Beijing (pronounced /beɪˈdʒɪŋ/ or /beɪˈʒɪŋ/), 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 China's second largest city after Shanghai, with more than 17 million people in Beijing's area of jurisdiction. The city is divided into 16 urban and suburban districts and two rural counties; the city's urban area has about 13 million residents. 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.
"Beijing" means "northern capital", in line with the common East Asian tradition whereby capital cities are explicitly named as such. Other cities that are similarly named include Nanjing, China, meaning "southern capital"; Tokyo, Japan, and Đông Kinh, now Hanoi, Vietnam, both meaning "eastern capital"; as well as Kyoto, Japan, and Gyeongseong (京城; now Seoul), Korea, both meaning simply "capital".
Peking is the name of the city according to Chinese Postal Map Romanization, and the traditional customary name for Beijing in English. The term Peking originated with French missionaries four hundred years ago and corresponds to an older pronunciation predating a subsequent sound change in Mandarin from [kʲ] to [tɕ] ([tɕ] is represented in pinyin as j, as in Beijing). It is still used in many languages. However in recent decades popular use has moved away from using the Peking variant and most Western maps now show Beijing.
The pronunciation "Peking" is also closer to the Fujianese dialect of Amoy or Min Nan spoken in the city of Xiamen, a port where European traders first landed in the 16th century, while "Beijing" more closely approximates the Mandarin dialect's pronunciation.
The city has been renamed several times. During the Jin Dynasty, the city was known as Zhongdu (中都) , and then later under the Mongol Yuan Dynasty as Dadu (大都) in Chinese and Daidu to Mongols (also recorded as Cambuluc by Marco Polo). Twice in the city's history, the name was changed from Beijing (Peking) to Beiping (Peiping) (北平 Pinyin: Beiping; Wade-Giles: Pei-p'ing), literally "Northern Peace". This occurred first under the Hongwu Emperor of the Ming Dynasty, and again in 1928 with the Kuomintang (KMT) government of the Republic of China. On each occasion, the name change removed the element meaning "capital" (jing or king, Chinese: 京) to reflect the fact the national capital had changed to Nanjing. The city's name was also twice changed from Beiping (Peiping) to Beijing (Peking). This occurred first under the Yongle Emperor of the Ming Dynasty, who moved the capital from Nanjing back to Beijing, and again in 1949, when the Communist Party of China restored Beijing as China's capital after the founding of the People's Republic of China.
Yanjing (燕京; Pinyin: Yānjīng; Wade-Giles: Yen-ching) is and has been another popular informal name for Beijing, a reference to the ancient State of Yan that existed here during the Zhou Dynasty. This name is reflected in the locally brewed Yanjing Beer as well as Yenching University, an institution of higher learning that was merged into Peking University.
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 936, the Later Jin Dynasty (936-947) of northern China ceded a large part of its northern frontier, including modern Beijing, to the Khitan Liao Dynasty. In 938, the Liao Dynasty set up a secondary capital in what is now Beijing, and called it Nanjing (the "Southern Capital"). In 1125, the Jurchen Jin Dynasty conquered Liao, and in 1153 moved its capital to Liao's Nanjing, calling it Zhongdu (中都), the "central capital." Zhongdu was situated in what is now the area centered around Tianningsi, slightly to the southwest of central Beijing. Some of the oldest existing relics in Beijing, such as the Tianning Temple, date to the Liao.
Mongol forces burned Zhongdu to the ground in 1215 in what is now known as the Battle of Beijing. Later in 1264, in preparation for the conquest of all of China to establish the Yuan Dynasty, Kublai Khan decided to rebuild it slightly north to the center of the Jin capital, and in 1272, he made this city his capital as Dadu (大都, Chinese for "great capital"), or Daidu to the Mongols, otherwise spelled as Cambaluc or Cambuluc in Marco Polo's accounts. Construction of Dadu finished in 1293. The decision of Kublai Khan greatly enhanced the status of a city that had been situated on the northern fringe of China proper. The center of Dadu was situated slightly north of modern central Beijing. It centered on what is now the northern stretch of the 2nd Ring Road, and stretched northwards to between the 3rd and 4th Ring Roads. There are remnants of the Yuan-era wall still standing, and they are known as the Tucheng (土城 literally, the 'earth wall').
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.
By the 15th century, Beijing had essentially taken its current shape, and the Ming-era city wall served as the Beijing city wall until modern times, when it was pulled down and the 2nd Ring Road was built in its place. It is believed that Beijing was the largest city in the world from 1425 to 1650 and from 1710 to 1825. Other notable buildings constructed during the Ming period include the Temple of Heaven (built by 1420). Tiananmen, now a state symbol of the People's Republic of China and featured on its emblem, was first built in 1420, and rebuilt several times later. Tiananmen Square was built in 1651 and enlarged in 1958. Jesuits finished building the first Beijing-area Roman Catholic church in 1652 at the Xuanwu Gate, where Italian Jesuit Matteo Ricci (1552–1610) had lived; the modern Nantang (南堂, Southern Cathedral) has been built over the original cathedral.
The end of the Ming came in 1644 when, for 40 days, Li Zicheng's peasant army captured Beijing and overthrew the Ming government. When the powerful Manchu army arrived at the outskirts of the city, Li and his followers abandoned the city and as a result the Manchu forces, under Prince Dorgon, captured Beijing without a fight.
Prince Dorgon established the Qing Dynasty as a direct successor to the Ming, and Beijing remained China's capital. The Qing Emperors made some modifications to the Imperial residence, but in large part, the Ming buildings and the general layout remained unchanged. Beijing at this time was also known as Jingshi, which corresponded to the Manchu Gemun Hecen with the same meaning. The classic Chinese novel Dream of the Red Chamber is set in Beijing during the early years of Qing rule (the end of the 1600s).
At the end of Qing period, Beijing was the scene of the siege of the foreign legations during the Boxer Rebellion in 1900. Some important Imperial structures in the city were destroyed during the fighting, including the Hanlin Academy and Summer Palace.
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 a fight. 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.
Beijing is situated at the northern tip of the roughly triangular North China Plain, which opens to the south and east of the city. Mountains to the north, northwest and west shield the city and northern China's agricultural heartland from the encroaching desert steppes. The northwestern part of the municipality, especially Yanqing County and Huairou District, are dominated by the Jundu Mountains, while the western part of the municipality is framed by the Xishan Mountains. The Great Wall of China, which stretches across the northern part of Beijing Municipality, made use of this rugged topography to defend against nomadic incursions from the steppes. Mount Dongling in the Xishan ranges and on the border with Hebei is the municipality's highest point, with an altitude of 2303 m. Major rivers flowing through the municipality include the Yongding River and the Chaobai River, part of the Hai River system, and flow in a southerly direction. Beijing is also the northern terminus of the Grand Canal of China which was built across the North China Plain to Hangzhou. Miyun Reservoir, built on the upper reaches of the Chaobai River, is Beijing's largest reservoir, and crucial to its water supply.
