Introduction of Beijing
City in NE China, the capital of the People’s Republic of China and its political and cultural center, as well as an important industrial and financial hub. While the region has been inhabited since prehistoric times, Beijing was the site of a number of cities with various names dating from 723 b.c. In the second century b.c. it was the capital of the Yen kingdom, and the Han dynasty (206 b.c.–a.d. 220) built a new town here. Under the Khitan Tatars, Beijing was an important city from the 10th to 12th centuries. Its greatest period, however, came after Kublai Khan, the Mongol conqueror, deposed the Song (Sung) dynasty and between 1260 and 1290 built a new city on the site, which he called Cambaluc. It was this city that the famous traveler from Venice, Marco Polo, reached in 1275. Beijing, under that name, was the capital of China from 1421 to 1911. It was captured in 1644 by the Manchus from Manchuria who established the Qing (Ch’ing), or Manchu, dynasty, the last in China.
In the 19th century European nations began to put pressure on China for trade and other concessions, and in 1860 this led to a battle between the Chinese and the British and French at Baliqiao (Pa-lich’iao), a village near Beijing. The Europeans won and received the right to station diplomats at Beijing’s imperial court. This and other signs of European arrogance resulted in the Boxer Rebellion, led by an antiforeign secret society, which in June 1900 besieged the foreign quarter of the city. The siege was lifted in August by an international military force that fought its way into the city. Beijing changed hand s several times during the civil wars that ensued after China became a republic in 1911. The Second Sino-Japanese War began at the Marco Polo Bridge, nine miles southwest of Beijing, on July 7, 1937, when a clash between troops of the two nations was used by the Japanese as an excuse to occupy the city. In January 1949 Beijing was taken by the Chinese communists, who made it their capital. In the late 1960s and early 1970s Beijing became the focus of the Cultural Revolution. In February 1972 the city hosted a Summit Meeting between U.S. president Richard Nixon and Mao Zedong and Premier Zhou Enlai, which resulted in a communique promising closer relations between the two countries.
Beijing consists of two districts that once were completely walled and had monumental gates. They are the Outer or Chinese City and the Inner or Tatar City. Within the Inner City is the Forbidden City where the emperor lived, the Imperial City with its government offices, and the legation quarter for foreign diplomats. The Forbidden City is now a museum. One of Beijing’s many interesting and spectacular sights is the Temple of Heaven, dating from the 15th century, with a white marble altar. Beijing has expand ed greatly. In the 1960s, the old city wall was demolished to allow the construction of the second ring road. The city has since expand ed out to third, fourth, fifth and now sixth ring roads. In 1989, prodemocracy protests in Tiananmen (Tienanmen) Square brought international attention to popular calls for reform in China. The 2008 Summer Olympic will be held in Beijing.