Beijing

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Beijing

Beijing (bā-jĬng) or Peking (pē-kĬng, pā–), city and independent municipality (2010 pop. 19,612,368), capital of the People's Republic of China. It is in central Hebei prov., but constitutes an independent unit (6,564 sq mi/17,000 sq km) administered directly by the national government. The second largest city in China (after Shanghai), Beijing is the political, cultural, and educational center of the country.

Economy and Transportation

Since the Communist victory in 1949, Beijing has become a great industrial area, the heart of a vast complex of textile mills, iron- and steelworks, railroad repair shops, machine shops, chemical plants, and factories manufacturing heavy machinery, electronic equipment, locomotives, plastics, synthetic fibers, and rolling stock. With the construction in the 1970s of a pipeline that links the city with the Daqing oil fields, Beijing has developed a sizable petrochemical industry. Service industries also grew. New industrial development declined in the 1970s and 80s, mainly due to concerns over further pollution. The city is a rail hub, receiving lines from all sections of the country and linked directly with Vietnam and, through both Mongolia and NE China, with Russia. Its airport, greatly expanded in 1999, links it to all major Chinese cities and numerous foreign countries.

Cultural and Educational Institutions

The city has an opera, a ballet, and the impressive national library. It is the seat of many learned societies, research organizations, and academies of fine arts, drama, dance, and music. The more than 25 institutions of higher learning include Beijing Univ., the People's Univ. of China, China Univ. of Science and Technology, Qinghua Univ., the Beijing Institute of Foreign Languages, two medical colleges, and many technical and scientific schools. The Beijing zoo is famous for its collection of pandas. The Workers' Stadium is the scene of the Pan-Chinese games, held every four years.

Points of Interest

Beijing in the main consists of two formerly walled districts, the Outer or Chinese City and the Inner or Tatar City. The 25 mi (40 km) of ramparts and monumental gates that once surrounded the cities have been razed and replaced by wide avenues to aid the traffic flow. Within the Tatar City is the Forbidden City (formerly the emperor's residence), the Imperial City (where his retinue was housed), and the Legation Quarter. The Imperial City is now the seat of the government.

On the southern edge of the Tatar City is Tiananmen Square, which contains the monument to the heroes of the revolution, the Great Hall of the People, and the vast National Museum of China. In June, 1989, the Square was the site of massive protests for democratic reform, which were violently suppressed by the military, resulting in thousands of deaths and many injuries. Near the Square is the National Center for the Performing Arts.

Beijing is known for its artificial lakes and for its parks and temples. It contains many of the greatest examples of architecture of the Ming and Ch'ing dynasties as well as remains from earlier times. The Temple of Heaven (15th cent.) is set in a large park and has a massive altar of white marble before which the emperors prayed at the summer solstice. In the temple of Confucius, built by Kublai Khan, are guarded incised boulders that date from the Chou dynasty. An ancient astronomical observatory, once used by Catholic missionaries, still functions. The Forbidden City, now a vast museum, contains the imperial palaces (two groups of three each) and smaller palaces, all replete with art treasures. To the northwest of the city's historic center is the imperial summer palace with its lovely parks, and to the north are the grounds of the 2008 Olympic Games, with the National Stadium (nicknamed Bird's Nest), National Aquatics Center (Water Cube), and other facilities.

In addition to the many tourist attractions in the city, the Great Wall and the gigantic Ming tombs are easily accessible. At nearby Zhoukoudian were discovered several fossil bones of so-called Peking man, now classified as Homo erectus remains.

History

Since 723 BC several cities, bearing various names, have existed at this site. The nucleus of the present city was Kublai Khan's capital, Cambuluc (constructed 1260–90). Under the name Beijing [Chin.,=northern capital] the city was the capital of China from 1421 until 1911. The gateway to Mongolia and Manchuria, it was often the prize of contending armies.

In 1860, Great Britain and France captured it after the battle of Baliqiao and forced the Chinese government to concede the Legation Quarter for foreign settlements. This cession was among the factors responsible for the Boxer Uprising (1900), in which the foreign colony was besieged until relieved by a combined expeditionary force of American, Japanese, and European troops. The foreign powers exacted a treaty that provided for the permanent garrisoning of foreign troops in Beijing.

The city changed hands repeatedly during the civil wars that followed the establishment of the Chinese Republic in 1911–12. From 1912 to 1927, Beijing, Guangzhou, and Hankou alternated as centers of government. In 1928, when the seat of government was transferred to Nanjing [Chin.,=southern capital], the name Beiping (Pei-p'ing) [Chin.,=northern peace] was adopted. Japan occupied the city after the famous Marco Polo Bridge incident in 1937 (see Sino-Japanese War, Second). The Japanese made the city the capital of a puppet state (Dec., 1937).

With the end of World War II and the abolition of the last foreign concessions (1946), the city was entirely restored to Chinese sovereignty. In Jan., 1949, it fell to the Communists, who later that year designated it the capital of the newly founded People's Republic of China and restored the name Beijing. Since 1949 Beijing has spread well beyond its two core cities, and newer buildings, hotels, and cultural centers are now common in the city and its suburbs. From the 1950s through the 1970s many of the inner city's beautiful and historical buildings and gates were destroyed as Mao decreed that large new government structures be built. A subway was completed in 1969 and since has been extended. More recently, the government has attempted to restore and preserve many of the country's important artistic and architectural works, many of which are in Beijing, but modern construction in the city also has increased since the 1990s, resulting in the loss of most of the traditional neighborhoods (hutongs, alleys lined with courtyard houses), that once dominated Beijing. Many of the city's outstanding new buildings have been designed by prominent Western architects, e.g., Sir Norman Foster, Herzog and de Meuron, Rem Koolhaas, I. M. Pei Associates, and Skidmore, Owings and Merrill. Beijing hosted the 2008 summer Olympics. The city has experienced enormous population growth in the early 21st cent., mainly as a result of the influx of Chinese from rural areas.

Bibliography

See R. MacFarquhar, The Forbidden City (1972); Zhou Shachen, Beijing—Old and New (1984); P. Fleming, The Siege at Peking (1986); W. Hung, Remaking Beijing: Tiananmen Square and the Creation of a Political Space (2005); M. Meyer, The Last Days of Old Beijing (2008); G. R. Barmé, The Forbidden City (2008); W. Jun, Beijing Record: A Physical and Political History of Planning Modern Beijing (2003, tr. 2011).

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