The urban area of Beijing is situated in the south-central part of the municipality and occupies a small but expanding part of the municipality's area. It spreads out in bands of concentric ring roads, of which the fifth and outermost, the Sixth Ring Road (the numbering starts at 2), passes through several satellite towns. Tian'anmen (Gate of Heavenly Peace) and Tian'anmen Square are at the centre of Beijing, and are directly to the south of the Forbidden City, former residence of the emperors of China. To the west of Tian'anmen is Zhongnanhai, residence of the paramount leaders of the People's Republic of China. Running through central Beijing from east to west is Chang'an Avenue, one of Beijing's main thoroughfares.
The city's climate is a monsoon-influenced humid continental climate (Koppen climate classification Dwa), characterised by hot, humid summers due to the East Asian monsoon, and generally cold, windy, dry winters that reflect the influence of the vast Siberian anticyclone. Average daytime high temperatures in January are at around 1 °C (33°F), while average temperatures in July are around 30 °C (86 °F). The highest temperature ever recorded was 42 °C and the lowest recorded was -27 °C. In 2005, the total precipitation was 410.77 mm; the majority of it occurred in the summer.
|Average high °C (°F)||1.6
|Daily mean °C (°F)||-3.9
|Average low °C (°F)||-9.4
|Precipitation mm (inches)||2.6
|Source:  2009-07-09|
Joint research between United States and Chinese researchers in 2006 concluded that a lot of the city's pollution comes from surrounding cities and provinces. According to the research, 34% of PM2.5 and on average 35-60% of ozone can be traced to sources outside the city. Shandong Province and Tianjin Municipality have a "significant influence on Beijing's air quality."
In preparation for the 2008 Summer Olympics and after promising to cleanup the city's air, nearly US$17 billion was spent to clean the air, and Beijing had implemented a number of air improvement schemes for the duration of the games. This included stopping work on all construction sites, closing many factories both in and around Beijing, closing some gas stations, and cutting motor traffic by half. Two new subway lines were opened and thousands of old taxis and buses were replaced to encourage residents to use public transport. The Beijing government encouraged a discussion to keep the odd-even scheme in place after the Olympics, and although the scheme was eventually lifted on 21 September 2008, it was replaced by new restrictions on government vehicles and a new restriction making car owners use public transport once a week based on their license plate, coming into force in October. In addition to the vehicle restrictions, staggered office hours and retail opening times have been encouraged to avoid the rush hour, parking fees increased, and 357,000 "yellow label" vehicles — those that have too high emission levels — will be banned in Beijing altogether from January. The government also regularly utilizes cloud-seeding measures to increase the likelihood of rain showers in the region to clear the air prior to large events as well as to combat drought conditions in the area.
According to the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP), China has spent 17 billion over the last three years on a large-scale green drive. Beijing has added 3,800 natural gas buses, the largest fleet in the world. 20% of the Olympic venues' electricity comes from renewable energy sources. The city has also planted hundreds of thousands of trees and increased green space in an effort to make the city more livable.
One year after the 2008 Olympics, Beijing's officials report that the city is enjoying the best air quality this decade because of the measures taken during the Olympic Games. Independent experts agree that the air quality in the Chinese capital has improved one year later and Beijing's air will only get better, but Beijing still faces pollution problems and the city still has some way to go before it can be compared with the world's cleanest cities.
Dust from erosion of deserts in northern and northwestern China results in seasonal dust storms that plague the city; the Beijing Weather Modification Office sometimes artificially induces rainfall to fight such storms and mitigate their effects. In the first four months of 2006 alone, there were no fewer than eight such storms. In April 2002, one dust storm alone dumped nearly 50,000 tons of dust onto the city before moving on to Japan and Korea.
Major neighbourhoods in urban Beijing include the following. Neighbourhoods may overlap across multiple districts (see below):
Beijing Municipality comprises 18 administrative sub-divisions, county-level units governed directly by the municipality (second-level divisions). Of these, 16 are districts and 2 are counties. The urban and suburban areas of the city are divided into eight (8) districts:
The following six districts encompass the more distant suburbs and satellite towns, constituting part of the metropolitan area:
The other two districts and the two counties located further out govern semirural and rural areas:
Several place names in Beijing end with mén (门), meaning "gate", as they were the locations of gates in the former Beijing city wall. Other place names end in cūn (村), meaning "village", as they were originally villages outside the city wall.
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, bland, and poorly made. 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.
Municipal government is regulated by the local Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in issuing administrative orders, collecting taxes, and operating the economy. The local party authority is headed by the Beijing CPC Secretary (北京市委书记). The local CCP also directs a standing committee of the Municipal People's Congress in making policy decisions and overseeing local government. Local government figures include a mayor, vice-mayor, and numerous bureaus focusing on law, public security, and other affairs. Additionally, as the capital of China, Beijing houses all the important national governmental and political institutions, including the National People's Congress.
Beijing is amongst the most developed cities in China with tertiary industry accounting for 73.2% of its GDP; it was the first post industrial city in mainland China. Finance is one of the most important industries of Beijing. By the end of 2007, there were 751 financial organizations in Beijing that generated 128.6 billion RMB revenue accounting for 11.6% of the total financial industry revenue of the entire country. It is also accounts for 13.8% of Beijing's GDP, the highest percentage of that of all Chinese cities. Beijing is home to 26 Fortune Global 500 companies, the third most in the world behind Tokyo and Paris.
In 2009, Beijing's nominal GDP was 1.19 trillion RMB (US$174 billion ), a year-on-year growth of 10.1% from the previous year. Its GDP per capita was 68,788 RMB (US$10,070), an increase of 6.2% from the previous year. In 2009, Beijing's primary, secondary, and tertiary industries were worth 11.83 billion RMB, 274.31 billion RMB, and 900.45 billion RMB. Urban disposable income per capita was 26,738 yuan, a real increase of 8.1% from the previous year. Per capita pure income of rural residents was 11,986 RMB, a real increase of 11.5%. Per capita disposable income of the 20% low-income residents increased 16.7%, 11.4 percentage points higher than the growth rate of the 20% high-income residents. The Engel's coefficient of Beijing's urban residents reached 31.8% in 2005 and that of the rural residents was 32.8%, declining 4.5 percentage points and 3.9 percentage points, respectively, compared with 2000.
Beijing's real estate and automobile sectors have continued to boom in recent years. In 2005, a total of 28.032 million square metres of housing real estate was sold, for a total of 175.88 billion RMB. The total number of cars registered in Beijing in 2004 was 2,146,000, of which 1,540,000 were privately owned (a year-on-year increase of 18.7%).
The Beijing CBD, centred at the Guomao area, has been identified as the city's new central business district, and is home to a variety of corporate regional headquarters, shopping precincts, and high-end housing. The Beijing Financial Street, in the Fuxingmen and Fuchengmen area, is a traditional financial centre. The Wangfujing and Xidan areas are major shopping districts. Zhongguancun, dubbed "China's Silicon Valley", continues to be a major centre in electronics and computer-related industries, as well as pharmaceuticals-related research. Meanwhile, Yizhuang, located to the southeast of the urban area, is becoming a new centre in pharmaceuticals, IT, and materials engineering. Urban Beijing is also known for being a centre of pirated goods and anything from the latest designer clothing to the latest DVDs can be found in markets all over the city, often marketed to expatriates and international visitors.
