"Beijing - The Northern Capital" Beijing by Willettsworld

Beijing Travel Guide: 6,601 reviews and 16,752 photos

Few cities in the world besides Beijing have served as the political and cultural centre of an area as immense as China for so long. Described as "One of the world's great cities", Beijing has been an integral part of China?s history for centuries, there is scarcely a major building of any age that doesn't have at least some national historical significance. Beijing is renowned for its opulent palaces, temples, and huge stone walls and gates. Its art treasures and universities have long made the city a centre of culture and art in China.

The city, as we know it today, didn't really flourish until the Mongol's arrived under Kublai Khan in 1215. There had been earlier settlements in the area, with a settlement known as Zhongdu being founded during the Liao dynasty (915-1125). The Yuan dynasty (1271-1368) set up their capital, Dadu to the north of modern day central Beijing, in today?s Beihai Park area. However, this settlement was razed to the ground when the Ming dynasty took over in 1368. The city was then renamed to Beijing (northern capital) in 1403 by the Yongle Emperor who built the city to be the co-capital alongside the (then) current capital of Nanjing. Beijing was the subject of a major construction project for a new Imperial residence, the Forbidden City, that lasted nearly 15 years (1406 to 1420). When the palace was finished, the Yongle Emperor ceremoniously took up residence. From 1421 onwards, Beijing was the "official" capital of the Ming Dynasty while Nanjing was demoted to the status of "secondary" capital.

It is believed that Beijing was the largest city in the world from 1425 to 1650 and from 1710 to 1825. Other notable buildings constructed during the Ming period include the Temple of Heaven. The Tiananmen Gate, 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. The Qing dynasty established their capital here and built the Summer Palace to the northwest of the city centre.

For me, Beijing seems to have it all. Some great world famous cultural and heritage sites, great sporting facilities given as a legacy from the 2008 Olympic Games, great food such as Peking Duck; and some good entertainment options like the Beijing Opera and night clubs. I came here near the end of my China tour and loved exploring not only the major sites, but also the lesser well known ones. There is so much to see in the city and outside the city (such as the Great Wall of China and the Ming Tombs, 70-80km away), that you'll need a lot of time to see it all. I spent 8 days here, in two separate visits as I went to North Korea, South Korea and Mongolia before heading back to Beijing again in order to head west towards Xian.

  • Last visit to Beijing: Jul 2008
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (163)

Comments (2)

  • nepalgoods's Profile Photo
    Dec 26, 2010 at 3:02 AM

    Amazing page about my wonderful Beijing! I recommend this to all, who want to know a lot of Beijing. Thanks - Ulrike

  • konys1983's Profile Photo
    Apr 4, 2010 at 5:41 AM

    One seller offered to buy one stick with scorpions and he would it eat so I could take pics of him doing it. Ended up tasting the scorpion myself. Well... at least legs and a tail. And nobody told that scorpions are alive on stick before they fry them.


“"Don't listen to what they say. Go see." ~ Chinese proverb”

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