The city is known as a cradle of humanity. As early as 700,000 years ago, Peking Man lived in Zhoukoudian area of this city. The UNESCO designated the Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian a World Heritage Site in 1987. It is a treasure house for human fossils, and also a research base for palaeoanthropology, prehistoric archaeology, palaeontology, stratigraphy, and petrology.
Western Zhou Dynasty (1100 – 771 BC)
Beijing is an ancient city and it's origins can be traced back more than 3,000 years ago. Its true significance came in the early years of the Western Zhou Dynasty, during which the emperor gave his feudal lords plots of land. One of these plots of land was the Yan Kingdom, with the “City of Ji” as its capital. The “City of Ji” marked the beginning of Beijing’s long history as a city.
770 - 221 BC
The Yan Kingdom expanded its empire and swallowed up much of the surrounding land. Historical records show that the City of Ji became a famous and wealthy city.
221 BC ...
After Emperor Qin Shihuang conquered his rivals and unified China in 221 BC, the City of Ji was chosen as the administrative centre of Guangyang Prefecture, one of the key prefectures in China’s first feudal empire. Beijing became a commercial centre connecting the North and the South during peacetime and a military centre during wars. In the ensuring centuries, there were numerous conflicts and changes. The city emerged as a frontier garrison, serving as a staging base for campaigns against the empire’s nomadic enemies to the north.
Liao Dynasty (AD 916 - 1125)
During the Liao Dynasty, the city became the alternate capital of the Liao Kingdom, which was founded by the Khitan people who lived in today’s northeastern China. Because Beijing was located south of the Liao homeland, it was renamed Nanjing (in Chinese “nan” means “south”).
Jin Dynasty (AD 1115 - 1234)
During the Jin Dynasty, the city was designated the capital, renamed Zhongdu (Middle Capital). This was a turning point because Beijing has been regarded as a national political and cultural center since then.
Yuan Dynasty (AD 1279 - 1368)
In the early 13th century, the Mongols led by Genghis Khan invaded the city. But it was left to Genghis’ grandson, Kublai Khan, to finally conquer all of China and establish the Yuan Dynasty. Beijing was chosen as the capital of the Yuan Dynasty and named Dadu (Great Capital), which was meticulously laid out with the same grid plan that characterizes Beijing’s central urban area today. Dadu enjoyed worldwide fame in the 13th century. Envoys and traders from Europe, Asia and Africa who paid visits to China were astounded by the splendor and magnificence of the city.
Ming Dynasty (AD 1368 - 1644)
After the fall of the Mongol Empire in 1368, the early Ming emperors ruled from Nanjing (today’s Jiangsu Province). The Ming troops conquered Dadu and renamed “Dadu” as “Beiping” (Northern Peace). The Ming Dynasty deprived Beijing of its capital status for half a century. After taking over the throne from his nephew in 1402, Zhu Di ordered the construction of a magnificent new palace in Beijing: an enormous maze of interlinking halls, gates, and courtyard homes, known as the Forbidden City. In 1421, Emperor Yongle relocated to what was now known as the Beijing (Northern Capital). The Ming Dynasty also contributed mightily to China's grandest public works project: the Great Wall. The Ming Great Wall linked or reinforced several existing walls, especially near the capital, and traversed seemingly impassable mountains. The majority of the most spectacular stretches of the wall that can be visited near Beijing were built during the Ming Dynasty. But wall building drained Ming coffers and, in the end, failed to prevent Manchu horsemen from taking the capital and the rest of China in 1644
Qing Dynasty (AD 1644 - 1911)
After a lengthy rule, the Ming Dynasty fell into decline. In 1644, a federation of Manchurian tribes from the north, after being given free passage through the Great Wall by a dissatified general, conquered the city and established the Qing Dynasty. This foreign dynasty, inherited the Ming palaces, built their own retreats (most notably, the "old" and "new" summer palaces), and perpetuated feudalism in China for another 267 years. In its decline, the Qing proved impotent to stop humiliating foreign encroachment.
It lost the first Opium War to Great Britain in 1842 and was forced surrender Hong Kong "in perpetuity" as a result. In 1860 a combined British and French force stormed Beijing and razed the Old Summer Palace.
