Beijing (Běi jīng 北京) is one of the four ancient cities in China, together with Xi’an, Luoyang, and Nanjing. Thanks to being surrounded by mountains on the North, it is separated from the northern desert steppes and was chosen by Chinese emperors as the “Northern Capital”, a name adopted in 1403 during the Ming dynasty. With more than 21 million residents, Beijing is the second most populous city in China.
The 2008 Summer Olympic Games held in the National Stadium, also known as the “Bird’s Nest”, was a turning point. Since then, the city’s economy has been growing at an incredible pace, achieving a Nominal GDP of CN￥3.61 trillion in recent years. Despite modernity, Beijing has a long history of 3000 years, although it started acquiring importance only in 221 BC, when Emperor Qin first united China.
At the heart of the city lies the Forbidden City: a complex of palaces where 14 emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties resided between 1420 and 1912. The complex, made only of wood, counts more than 9,000. It is well known for its magnificent and typical Chinese style. Every detail incorporates philosophical and religious principles. For instance, the yellow roofs represent the Emperor, and the green tiles in the Crown Prince’s residences represent growth.
The Forbidden City is a recognized UNESCO World Heritage site, together with six other sites, such as the Temple of Heaven, the Summer Palace, and the Great Wall, all located in Beijing.
As for the Great Wall of China, with its 21,196.18 km, it helped protect the city and other areas of Northern China from invasions and to protect the Silk Road Trade. Being a potent cultural icon of unity, it too was linked to China in 221 BC. The construction started back in 770-21 BC, but most of it was built during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).
Beijing is known also for the peculiar Peking Opera. It is a traditional form of Chinese theatre that arose during the 18th century, combining music, singing, miming, dancing, and acrobatics with history. One of its most important features is the art of illusion and imagination, conveyed through body language to emphasize exaggeration and concentration. Actors are aided by elaborate and stylized costumes and makeup, while backgrounds and props are minimal.
Among the gastronomic specialties in Beijing, we remember the Peking Roast Duck. This dish was originally reserved only for the emperors’ table and is characterized by a thin and crisp skin.
Beijing is a fascinating and rapidly changing city. Old customs and habits hang on as modern skyscrapers go up every second. If you have the chance of visiting it, don’t miss out on the opportunity!
Credits to: Ge Ge Hu