beijing has been the political and cultural center for thousands of years, and more recently it has also become an important financial and industrial district. Traditionally a city of arts and agriculture, heavy industries were brought to the city in the 1950's. The industries, the use of coal for energy and the sand from the Gobi desert has caused the city to have problems with pollution of both air and water. Until fairly recently, the only high buildings were the palaces but now skyscrapers are built in several places. Even though 6 millions bicyclists are out on the streets in rush hour, cars are getting more and more space and there are now four major ring roads circling the cities to handle the increasing traffic. There are many large universities in Beijing, the most important being Beijing university that was founded in 1898.

Reference: bonnier lexicon


Beijing is the name of the capital city of China. The first character, bei (北) means north and the second character, jing (京) means capital city. Beijing is how the Chinese term is written in hanyu pinyin, the official transliteration system used in China, Taiwan, and Singapore. Peking is the same Chinese word rendered in the romanization scheme of the Chinese Imperial Post Office. That romanization is fossilized in familiar terms such as 'Peking duck' (the food) and 'Peking man (the proto-human).

The correct pronunciation of the word Beijing in Hanyu (also referred to as the Mandarin language or putonghua) is 'bay' as in San Francisco Bay plus 'jing' as in Jingle Bells. This, of course, is ignoring the tones that are an essential part of the Chinese pronunciation. If you want to get it entirely right, pronounce the first part ('bay') with the third tone (low dipping-rising) and the second part ('jing') with the first tone (high level).

In the United States, one generally hears Beijing pronounced quite incorrectly with the 'j' of the 'jing' part sounding like the 's' in 'leisure' (i.e., /zh/), particularly by news announcers and others on TV, and by members of the government, who should really know better. It's not clear how this odd pronunciation came to be a de facto standard in US English (and apparently in other dialects as swell), as American English phonology provides perfect counterparts to the correct Chinese speech sounds (phones) and the 'j' represents exactly the sound we expect from an English 'j'.

Imperial Post Office Transliteration of Place Names

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