Chairman Mao takes the reins
After the Qing crumbled in 1911, its successor, Sun Yat-sen's Nationalist Party, struggled to consolidate power. Beijing became a cauldron of social activism. On May 4, 1919, students marched on Tiananmen Square to protest humiliations in Versailles, where Allied commanders negotiating an end to World War I gave Germany's extra-territorial holdings in China to Japan. Patriotism intensified, and in 1937 Japanese imperial armies stormed across Beijing's Marco Polo Bridge to launch a brutal eight-year occupation. Civil war followed close on the heels of Tokyo's 1945 surrender and raged until the Communist victory.
Chairman Mao himself declared the founding of a new nation from the rostrum atop the Gate of Heavenly Peace on October 1, 1949. The People’s Republic of China was established and Beijing became the capital of new China.
Like Emperor Yongle, Mao built a capital that conformed to his own vision. Soviet-inspired structures rose up around Tiananmen Square. Beijing's historic city wall was demolished to make way for a ring road. Temples and churches were torn down, closed, or turned into factories during the brutal upheaval of the Cultural Revolution, which began in 1966 and lasted until Mao’s death, in 1976.
Beijing today, is mingled with tradition and modernism. While seeking for industrialization, the Government is also carrying out a conservation program to protect the traditional houses in the downtown area to partly maintain Beijing's original outlook. Beijing's 20 million residents enjoy a fascinating mix of old and new. Early morning tai chi enthusiasts, ballroom and disco dancers, old men with caged songbirds, and amateur Beijing opera singers frequent the city's many parks. Beijing's robust economy, now the second largest in the world, is boosted by the government’s continuing embrace of "a socialist market economy" and the massive influx of foreign investment.
1. Forbidden City
The Forbidden City was the imperial palace for Ming and Qing dynasties (1420 – 1911) for over 500 years. The complex comprises 980 buildings with 8707 rooms with an area of 180 acres. Listed as a UNESCO site in 1987. The Forbidden City epitomizes the traditional China palatial architecture, which has had great influences on the culture and architectural developments in East Asia. The original Hall of Super Harmony was built in 1406 and was destroyed seven times by fires during the Qing Dynasty and last re-built in 1695–1697.
2. Great Wall of China
If you are in a rush, you can get the most out of your visit to Beijing by hiking one of the sections of the Great Wall. The Great Wall snaking across Beijing in its northern part is about 600 kilometers long. Along the total length of the Great Wall around Beijing, there are major eight sections including Badaling, Juyongguan, Huanghuacheng, Jiankou, Mutianyu, Gubeikou, Jinshanling, and Simatai. Most of the sections of Great Wall in Beijing are well-preserved and mainly the remains from the Ming Dynasty, an era of huge construction. For the climbing of the Great Wall, strong footwear is needed! In summer, please prepare for sunblock, sunglasses and water.
3. Summer Palace
As the largest royal garden in China, Beijing's Summer Palace is actually a park like imperial retreat spread out over 10 square miles. The Summer Palace in northwest suburban Beijing is the largest and most complete imperial garden existing in China. Once a summer retreat for emperors, this 290-acre park is still a retreat for the tourists, who can relax here or walk around ancient pavilions, mansions, temples, bridges and huge lake.
Summer Palace mainly consists of Longevity Hill (Washoushan) and Kunming Lake. Much of it is covered by Kunming Lake. With masterly design and artistic architecture and integration the essence of Chinese garden arts, the Summer Palace has a title of "Imperial Garden Museum". It is an imperial garden most completely reserved with richest landscapes and concentrated buildings. The Summer Palace was added to the world cultural heritage list in 1998.
4. Temple of Heaven
Built 1420, Temple of Heaven was an Imperial Sacrificial Altar in Beijing during Ming and Qing dynasties. It was a complex of religious buildings where the emperors in Ming and Qing dynasties came for annual ceremonies.
The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest is an important landmark and symbol in Beijing. It is one of the three main buildings in the Temple of Heaven. It is a massive circular building, 36 meters in perimeter, 38 meters tall, built on three layers of marble stone base. It was the place the Emperor prayed for a good harvest. The building is a wooden structure without a single nail, a masterpiece of China architecture and was made a UNESCO site in 1998.
