52m/170ft. Area: 16,807 sq km/6487 sq.miles
Population: 13,000,000 approx.
lies in the north-west of the North China plain, not far from the Western
slopes of the mountains of Yanshan, and about 150km/93 miles from the
Bohai Sea. A dense network of roads, railways and airways connects Beijing
with China's other major cities.
Beijing, an autonomous city with the status
of a province, is not only the political centre of the country, it also
plays an outstanding part in the nation's cultural, economic, scientific
and academic life. Many trading and industrial firms are situated here.
The most important educational and cultural institution include: nine
colleges for the various sciences, the Academica Sinica, several universities
(including the university of Peking founded in 1898; the University of
Qinghua founded in 1911, and the People's University founded in 1950),
technological universities, numerous colleges and institutes (in particular
the Central Institute for Nationalities and the Institute for Foreign
Languages), and research establishments, as well as museums and libraries
(including the Beijing University library with its ten million volumes
and 22,000 periodicals), also the planetarium and the zoological and botanical
The historic city center which dates from the
Ming dynasty (14th-17th c.) has largely preserved its original appearance.
Traces of the medieval city which was divided into two parts can still
be seen. It joined the four points of the compass and consisted of the
north city formerly known as the Tartar city which was laid out on a regular
rectangular pattern. This section was defended by a 20km/12 mile long
wall with nine gates (two in the east, three in the south, and two in
the west and north sides). The south city was surrounded by a 14km/9 mile
city wall with seven gates.
The two city walls were completely destroyed,
but two of the
old gates are preserved - the "Qian Men" behind Mao's Mausoleum and the
"Desheng Men" in the north of the forbidden city.
After 1949 a permanent change in the appearance
of the city took place. Owing to a redevelopment program the majority
of the city walls and numerous old houses were demolished. Wide streets,
various public buildings such as museums, sport centers, airports, etc.
emerged in their place and the underground, which runs under the line
of the former city wall, was built. Since the late 1970s an endless succession
of unimaginative, monotonous skyscrapers have been built as well as tenement
blocks to house the ever growing population, hotels, administrative buildings,
From the mid eighties the government has tried
to carry out the redevelopment of the old city more cautiously; this plan
also includes restoring cultural and historic relics. It is intended that
usage of space will be reduced and that the ecological problems will be
From the point of view of the tourist, Beijing
is China's most interesting city. Among the city's historical and cultural
monuments are the Imperial Palace, the Beihai park, the Coal Hill Park
and Heavenly Temple. On the city's outskirts there are many other sights,
including the Summer Palace, the Fragrant Mountain, the Great Wall, and
the Ming Tombs.