Major industrial areas include Shijingshan, located on the western outskirts of the city. Agriculture is carried out outside the urban area of Beijing, with wheat and maize (corn) being the main crops. Vegetables are also grown in the regions closer to the urban area in order to supply the city.
Beijing is increasingly becoming known for its innovative entrepreneurs and high-growth start-ups. This culture is backed by a large community of both Chinese and foreign venture capital firms, such as Sequoia Capital, whose head office in China resides in Chaoyang, Beijing. Though Shanghai is seen as the economic centre of China, this is typically based on the numerous large corporations based there, rather than as a centre for Chinese entrepreneurship.
The development of Beijing continues to proceed at a rapid pace, and the vast expansion of Beijing has created a multitude of problems for the city. Beijing is known for its smog as well as the frequent "power-saving" programmes instituted by the government. Citizens of Beijing as well as tourists frequently complain about the quality of the water supply and the cost of the basic services such as electricity and natural gas. To reduce air pollution, a number of major industries have been ordered to reduce emissions or leave the city. Beijing Capital Steel, once one of the city's largest employers and its single biggest polluter, has been moving most of its operations to Tangshan.
Specially designated industrial parks in Beijing include: Zhongguancun Science Park, Yongle Economic Development Zone, Beijing Economic-technological Development Area, and Tianzhu Airport Industrial Zone.
The population of Beijing Municipality, defined as the total number of people who reside in Beijing for 6 months or more per year, was 17.4 million at the end of 2007. There were 12.04 million people in Beijing Municipality who had Beijing hukou (permanent residence), and the remainder were on temporary residence permits. In 2006, a study by the Beijing Statistics Bureau estimated the total of all people living in Beijing (permanent, temporary, unregistered and others) to be "close to 20 million." Recent statistics cited by China Daily put the number of migrant workers in the service and construction industries in Beijing at "more than 5.1 million." In addition, there is a large number of migrant workers (min gong) who live illegally in Beijing without any official residence permit (or unregistered people).
The population of Beijing's urban core (city proper) is over 13 million. After Chongqing and Shanghai, Beijing is the third largest of the four municipalities of the PRC, which are equivalent to provinces in China's administrative structure.
Most of Beijing's residents belong to the Han Chinese majority. Other ethnic minorities include the Manchu, Hui, and Mongol. A Tibetan-language high school exists for youth of Tibetan ancestry, nearly all of whom have come to Beijing from Tibet expressly for their studies. A sizable international community exists in Beijing, many attracted by the highly growing foreign business and trade sector, others by the traditional and modern culture of the city. Much of this international community lives in the areas around the Beijing CBD, Sanlitun, and Wudaokou. In recent years there has also been an influx of South Koreans (estimate 200,000 in 2009) who live in Beijing predominantly for business and study purpose. Many of them live in the Wangjing and Wudaokou areas.
|Ethnic groups in Beijing, 2000 census|
People native to urban Beijing speak the Beijing dialect, which belongs to the Mandarin subdivision of spoken Chinese. Beijing dialect is the basis for Standard Mandarin, the language used in mainland China, Taiwan, and Singapore. Rural areas of Beijing Municipality have their own dialects akin to those of Hebei province, which surrounds Beijing Municipality.
Beijing opera, or Peking opera (Jingju 京剧), is well-known throughout the national capital. Commonly lauded as one of the highest achievements of Chinese culture, Beijing opera is performed through a combination of song, spoken dialogue, and codified action sequences, such as gestures, movement, fighting and acrobatics. Much of Beijing opera is carried out in an archaic stage dialect quite different from modern Standard Mandarin and from the Beijing dialect.
Siheyuans line hutongs (胡同), or alleys, which connect the interior of Beijing's old city. They are usually straight and run east to west so that doorways can face north and south for Feng Shui reasons. They vary in width — some are very narrow, enough for only a few pedestrians to pass through at a time.
Once ubiquitous in Beijing, siheyuans and hutongs are now rapidly disappearing, as entire city blocks of hutongs are leveled and replaced with high-rise buildings. Residents of the hutongs are entitled to live in the new buildings, in apartments of at least the same size as their former residences. Many complain, however, that the traditional sense of community and street life of the hutongs cannot be replaced. Residents, however, have limited control over their own property, as the government usually owns it. Some particularly historic or picturesque neighbourhoods of hutongs are being preserved and restored by the government, especially for the 2008 Olympics.
Mandarin cuisine is the local style of cooking in Beijing. Peking Duck is perhaps the most well-known dish. The Manhan Quanxi ("Manchu-Han Chinese full banquet") is a rare traditional banquet originally intended for the ethnic-Manchu emperors of the Qing Dynasty; it remains very prestigious and expensive. The Fuling Jiabing is a traditional Beijing snack food, a pancake (bing) resembling a flat disk with filling, made from fu ling (Poria cocos (Schw.) Wolf, or "tuckahoe"), an ingredient common in traditional Chinese medicine. Teahouses are also common in Beijing. Chinese tea comes in many varieties and some rather expensive types of Chinese tea are said to cure an ailing body extraordinarily well.
The cloisonné (or Jingtailan, literally "Blue of Jingtai") metalworking technique and tradition is a specialty of Beijing's cultural art, and is one of the most revered traditional crafts in China. Cloisonné making requires elaborate and complicated processes which includes: base-hammering, copper-strip inlay, soldering, enamel-filling, enamel-firing, surface polishing and gilding. Beijing's lacquerware is also well known for its sophisticated and intrinsic patterns and images carved into its surface, and the various decoration techniques of lacquer includes "carved lacquer" and "engraved gold".
Younger residents of Beijing have become more attracted to the nightlife, which has flourished in recent decade, breaking prior cultural traditions that practically restricted it to the upper class.
|“||...the city remains an epicenter of tradition with the treasures of nearly 2,000 years as the imperial capital still on view—in the famed Forbidden City and in the city's lush pavilions and gardens...||”|
At the heart of Beijing's historical centre lies the Forbidden City, the enormous palace compound that was the home of the emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties; the Forbidden City also hosts the Palace Museum, which contains imperial collections of Chinese art. Surrounding the Forbidden City are several former imperial gardens, parks and scenic areas, notably the Beihai, Shichahai, Zhongnanhai, Jingshan and Zhongshan. These places, like the Beihai Park are described to be masterpieces of Chinese gardening art, and are popular tourist destinations with tremendous historical importance; Zhongnanhai during the modern era has also been the political heart of various Chinese governments and regimes and is now the headquarters of the Communist Party of China. From Tiananmen Square, which is located right across the Forbidden City, there are several notable sites, such as the Tiananmen, Qianmen, the Great Hall of the People, National Museum of China, Monument to the People's Heroes, and Mausoleum of Mao Zedong. The Summer Palace and the Old Summer Palace both lie at the western part of the urban city of Beijing; the Summer Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, displays a comprehensive collection of imperial gardens and palaces that functioned as the summer retreat for the Qing Dynasty emperors.
