Beijing (pronounced /beɪˈdʒɪŋ/, Chinese: 北京; pinyin: Běijīng, [peɪ˨˩ t͡ɕiŋ˥]), also known as Peking (pronounced /piːˈkɪŋ/ or /peɪˈkɪŋ/), is a metropolis in northern China, and the capital of the People's Republic of China. Governed as a municipality under direct administration of the central government, Beijing borders Hebei Province to the north, west, south, and for a small section in the east, and Tianjin Municipality to the southeast. Beijing is one of the Four Great Ancient Capitals of China. Beijing is divided into 14 urban and suburban districts and two rural counties. Beijing is a major transportation hub, with dozens of railways, roads and motorways passing through the city. It is also the destination of many international flights arriving in China. Beijing is recognized as the political, educational, and cultural center of the People's Republic of China, while Shanghai and Hong Kong predominate in economic fields. The city hosted the 2008 Olympic Games. Few cities in the world besides Beijing have served as the political and cultural centre of an area as immense as China for so long. The Encyclopædia Britannica describes it as "one of the world's great cities," and declares that the city has been an integral part of China’s history for centuries; there is scarcely a major building of any age in Beijing that doesn't have at least some national historical significance. Beijing is renowned for its opulent palaces, temples, and huge stone walls and gates. Its art treasures and universities have long made the city a centre of culture and art in China.
The earliest remnants of human habitation in the Beijing municipality are found in the caves of Dragon Bone Hill near the village of Zhoukoudian in Fangshan District, where the Peking Man lived. Homo erectus fossils from the caves date to 230,000 to 250,000 years ago. Paleolithic homo sapiens also lived there about 27,000 years ago. There were cities in the vicinities of Beijing by the 1st millennium BC, and the capital of the State of Yan, one of the powers of the Warring States Period (473-221 BC), Ji (薊/蓟), was established in present-day Beijing. After the fall of the Yan, the subsequent Qin, Han, and Jin dynasties set up local prefectures in the area. During the fall of the Han, it was the seat of the warlord Gongsun Zan. In Tang Dynasty it became the headquarters for Fanyang jiedushi, the virtual military governor of current northern Hebei area. The An Shi Rebellion was also launched from here in AD 755.
In 1368, Zhu Yuanzhang, soon after declaring himself the first emperor of the Ming Dynasty, sent an army toward Dadu, still held by the Yuan. The last Yuan emperor fled north to Shangdu, and Zhu razed the Yuan palaces in Dadu to the ground. The city was renamed Beiping (北平) in the same year, and Shuntian (順天) prefecture was established in the area around the city. In 1403, the new (and third) Ming emperor - the Yongle Emperor - renamed this city 'Beijing', and designated Beijing the co-capital alongside the (then) current capital of Nanjing. Beijing was the subject of a major construction project for a new Imperial residence, the Forbidden City that lasted nearly 15 years (1406 to 1420). When the palace was finished, the Yongle Emperor ceremoniously took up residence. From 1421 onwards, Beijing, also known as Jingshi (京师), was the "official" capital of the Ming Dynasty while Nanjing was demoted to the status of "secondary" capital. This system of dual capitals (with Beijing being vastly more important) continued for the duration of the Ming Dynasty. Thirteen of the sixteen Ming Emperors are buried in elaborate tombs near Beijing.
The Xinhai Revolution of 1911, aimed at replacing Qing rule with a republic, originally intended to establish its capital at Nanjing. After high-ranking Qing official Yuan Shikai forced the abdication of the Qing emperor in Beijing and ensured the success of the revolution, the revolutionaries in Nanjing accepted that Yuan should be the president of the new Republic of China and the capital remains at Beijing. Yuan gradually consolidated power and became by 1915 the new emperor of China, but died less than a year into his reign. China then fell under the control of regional warlords, and the most powerful factions fought frequent wars (the Zhili-Anhui War, the First Zhili-Fengtian War, and the Second Zhili-Fengtian War) to take control of the capital at Beijing. Following the success of the Kuomintang (KMT)'s Northern Expedition, which pacified the warlords of the north, Nanjing was officially made the capital of the Republic of China in 1928, and Beijing was renamed Beiping (Peip'ing) (北平) on 28 June that year, in English meaning "northern peace" or "north pacified". During the Second Sino-Japanese War, Beiping fell to Japan on 29 July 1937, and was made the seat of the Provisional Government of the Republic of China, a puppet state that ruled the ethnic Chinese portions of Japanese-occupied northern China; the government was later merged into the larger Wang Jingwei Government based in Nanjing.
On 31 January 1949, during the Chinese Civil War, Communist forces entered Beijing without opposition. On 1 October of the same year, the Communist Party of China, under the leadership of Mao Zedong, announced in Tiananmen the creation of the People's Republic of China and renamed the city back to Beijing. Just a few days earlier, the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference had decided that Beijing would be the capital of the new government. At the time of the founding of the People's Republic, Beijing Municipality consisted of just its urban area and immediate suburbs. The urban area was divided into many small districts inside what is now the 2nd Ring Road. The Beijing city wall was torn down to make way for the construction of the 2nd Ring Road, which was finished by 1981 in accord with the 1982 city plan. That road was the first of a series of new ring roads intended for Vehicles rather than for bicycles. Following the economic reforms of Deng Xiaoping, the urban area of Beijing has expanded greatly. Formerly within the confines of the 2nd Ring Road and the 3rd Ring Road, the urban area of Beijing is now pushing at the limits of the recently constructed 5th Ring Road and 6th Ring Road, with many areas that were formerly farmland now developed residential or commercial districts. According to a 2005 newspaper report, the size of the newly developed Beijing land was one and a half times larger than the land of old Beijing within the 2nd Ring Road. Wangfujing and Xidan have developed into flourishing shopping districts, while Zhongguancun has become a major centre of electronics in China. In recent years, the expansion of Beijing has also brought to the forefront some problems of urbanization, such as heavy traffic, poor air quality, the loss of historic neighbourhoods, and significant influx of migrants from various regions of the country, especially rural areas. On 13 July 2001, the International Olympic Committee selected Beijing as the host for the 2008 Summer Olympics.
Three styles of architecture predominate in urban Beijing. First, the traditional architecture of imperial China, perhaps best exemplified by the massive Tian'anmen (Gate of Heavenly Peace), which remains the People's Republic of China's trademark edifice, the Forbidden City, the Imperial Ancestral Temple and the Temple of Heaven. Next there is what is sometimes referred to as the "Sino-Sov" style, built between the 1950s and the 1970s, with structures tending to be boxy and sometimes poorly constructed. Finally, there are much more modern architectural forms — most noticeably in the area of the Beijing CBD and Beijing Financial Street. Beijing of the early 21st century has witnessed tremendous growth of new building constructions, showing various modern styles from international designers. A mixture of both old and new styles of architecture can be seen at the 798 Art Zone, which mixes 1950s design with a blend of the new.
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