"The Capital of the Middle Kingdom" Beijing by maria_hz

Beijing Travel Guide: 6,603 reviews and 16,753 photos

Beijing = the Northern Capital

The geographical area today comprising the Beijing municipality has a varied history. It was settled as early as 500,000 years ago (Peking Man, remember?), and recorded history begins as early as the first millennium BC. The first millennium AD saw the Beijing area gaining importance and becoming a capital during the Mongol rule under the dynasty of Genghis Khan. The subsequent dynasties (Ming and Qing, the last dynasty on the throne) made it their central point of government as the capital of the ever growing Middle Kingdom.

China was very rich, and very advanced in ancient times, far beyond many other contemporary civilisations. As a result of this, there was an almost unbelievable accumulation of wealth in the country, and especially the capital and that resulted in beautiful buildings, in advanced engineering, in floursihing poetry, art and not to mention chinaware (yep, that's where the name comes from; ever heard of a "Ming Vase"...?).

After the fall of the Qing Dynasty in 1911, civil war broke out and for a time, Nanjing (Southern Capital) became the administrative centre, however, after the Communist victory in 1949, Beijing was made the capital again.

Beijing today

Today, Beijing is still what the name alludes to; the Northern Capital. It is the capital of the People's Republic of China, and home to about 15 million people. It is the administrative and government centre of the country, also in terms of culture and education. The financial hubs are Shanghai and Hong Kong, however. The city is currently undergoing a major face lift in preparation for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The Olympics has prompted improvements in the public transport, new sports facilities and a general makeover for areas of interest for tourists such as hotels, historical sites and shopping streets.

Thanks to it's illustrious history, Beijing is one of the most interesting destinations with historical sights and a wonderful heritage of cultural and architectural treasures that are impossible to value in money. For people interested in ancient cultures, architecture and history, this place is a must. For everyone else, it still offers awesome architecture, art and quite a few places to buy Beijing Olympics paraphernalia.

Disappearing Beijing?

Because of the revamping of the city, many people will be displaced from their traditional dwellings and ushered into modern housing. This type of areas will soon be gone, and replaced by modern-looking buildings. Also compared to Shanghai, Beijing has more of a authentic feel to it, as not so much has yet been mowed under new developments. Beijing does have a feel of "real China" that has almost disappeared from Shanghai in the wake of economic development.

So if you are going now, enjoy the sights of "old Beijing", and if you are going after 2008, go there to admire all the improvements that will have been achieved in about 5 years.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Lots to see and do
  • Cons:Lots of tourists everywhere you want to go
  • In a nutshell:Capital with a history and a future
  • Last visit to Beijing: Jul 2006
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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