Among the best known religious sites in the city is the Temple of Heaven (Tiantan), located in southeastern Beijing, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties made visits for annual ceremonies of prayer to Heaven for good harvest; located in the opposite direction of the Temple of Heaven at the northern part of the city are the Temple of Earth (Ditan), and the Temple of the Sun (Ritan) and Temple of the Moon (Yuetan), both respectively located in the eastern and western parts of the urban area. Other well-known temple sites located in Beijing include the Dongyue Temple, Tanzhe Temple, Miaoying Temple, White Cloud Temple, Yonghe Temple, Fayuan Temple, Wanshou Temple and the Big Bell Temple. The city also has its own Confucius Temple, and a Guozijian. The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception was built in 1605, and is the oldest Catholic church in Beijing. The Niujie Mosque is also the oldest mosque in Beijing, with a history over a thousand years old.
Beijing contains several well-preserved pagodas and stone pagodas, such as the towering Pagoda of Tianning Temple, which was built during the Liao Dynasty from 1100–1120, and the Pagoda of Cishou Temple, which was built in 1576 during the Ming Dynasty. Several historically important stone bridges are also located in Beijing, including the 12th century Lugou Bridge, the 17th century Baliqiao bridge and the 18th century Jade Belt Bridge. The Beijing Ancient Observatory displays pretelescopic spheres dating back to the Ming and Qing dynasties. The Fragrant Hills (Xiangshan) is a popular scenic public park that consists of natural landscape areas as well as traditional and cultural relics. The Beijing Botanical Garden exhibits over 6,000 species of plants, including a variety of trees, bushes and flowers, and an extensive peony garden. The Taoranting Park, Chaoyang Park, Haidian Park and Zizhu Yuan are all popular recreational parks that consist of a variety of natural landscapes. The Beijing Zoo is a center of zoological research that also contains rare animals from various continents, including the giant panda of China.
Beijing is also known for its siheyuan (courtyard houses) and hutong (alleys), although they are increasingly disappearing due to the growth of city constructions and are giving way to high-rises. The city has several well-preserved neighborhoods of shiheyuan, including some of the more grand courtyard houses, such as the Prince Gong Mansion. There are over hundreds of museums in Beijing, and aside from the Palace Museum in the Forbidden City and the National Museum of China, other major museums include the National Art Museum of China, the Capital Museum, the Beijing Art Museum, the Military Museum of the Chinese People's Revolution, the Geological Museum of China, the Beijing Museum of Natural History and the Paleozoological Museum of China.
Located at the outskirts of urban Beijing but within its municipality are the Thirteen Tombs of the Ming Dynasty, the lavish and elaborate burial sites of thirteen Ming emperors, which have been designated as part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site "Imperial Tombs of the Ming and Qing Dynasties". The archaeological Peking Man site at Zhoukoudian is another World Heritage Site within the Beijing municipality, and it contains a wealth of discoveries, including one of the first specimens of Homo erectus, and an assemblage of bones of the gigantic hyena Pachycrocuta brevirostris. There are several sections of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Great Wall of China located in the municipality, most notably Badaling, Jinshanling, Simatai and Mutianyu.
Beijing Television (BTV) broadcasts on numbered channels 1 through 10. Three radio stations feature programmes in English: Hit FM on FM 88.7, Easy FM by China Radio International (CRI) on FM 91.5, and the newly launched Radio 774 on AM 774. Beijing Radio Stations is the family of radio stations serving the city audience; its stations include the music station on 97.4 FM as well as a series of other stations focused on news, sports, educational programming, and others.
The well-known Beijing Evening News (Beijing Wanbao), covering news about Beijing in Chinese, is distributed every afternoon. Other newspapers include The Beijing News (Xin Jing Bao), the Beijing Star Daily, the Beijing Morning News, and the Beijing Youth Daily (Beijing Qingnian Bao), as well as English-language weeklies Beijing Weekend and Beijing Today (the English-language edition of Youth Daily). People's Daily and China Daily (English) are published in Beijing as well. Nationally circulated Chinese newspapers are also available in Beijing.
Publications primarily aimed at international visitors and the expatriate community include the English-language periodicals Time Out Beijing, City Weekend, Beijing This Month, Beijing Talk, That's Beijing.
The international press, including English and other languages' newspapers and magazines, are available in major international hotels and friendship stores, and content often appears complete.
Beijing hosted the 2008 Summer Olympics and the 2008 Summer Paralympics. City officials relocated 350,000 people for the construction of the Beijing National Stadium, which was completed on 28 June 2008. Professional sports teams based in Beijing include:
With the growth of the city following economic reforms, Beijing has evolved as the most important transportation hub in the People's Republic of China, and within the larger East Asian region. Encircling the city are five ring roads, nine expressways and city express routes, eleven China National Highways, several railway routes, and an international airport.
Beijing has long been the largest railway hub in China. There are railway lines from Beijing to Shanghai, Guangzhou, Kowloon, Harbin, Qinhuangdao, Baotou, Yuanping, Chengde, and Tianjin. As of 1 May 2009, Beijing Railway Station has 177 trains stopping daily, while Beijing West Railway Station has 220 trains. These two railway stations serve as major transportation nodes in the city. The state-of-the-art Beijing South Railway Station re-opened in August 2008, and serves as the Beijing terminus for the Beijing-Tianjin high-speed train, the fastest regular passenger train service in the world, as well as all other high-speed CRH trains. International trains to cities in Mongolia, Russia, Vietnam and North Korea, all run through Beijing.
Several other railway stations in urban Beijing handle regular passenger traffic: Beijing North, Beijing East, Fengtai and other smaller stations. There are also a number of other stations serving suburban areas. Passenger trains in China are numbered according to their direction in relation to Beijing.
Beijing is connected via road links from all parts of China as part of the National Trunk Road Network. Nine expressways of China (with six wholly new expressways under projection or construction) connect with Beijing, as do eleven China National Highways. Within Beijing itself, an elaborate network of five ring roads has developed, but they appear more rectangular than ring-shaped. Due partly to its design as an ancient capital, roads in Beijing often are in one of the four compass directions.
Beijing's urban transport is dependent upon the five "ring roads" (Chinese: 环路) that successively surround the city, with the Forbidden City area marked as the geographical centre for the ring roads. The 1st Ring road is not officially defined. The 2nd Ring Road is fully located in Beijing's inner city areas. Ring roads tend to resemble expressways progressively as they extend outwards, with the 5th Ring Road and 6th Ring Road being full-standard National expressways - linked to other roads only with interchanges. Expressways to other regions of China are generally accessible from the 3rd Ring Road outward.
One of the biggest concerns with traffic in Beijing involves its apparently ubiquitous traffic jams, although in recent years ITS has been implemented in many areas in attempts to alleviate the problem. Traffic in the city centre is often gridlocked, especially around rush hour. Even outside of rush hour, several roads still remain clogged up with traffic. Urban area ring roads and major thoroughfares, especially near Chang'an Avenue, are normally cited as high-congestion areas.
Exacerbating Beijing's traffic problems is its relatively underdeveloped mass transit system. Frequently cited is the city's subway system which has 8 lines for its 17 million citizens. In comparison, New York City has 26 lines for its 8 million citizens. Beijing's urban design layout further complicates the situation of the transportation system. Compounding the problem is patchy enforcement of traffic regulations, and road rage. Beijing authorities claim that traffic jams may be a thing of a past come the 2008 Summer Olympics. The authorities have introduced several bus lanes where, during rush hour, all vehicles except for public buses must keep clear.