5. Tiananmen Square
This was the site when in 1949, from a rostrum on Tiananmen (the Gate of Heavenly Peace), Chairman Mao proclaimed the establishment of the People's Republic of China. Tiananmen Square is surrounded by Tiananmen (Gate of Heaven Peace) on its north; the Great Hall of the People on its west, the meeting place of national people's congress of the People's Republic of China; on the east of Tiananmen Square is the National Museum of China, and visiting the exhibition is like reading concise China General History; there is Monument to the People's Heroes and Chairman Mao's Mausoleum on the south.
At sunrise and sunset the raising and lowering ceremony of the Chinese National Flag is well worth the watching. The precision of the young troops is very well performed. Go there about 30 minutes early to have a good seat. Spend the time to see the people (soldiers, tourists and locals) makes the square a true highlight for the first time visitors.
Built in 1417, Tiananmen Tower was an important gate to enter the Forbidden City. Now it is a famous monument on the northern edge of Tiananmen Square in Beijing, a national symbol of China. A closer look at Tiananmen Tower A closer look at Tiananmen Tower The gate building is 66 meters long and 37 meters wide and 32 meters high with imperial roof decorations. It is accessible with an entrance fee 20 yuan for a panoramic view of Tiananmen Square. Two giant stone lions stand in front of the gate, supposed to protect against evil spirits in China culture. Two decorative stone columns known as Huabiao also stand in front of the tower building.
6. Bird's Nest
The Beijing National Stadium, also known as Bird’s Nest, is the legacy of the successful 2008 Summer Olympics and Paralympics, which has left a deep impression on people’s mind around the world. It is a stunning landmark building featuring the world’s largest steel structure with 26km of unwrapped steel used. innovative structure was designed by Herzog & De Meuron Architekten, Arup Sport and the China Architecture Design and Research Group, and has been nicknamed the “bird’s nest” due to the web of twisting steel sections that form the roof. It can house 91,000 visitors.
Usain Bolt of Jamaica broke the world record by winning both the 100 and 200 gold medals at the Beijing Olympics. A visit to the Beijing Olympic Green sitting at the north end of the Beijing city's axis is an eye-opener for your Beijing trip.
7. CCTV Headquaters
The new China Central Television ( CCTV ) is designed by Arup and constructed by Rem Koolhaas and Ole Scheeren of OMA. It's construction started in 2004 and was operational in 2008. The main building of CCTV Headquarters is a 44-story skyscraper 234 meters high located on East Third Ring Road in Beijing’s Central Business Center area. It is not a traditional building, but a loop of six horizontal and vertical sections. As a graceful and sturdy sculpture-style edifice, the planned new CCTV building doesn’t not only represent the new image of Beijing, but also express, in the language of architecture, the importance and the cultural nature of the TV industry.
8. Water Cube
Beijing National Aquatics Center, is the landmark building of Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, and now the National Aquatics Center has become the venue for various activities such as aquatic sports, swimming, fitness and recreation, is located inside the Beijing Olympic Green. Visitors will be charmed by the Water World.
Michael Phelps of America made history with 8 Gold Medals in Beijing!
Temple of Heaven
Peking duck is the local flavor of Beijing. Climbing the Great Wall, enjoying Beijing Opera and savoring Peking Duck are the three "musts" for those visiting Beijing for the first time, which you cannot miss. The traditional method of preparing Peking Duck has a history of over a hundred years and boasts a great reputation to this day. If you ask which is the best Peking duck house (restaurant) in Beijing, different people will offer you different answers. Actually it is quite a personal taste of which one is the best.
Qianmen Quanjude Roast Duck Restaurant:
32 Qianmen Dajie, Chongwen District
Open hours: 11am-1:30pm, 4:45pm-8pm
Beijing Opera is a number of stylized action, including singing, dancing, dialogue and acrobatic fighting to tell a story or present different characters and their feelings of happiness, anger, sorrow, surprise, fear and sadness.
In Peking opera there are four main types of roles: sheng (male), dan (young female), jing (painted face, male), and chou (clown, male or female). The characters may be loyal or treacherous, beautiful or ugly, good or bad, their images being vividly presented.