Sunday, February 24, 2008


Beijing (Peking), China

A corner tower of the Forbidden City, located at the middle of BeijingA corner tower of the Forbidden City, located at the middle of Beijing

Capital for ever

Beijing in Chinese means Northern Capital and it has been the capital from as early as 1st millennium BC. When the Warring States were prevalent in the region Beijing was the capital of one of them. Warring States are areas controlled by local chieftains who at times obeyed the king and at times paused as king but always fought each other.

The present Beijing is a sprawling metropolis, second largest in China after Shanghai and is the seat of political, educational and cultural activities of China -the most populous nation in the world. Beijing is a municipality of the People’s Republic of China where a municipality stands for a province or a state. The municipality of Beijing has been further subdivided in to 18 subdivisions by name counties for the convenience of administration.

A city of numerous names!

Beijing was formerly known as Peking, there isn’t anything uncommon for Beijing to be known in different names rather it has been the norm for this city since long. In its long history as the capital of various dynasties; it had been known in numerous names like Zhangdu during Jin Dynasty, Dadu during Yuan, Khanbaliq during Mongol period, there are several other names like Cambuluc, Shuntian etc. Yanjing was yet another name in which the city was known; the Yanjing now prevails as the name of a local brand of beer! All these names may make Beijing eligible for an entry in to the Guinness Book of World Records as a city known in most names!


Beijing is the no. 2 metropolis in the People’s Republic of China in size where as Shanghai and Hong Kong are more prominent in commerce and business. The metropolis of Beijing is capital to the Municipality by name Beijing. The Beijing Municipality has an area of 16,801 sq km (29th) is one of the largest in the world, its population is 17 million (26th) of which about 8.5 million are urban; the density of population is 1037 per sq km. It is also a point where the road and railways to all directions meet giving it a strategic importance.

The rapid growth

beijing chinaBeijing's Taimiao

When it was initially constituted the Beijing Municipality consisted only of the urban and immediate surroundings coming within the Second Ring Road. Later several counties were added to it and Beijing reached in its present size; for this the ancient Beijing City Wall had to be demolished.

The economic reforms introduced by Deng Xiaoping has made the Chinese economy boom and the rural areas surrounding Beijing saw an influx of population necessitating construction of a third ring-road and another the 4th followed by the 5th ring-road. All these were inadequate to provide facilities to the booming population of the ever growing city. At present the government is constructing a 6th ring road; that is the pace of growth of this nation known as the Asian Dragon!

Getting spruced up

The ruling Communist regime is particular to see that this city remain as a show case example of the modern resurgent China; hence slums and other unpleasant objects got cleansed from the city limits; giving Beijing a fresh and modern look. Beijing as it is getting braced for the 2008 Olympics has much to offer for a tourist; its latest constructions are capable to marvel the most modern ones seen anywhere else in the world. The numerous historical locations lying scattered in the city is far more ancient and reveal the rich history the city has to offer.

The Forbidden City (Zijincheng)

It is one of the magnificent spectacles Beijing has to offer; it had served as residence for the Mid Ming Dynasty to the end of Qing Dynasty; almost 500 years. This gigantic palace was built in 1406 and it has 980 surviving buildings; it is a UNESCO recognized World Heritage Site. Total built up area of this palace is 720,000 sq meters and it has 8707 rooms!

The Temple of Heaven (Tiantan)

beijing china

The Temple of Heaven, a symbol of Beijing

The Tiantan is the Imperial Sacrificial Altar of the Taoist Sect located in the southeast urban Beijing. This was built in 1406 and is one of the most outstanding structures that stand tall as fresh as the time of its make. This temple was visited by the Ming and Qing Dynasties offering prayers for good harvest.

The Great Bell Temple

It is located in Haidian District Beijing; built in 1733 by the Qin Dynasty; it was the place for the emperor and his family to pray. Its initial name was Jueshong Si; when the bell was later brought in the temple got the name –The Great Bell Temple. The bell is 46.5 tons in weight and it is 6.94 meters in height; inscription chanting Buddhist prayers are visible on the bell.


beijing china

The Pagoda of Tianning Temple in Guang'anmen of Beijing, built in 1120 during the Liao Dynasty.

Means Garden of Perfection or Garden of Brightness; it was built in 1723 by the Qin Dynasty; located in the north western outskirts of Beijing. The construction was so elaborate that it took about 150 years to complete. It had three rows palaces on its southern part.

Fire Pagoda Temple

Located in Zhangye Gansu Province it is a wooden nine storied structure with 32.8 meter height. This wooden pagoda was built in 557 AD by Northern Zhou Dynasty; renovated several times at present well preserved.

Niujie Mosque

beijing china Wangfujing Cathedral

The oldest and the largest mosque in Beijing located in the Xuanwu District Beijing; it is the spiritual center of the thousands of Muslims of Beijing. It was built in 996 during the Liao Dynasty and reconstructed during 1622 – 1722.

For a tourist there are several locations other than what was mentioned above some of them may be mentioned below; Bell and Drum Towers, Beihai Park, Temple of Recumbent Buddha, Summa Palace, The Ancient Observatory, White Dragobe Temple, Summer Palace, Temple of Azure Clouds etc. The Great Wall of China one of the most acclaimed World Wonder is also nearby.

Unit 731

An article on Beijing is not complete without mentioning ‘Unit 731’ or ‘Nana san ichi butai’. When Japanese army took control of Beijing (during 1937 -45); they established this research lab-in the disguise of a water purification plant. In this lab they conducted research for developing biological weapons and weapons for mass destruction. It was live human beings on which they did experimentation. The victims included Chinese, Russians, Koreans and Mongols. The death toll of the researches were more than 10,000 human lives, while the biological weapons for mass destruction experiments they conducted took away more than 200,000 Chinese lives!

Tiananmen Square

It was in Tiananmen Square in October 31, 1949 Chairman Mao Zedong announced the creation of the People’s Republic of China; later all important events of that nation was held in that square; which is also famous as the largest square in the world.

It all started in 15th April, 1989 when laborers, students and intellectuals of China assembled in Tiananmen Square to voice their protests against various issues, students wanted parliamentary system introduced, while laborers wanted better wages and working conditions; where as intellectuals wanted freedom of speech and human rights.

They had no common leader, no common agenda; all hated the ‘rotten government’ and wanted it to go! The Chinese government was not used to democratic protests and their reaction was as military as they themselves were!

Few would have forgotten that lone young man who was standing bravely facing the army of battle tanks that rumbled to the square; we can only presume what happened to him. It was the same fate that was faced by thousands of protestors assembled there.

When to pay a visit

Summer is the peak tourist season in Beijing for a scrupulous visitor this season is better avoided as hotel charges are sky-high, and the crowds, dust and pollution make everything a mess. Tiangao Qishuang (literally mean high sky and fresh air); the autumn is ideal for visitors when there will less crowd and hotel rates will be reasonable. The winter is good if ready to withstand the freezing cold; substantial discounts at the hotels and extreme privacy.

This year’s winter was a bit extreme as whole China froze and the visitors also would have plunged in to the frozen Chinese soup! What about next year’s winter? If prepared to take risk book for next years winter and go on praying “god please save this miser and make next Chinese winter bearable”!

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