Beijing's primary airport is the Beijing Capital International Airport (IATA: PEK; near Shunyi, which is about 20 km northeast of city centre. With renovations for the 2008 Olympics, the airport now boasts three terminals, with Terminal 3 being one of the largest in the world. Most domestic and nearly all international flights arrive at and depart from Capital Airport. Capital Airport is the main hub for Air China. The capital links Beijing with almost every other Chinese city with regular air passenger service. It is linked to central Beijing by the Airport Expressway and is a roughly 40-minute drive from the city centre during good traffic hours. Prior to the 2008 Olympics, another expressway, the 2nd Airport Expressway, was built to the Airport, as well as a light rail system, which is now connected to the Beijing Subway.
Other airports in the city include Liangxiang, Nanyuan, Xijiao, Shahe and Badaling. Nanyuan serves as the hub for only one passenger airline, and these airports are primarily for military use and less well-known to the public.
The Beijing Subway opened in 1971, and had only two lines until the opening of Line 13 in 2002. Since then, the subway has expanded to nine lines, with six underground and three above ground. Line 1 and Batong Line, its eastern extension, crosses almost all of urban Beijing from east to west. Lines 4 and 5 serve as two north-south axial lines. Fare is 2 yuan flat with unlimited transfers except for the Airport Express line, which costs 25 yuan per trip. There are nearly 700 bus and trolleybus routes in Beijing, including three bus rapid transit routes. All public transportation can be accessed with the Yikatong card, which uses radio frequencies to be scanned at subway stations and on public transit buses.
Registered taxis can be found throughout Beijing, although a large number of unregistered taxis also exist. As of 30 June 2008, all fares on legal taxis start at 10 Renminbi for the first 3 km and 2.00 Renminbi per additional kilometer, not counting idling fees. Most taxis are Hyundai Elantras, Hyundai Sonatas, Peugeot Citroëns and Volkswagen Jettas. After 15 km, the base fare is increased by 50% (but only applied to the portion of the distance over 15 km, so that the passenger is not retroactively charged extra for the first 15 km). Between 11 pm and 5 am, the fee is increased by 20%, starting at 11 RMB and increasing at a rate of 2.4 RMB per km. Rides over 15 km and between 11 pm and 6 am apply both charges, for a total increase of 80% (120%*150%=180%).
Beijing is home to a great number of colleges and universities, including several well-regarded universities of international stature, such as Peking University and Tsinghua University (two of the National Key Universities). Owing to Beijing's status as the political and cultural capital of China, a larger proportion of tertiary-level institutions are concentrated here than in any other city in China, reaching at least 70 in number. Many international students from Japan, Korea, North America, Europe, Southeast Asia, and elsewhere come to Beijing to study every year. The institutions listed here are administered by China's Ministry of Education.
There are many well-known primary schools in the urban area of Beijing.
Well-known middle schools in Beijing are:
Lin'an (Song Dynasty)
|Capital of China (as Dadu)
Nanjing (Ming Dynasty)
Nanjing (Ming Dynasty)
|Capital of China
|Capital of the People's Republic of China
Beijing (北京 Běijīng) is the capital of the most populous country in the world, the People's Republic of China. It was also the seat of the Ming and Qing dynasty emperors until the formation of a republic in 1911. Beijing is the political, educational and cultural centre of the country and as such it is rich in historical sites and important government and cultural institutions.
The city is well known for its flatness and regular construction. There are only three hills to be found in the city limits (in Jingshan Park to the north of the famous Forbidden City). Like the configuration of the Forbidden City, Beijing has concentric "ring roads", which are actually rectangular, that go around the metropolis.
Beijing was host to the 2008 Summer Olympic Games.
Beijing literally means Northern Capital, a role it has played many times in China's long history. Beijing's history dates back several thousand years but it first became notable in Chinese history after it was made the capital of the State of Yan under the name Yanjing. Yan was one of the major kingdoms of the Warring States Period, some 2,000 years ago. After the fall of Yan, during the later Han and Tang dynasties, the Beijing-area was a major prefecture of northern China.
In 938, Beijing was conquered by the Khitans and declared the capital of the Liao Dynasty. The Mongols seized the city in 1215. From 1264 Beijing served as the capital of a united China under Kublai Khan. His victorious Mongol forces renamed the city, Great Capital (大都). From there, Kublai and his decedents ruled their empire from a northern location closer to the Mongol homelands. During this period, the walled city was enlarged and many palaces and temples were built.
After the fall of the Mongol-founded Yuan dynasty in 1368, the capital was initially moved to Nanjing. However, in 1403 the 3rd Ming emperor, Zhu Di, moved it back to Beijing and gave the city its present name. The Ming period was Beijing's golden era. The Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven and many other Beijing landmarks were built in this period. The capital developed into a huge city becoming the religious and cultural center of Asia.
In 1644, the Manchus overthrew the declining Ming dynasty and established China's last imperial line - the Qing. Despite the changing political climate, Beijing remained the capital. The Manchu imperial family moved into the Forbidden City and remained there until 1911. The Qing built both the Summer Palace and Old Summer Palace. These served as summer retreats for the emperors and their entourages. During the 19th century, Western countries established foreign legations in the Qianmen area south of the Forbidden City. These came under siege during the Boxer Rebellion in 1900.
The Qing dynasty fell in 1911. In the chaotic first years of Republican China, Beijing was beset by fighting warlords. Following the Northern Expedition, the Kuomintang moved the capital to Nanjing in 1928, and renamed Beijing as Beiping ("Northern Peace") to emphasize that it was no longer a capital. Beijing remained a center for education and culture throughout the Republican Era. When the Kuomintang was defeated by the Communists in 1949, the new government proclaimed a People's Republic with its capital at Beijing.
Beijing is characterised by its vastness and enormous distances between this and that. Until recently, the city was almost entirely made up of the old hutongs with narrow lanes and one story buildings. Now, many of the hutongs have given way to broad boulevards and modern buildings, contributing to an airy, sprawling feel, in sharp contrast to cities like Hong Kong and Shanghai.
Beijing is the political centre of the country leading to official buildings and embassy areas dominating the city. Beijing is also the historical and cultural centre of China implying lots of historical buildings and cites especially within Ring Road Two. The city has undergone rapid modernisation in recent years, also in terms of institutions, business and work life.
Given their city's historical, cultural and political heft, Beijingers are justifiably proud to be citizens of the capital. An attitude known as 大北京主义 or "Great Beijing-ism" is often used to describe their attitude toward people from other regions of China. They are often much more interested in politics and willing to talk about current events than people elsewhere in China. Beijingers also seem to focus on not losing face and often use humor in order to do so. However, many Chinese from other provinces find Beijingers very friendly and straightforward comparing with people from Shanghai especially.
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Averages of Beijing
Beijing's climate is a monsoon influenced continental climate with hot, humid summers and cold, dry winters. The best time to visit is in September and October, the "Golden Autumn" (金秋). Spring is the season for dust storms. Summer can be oppressively hot and the tourist crowds tend to be the largest as well. Winter is cold and dry with infrequent, but beautiful, snow.
Beijing has a population of 17.4 million living on 16.800 km2 distributed on 18 districts. The city borders Hebei Province to the north, west and south and Tianjin Municipality to the east.
Beijing has a total of 16 districts and 2 counties.
The four central districts are located within or just beyond Ring Road Two. This is the location of the old walled city of Beijing and is where you will find most of the sights and also a good deal of sleeping, eating and drinking and entertainment options. The districts are:
|Xicheng District (西城区;
covering the north western part of the central city area until just beyond ring two to the west and until ring three to the north. Including Beihai Park, the Houhai area, Beijing Zoo and National Concert Hall
|Dongcheng District (东城区;
covering the north eastern part of the central city area until approximately ring three to the north and ring two to the east. Includding the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square and Beijing Central Station
District (宣武区; Xuānwǔqū)
covering the south western part of the central city area until just beyond ring two to the west and until ring two to the south
|Chongwen District (崇文区;
covering the south eastern part of the central city area until just beyond ring two to the south and until ring two to the east. Includes the Temple of Heaven
The next four districts are still close to the centre. They are often referred to as the inner suburbs. This is were you will find parts of the Western Hills, universities, olympic venues, business and embassy areas, entertainment and bars as well as art. The districts are:
|Shijingshan District (石景山区;
covering the area just west of the central city area. Includes parts of the Western Hills
|Haidian District (海淀区;
covering the northwest of the main urban area. About half of Haidian district is made up of the Zhongguancun high technology industry and business cluster and Beijing's major concentration of universities. Includes the Summer Palace
|Chaoyang District (朝阳区;
covering a large area just east (and stretching both north and south) of the central city area stretching from ring two until beyond ring five to the east. Including CBD, the embassy area, Sanlitun, National Stadium (and other olympic venues), Workers Stadium, Chaoyang Park and Ritan Park
|Fengtai District (丰台区;
covering the area south end west of Beijing. Includes Beijing West Railway Station
The remaining ten districts and counties are quite far from the centre and are in this guide covered in four articles: Tongzhou District, Northern Suburbs (Changping and Shunyi), Western and Southern Suburbs (Mentougou, Fangshan and Daxing) and Rural Beijing (Yanqing, Huairou, Miyun and Pinggu).
|Tongzhou District (通州区;
|Changping District (昌平区;
|Shunyi District (顺义区;
|Yanqing County (延庆县;
|Huairou District (怀柔区;
|Miyun County (密云县;
|Pinggu District (平谷区;
Scams at the airport
Arrival: Take your taxis from the stand outside, not the touts or desks inside, and insist on the meter. If you are in a group of three or more or have a lot of luggage, touts will claim you need a minibus, and then lead you towards a people carrier in a car park, but then it will turn out they are actually leading you to a shabby taxi parked behind it, which will charge far more than the regulated fare.
Be aware of another scam where impostors who pretend to work for the taxi company pose at the official-looking stands outside offering rides to the city (especially in the non-regular hours where there are not many people about). You will be led into a "taxi" with a fake meter (which could be hidden) which runs very quickly (¥200-300 to the city, and even up to ¥400 to the Birds' Nest Stadium). Read the section on taxis for details on how to distinguish between fake and legitimate taxis.
Departure: Ignore any people walking around offering to sell you an exit fee ticket/receipt. There used to be an airport construction (or exit) fee of ¥90, but now it is included in the plane ticket.
Beijing Capital International Airport (北京首都国际机场 Běijīng Shǒudū Guójì Jīchǎng, IATA: PEK)  is located to the northeast of the central districts, 26 km from the city centre. The airport, which was expanded at a furious pace to be ready in time for the 2008 Olympics, now has three terminals, broadly speaking divided as follows:
Travel between Terminals 1 and 2 is via a long corridor with travelators. A fit person can make the route in about 10 minutes. A free shuttle bus runs between Terminal 2 and the new Terminal 3. It departs every ten minutes or so and the journey time is about 10 minutes. Terminal 3 is huge: it alone is bigger than all five of Heathrow (London)'s terminals. Additional time should be allocated when flying from here. Terminal 3 check-in closes 45 minutes before flights depart.
Facilities on arrival include ATMs and money changers. Be aware that upon departure, porters may want ¥10 to wheel your bags 50 m to check-in and that most eating options are rather outrageously priced. Before you cross through security, if you want a bite to eat in the Terminal 1, there is a KFC which has lowered its prices a little, and in Terminal 2, there are 2 KFCs, and the restaurants in the basement have relatively low prices compared to what's above. A meal at any of these places should be around ¥20.
Many people use taxicabs to reach town from the airport. Try to get the Chinese name in characters of your hotel so that you can let your taxi driver read where you want to go. It is important to do this as most drivers cannot read English and many are recent arrivals from the countryside who might not know the city well. A taxi from the airport should cost ¥70-120. You will have to pay the fee shown on the meter (make sure the driver uses it) plus ¥10 toll for the airport expressway. Traffic jams are common.
The Airport Express train to the airport opened in July 2008. The train runs in a one-way loop from T3 to T2/T1 then Sanyuanqiao (transfer to subway line 10) and Dongzhimen (lines 2, 13). A one-way fare is ¥25, and the trip takes about 20 minutes from Dongzhimen to T3, 30 min to T2. Don't take the train just to get from T3 and T2, as this will cost you the full ¥25; use the free shuttle bus instead.
A slightly cheaper way to get to the city centre is to take the airport shuttle (机场巴士 Jīchǎng Bāshì), ☎ +86 10 64594375/64594376, . Buses for each route leave every 10-30 minutes. There are several lines running to different locations throughout Beijing. The shuttle bus website also has a map available. ¥16 for a one-way trip. edit
The cheapest way would be to take public bus #359, which runs from the airport to Dongzhimen, where you can catch subway 2 or 13, but this is not very fast or convenient.
A number of youth hostels and luxury hotels run their own complimentary shuttle buses services - ask the place where you are staying if they have one.
Nanyuan Airport (南苑机场 Nányuàn Jīchǎng, IATA: NAY) is a former military airfield 17 km to the south of Beijing, currently used only by army-linked low-cost operator China United (中国联合 Zhōngguó Liánhé) . China United currently fields daily flights to Harbin, Dalian, Sanya, Chongqing, Chengdu, and Wuxi. Free shuttle buses run from China United's ticket office to and from the Xidan Aviation Building (西单民航大厦 Xīdān Mínháng Dàshà). Times depend on flight schedules.
Beijing has many railway stations. Most trains arrive at the central, West, South or North stations.
Since the Olympics in 2008, foreigners are allowed to rent vehicles while in China.
Beijing is the hub of several expressways heading in all directions. The following is a list of the expressways and their destinations:
11 China National Highways (国道 Guódào) also link into Beijing:
Long-distance buses from areas as far as Shanghai and the Mongolian border connect to Beijing. You can reach areas as far as Harbin or Xi'an on a single bus ride. Beijing has over 20 long distance bus stations, but what you need to do is go to the bus station located on the edge of the city in the direction you want to travel.
Most of the buses from the Long Distance Bus Stations will be regular or express buses, which take the expressways; cost from ¥200-600 per trip, have comfy seats, and most rides do not take more than 6-12 hours, but sleeper buses are also available. Sleeper buses, with bunk beds in rows, average about ¥100 per trip, but many go really slowly up hills, avoid expressways, stop at every city or town, provide "meals" which you have to pay extra for, take the potholed National Highways to save money, and a bus ride can take up to 24 hours. The average speed is only 40 km/hr on the moderately fast sleeper buses, and the range could be from 25 to 60 km/hr. It may be a good authentic taste of how less wealthy Chinese people travel.
Though some residents of Beijing know conversational English, especially in the areas frequented by tourists or Haidian District's university cluster, one should not count on finding a taxi driver or passer-by who knows English well. Neither should a foreigner with minimal experience with the Chinese language put undue faith in his or her ability to pronounce Chinese place names so that a local can understand clearly. Before embarking on a trip around the city, it is best to print out the names of places you want to visit in Chinese characters, or get your hotel front desk staff to write them out for you. When going to specific addresses writing nearby intersections or basic directions can be helpful as well. Show the text to the taxi driver, or just ask for help on the street. In general, you will have a better chance of getting help in English if you address younger people, as many schools in China have expanded their English education in the last few years.
Crossing the road in China is an art and may be difficult for pedestrians unused to Beijing's particular driving styles. Before crossing, assume that none of the road users will give way to you, even if a policeman is present. Zebra crossings are redundant. Chinese drivers lean on the horn heavily and frequently play games of chicken with pedestrians and other vehicles. Should you hear a loud horn when crossing the road, always look around as there is probably a car right behind you or heading straight for you. Should you find several cars and bicycles veering towards you from different directions, do not try to run to safety; instead, stand still. For drivers and cyclists a stationary obstacle is easier to avoid. Also note that traffic light crossings have zebra stripes painted on the road, but you should only cross when the walk light is green. As with pedestrian crossings in many countries, there is strength in numbers. When a mass of people crosses together cars are more likely to stop or slow down.
The Beijing Subway  is a good way to quickly get around the city and is clearly marked in English for travelers. Long very limited, the network has expanded at a furious pace in recent years, with 9 lines now operational and another 9 to open by 2015. However, be warned that during rush hour trains can be extremely crowded. The subway system shuts down around midnight, and opens again around 5AM.
The most useful lines are Line 1, which runs east to west and passes under Tianenmen Square and goes to many tourist sights; Line 2, which is a loop line following the old city wall and serves the Central and North train stations; and line 5 which runs north-south and also serves numerous tourist sights. Transfers between all lines are free.
Subway station entrances are identified by a large blue stylized letter G wrapped around a smaller letter B. Single tickets cost ¥2 and are only valid on the same day from the station they were purchased, so there's no point in stocking up. Single-journey ticket machines are very simple to use; just press the numbers along the left side of the screen to choose how many tickets you want to buy, insert cash into the machine and press the green button then collect the ticket and change. The machine does not accept ¥1 bills but if you pay with a ¥10 or ¥20 bill you will be given a handful of coins which you can use for future journeys. You must pass your ticket through the turnstiles upon entering AND exiting the station, so make sure you don't lose it.
If you plan on traveling a lot, pick up a Yīkātōng (一卡通 ) pre-paid card, which has a ¥20 refundable deposit. Swipe the card at the entrance turnstile and again upon exiting. The use of the pre-paid card does not reduce the subway fare although it does dramatically reduce bus fares.
If you are carrying luggage you must pass through the X-ray checks at the stations.
Try to avoid travelling in the rush hour as the stations and trains become very crowded - particularly try to avoid Line 1 & 2 as the old 1970s stations with their narrow passageways and open-edged platforms are not designed for the large numbers of passengers seen today.
Once known as a nation of bicycles, China today has an ever growing number of private car owners. It is estimated 1,200 more cars hit the streets in Beijing every day. As a result, nowadays you are guaranteed to see more bikes in the Netherlands than in Beijing. However, the infrastructure from its days as capital of the "Bicycle Kingdom" means exploring Beijing on a bike is excellent. The city is flat as a pancake and all major streets have bike lanes. Bicycling is often faster than traveling by car, taxi or bus because of the traffic congestion in the motorized traffic lanes.
Four-wheeled motorized traffic in Beijing usually observes traffic signals with the exception of making turns at red lights which is often done without slowing or deferring to pedestrians or bicyclists. Pedestrians, bicycles and all other vehicles (for example, motorized bicycles, mopeds and tricycles) generally do not observe traffic signals. Also, cars, trucks and buses do not defer to cyclists on the road so it is common for a vehicle to make a right turn from an inside lane across a bike lane with no concern for cyclists traveling in the bike lane. Sometimes a right-turning vehicle crossing a bike lane will sound its horn as a warning, but not always. Cyclists also need to be on the lookout for wrong-way traffic in the bike lanes, usually bicycles and tricycles but sometimes motor vehicles, too. Wrong-way traffic usually stays close to the curb so you move to the left to get by them, but not always. Bicycling Beijingers tend not to wear helmets, nor do they use lights at night. Few bikes even have rear reflectors. The moderate pace and sheer numbers of bicyclists in Beijing appears to make bike travel safer than it would be otherwise.
While you will see cyclists use many creative paths across wide, busy intersections in Beijing, the safest way for cyclists is to observe the traffic signals (there are often special signals for cyclists) and to make left turns in two steps as a pedestrian would. But if you spend any significant amount of time cycling in Beijing, you will probably start adopting more creative approaches. These can be learned by finding a local cyclist going your way and following him or her across the intersection.
Several professional bike rental companies, as well as major hotels and some hostels, rent bikes on an hourly basis. For those who need the security of a guide, a bike touring company like Bicycle Kingdom Rentals & Tours  would be a great way to go.
If you are staying more than a few days a reasonable bike can be bought for ¥200. Ensure that you have a good lock included in the price. The cheapest bikes are not worth the additional savings as you will get what you pay for. The cheapest bikes will start to deteriorate as soon as you begin to ride, so spend a little more and get a bike in the ¥300-400 range. Bike rentals may have good bikes, but you pay a high price and run the risk of the bike being stolen.
Beijing's bus system is cheap, convenient and covers the entire city—perfect for locals but, alas, difficult to use if you do not understand Chinese or Mandarin. The bus staffs speak little English, and only a few bus lines in the city center broadcast stop names in English. Bus stop signs are also entirely in Chinese. But should you speak Mandarin, have a healthy sense of adventure, and a fair bit of patience, a bus can get you almost anywhere, and often somewhere that you never intended to go. It is a great way to see parts of the city that tourists normally do not visit.
Most bus fares are relatively cheap, around ¥1, and if you get a public transportation card from a metro station (a card that acts as a debit card for the metro and buses) you can get a 60% discount on all fares.
Many shiny new buses arrived on the streets in preparation for the Olympics. Many buses now feature air-conditioning (heating in winter), TVs, a scrolling screen that displays stops in Chinese, and a broadcast system that announces stops. If you are having problems navigating the bus system, call the English-speaking operators at the Beijing Public Transportation Customer Helpline (96166).
Warning: Beijing buses can get very crowded so be prepared and keep an eye on your valuables. Indeed, the overhead speakers on more modern buses will announce a warning to this effect on the more crowded lines. Many pickpockets frequent buses and subways, so carry backpacks in the front, and try to put your valuables somewhere hard to access. Be aware of a scam offering bus rides to the Great Wall masquerading as the real bus service. Instead of directly driving to the Great Wall, you will instead be led to a series of tours to dilapidated theme parks, shops, museums, and other tourist traps before finally reaching the Great Wall near the end of the day.
Bus lines are numbered from 1-999. Buses under 300 serve the city center. Buses 300 and up run between the city center and more distant areas (such as beyond the Third Ring Road). Buses in the 900s connect Beijing with its "rural" districts (i.e., Changping, Yanqing, Shunyi, etc).
Full maps of the system are available only in Chinese. The Beijing Public Transport Co.  website has limited information in English, but the Chinese version has a very helpful routing service with an interactive map. You can input your starting point and your ending point and see all the bus routes that will get you from A to B, look up a bus route by number, or input a place name and see all the routes that go stop there.
Most buses with a line number under 200 run daily 5AM-11PM. Buses with a line number greater than 300 run 6AM-10PM. All buses with a line number in the 200s are night buses. Many routes get very crowded during rush hours (6:30AM-9AM and 5PM-9PM). On major holidays, there will be more frequent service on most city routes.
For passengers paying by cash: Lines 1-199 operate on a flat rate of ¥1 per journey. Lines 300-899 charge ¥1 for the first 12 km of each journey and ¥0.5 for each additional 5 km. Buses with air-conditioning (800-899) start at ¥2. The night buses (200-299) charge ¥2 per journey. Lines 900-999 charge according to the distance.
For passengers paying by the new pre-paid Smart Card: Lines 1-499 operate on a flat rate of ¥0.40 per journey. Lines 500-899 get 60% off the cash price. There are also 3-day, 7-day and 15-day passes available for travellers. There is no return ticket or day ticket.
Minibuses are very common in the countryside outside the urban areas. Privately operated, most trips cost less than ¥10 per short journey and only a little more for longer journeys.
Taxis are the preferred choice for getting around, as they are convenient and are fairly inexpensive for travellers from Western countries. The only downsides are that Beijing's congested traffic often results in long jams, and taxi drivers are often recent arrivals from the countryside who do not know the city well. Vehicles used as taxis include the Hyundai Sonata and Elantra, Volkswagen Santana and Jetta (the old model, designed in the 1980s), and Citroëns manufactured in China. These taxis are dark red, or yellow top with dark blue bottom, or painted with new colours (see picture). Luxurious black executive cars (usually Audis) can also be found, usually waiting outside hotels.
In the more remote places of Beijing, you might not be able to find any official taxis. However, in these places there will most likely be plenty of unofficial taxis. These might be difficult to recognise for travellers, but the drivers will address you if you look like you are searching for a taxi. Remember to negotiate the fare before you go. Local people usually pay a bit less for the unofficial taxis than for the official ones, but the asking price for travellers will often be much higher.
Taxis charge a starting fee of ¥10, and an additional ¥2/km after the first 3 km. Taxi meters keep running when the speed is slower than 12 km/hr or when waiting for green lights; 5 min of waiting time equals 1 km running. Outside of rush hour, an average trip through the city costs around ¥20-25, and a cross-town journey about ¥50 (for example, from the city center to the northern side of the Fourth Ring Road). Since 25 November 2009, there is a ¥1 gas surcharge on all trips. Note that this surcharge is not displayed on the meter, so if the meter says ¥18 the price is ¥19.
If the taxi driver "forgets" to switch the taxi meter on, remind him by politely asking them to run the meter and gesturing at the meter box (请打表 qǐng dǎbiǎo). At the end, it is a good idea to ask for a receipt (发票 fā piào) also while gesturing to the meter and making a writing motion. Having a receipt is handy in case you want to make a complaint later or for business reimbursement purposes, and since the receipt has the cab number, you stand a greater chance of getting your possessions back if you forget anything in the taxi.
If you want a tour around Beijing and its vicinities, you can ask your hotel to hire a cab for one day or several days. It usually costs ¥400-600 per day, depending on where you go. You can also ask just about any driver to perform this service as most are more than willing to do so. If you have Chinese-speaking assistance, then bargain down the cost. No matter the cost, the taxi is yours for the day and will wait for you at various destinations.
Communicating with the drivers can be a problem, as most do not speak English. You can ask that your hotel write your destination on a card to give to the driver. Make sure to take the hotel's card (and a map) that lists the hotel's address in Chinese. This can be a 'get out of jail free' card if you get lost and need to get back via taxi. A regular city map with streets and sights in Chinese will also help.
As elsewhere in the world it is really hard to find a taxi when it rains. Most of them refuse to take passengers and, besides, many will try to rise their fares. Although it seems unreasonable (triple to five times the normal fare), sometimes it is better to take their offers than to wait for another cab.
All official taxis have license plates beginning with the letter "B", as in "京B". "Black cabs" may look like taxis but their license plates will start with letters other than B. It's nearly impossible to hail a black cab on the streets; they generally hang out around tourist sights like the Great Wall and the Summer Palace or around subway stops. Black cabs will charge you a higher fee for the journey, unless you are a good bargainer, know where you are going, and know what the right fare should be. Sometimes they drop foreign tourists in wrong places. In some extreme cases, the driver may even take them to the countryside and rob them. If you find you hired a fake taxi and are overcharged, don't argue if you are alone, pay the driver and remember the car's license plate number, then call police later.
To avoid being taken advantage of, it is a good idea to know the rough direction, cost, and distance of your destination. You can easily find this out from asking locals before calling a cab. Verify these values with the taxicab driver to show them that you are in the know, and are probably too much trouble to cheat. Keep track of the direction of travel with a compass and/or the sun. If the cab goes in the wrong direction for a long distance, verify the location with the taxi driver. For scamming drivers, that is usually enough for them to go back on the right track (without ever acknowledging that they were trying to cheat you). Honest drivers will explain why they are going that way. In addition, sometimes a cab driver might tell you an extravagant price to get somewhere and tell you the meter is broken.
Keep in mind that central Beijing can be off limits at certain times, forcing cabs to reroute. And some roads forbid left turns (with big road signs) either at certain hours or all the time, so the driver might make a detour.
A note on maps
Beijing (and many other Chinese cities) is changing at such a phenomenal pace that it isn't at all unusual for maps to be out of date by the time they are printed. Most maps will have a few errors where old roads have been bulldozed or replaced by new roads on a different alignment. Whole areas may be gone - replaced by new districts or dual-carriageways. Subway stations and other facilities that were expected to come online by the time the map was to be printed may have been built elsewhere or scrapped and not exist at all!
If you find yourself utterly lost or unable to find your desired destination despite following a map perfectly, bear in mind that you may not have taken a wrong turn - it is entirely possible that your destination or chosen route doesn't exist any more. It's a good idea to take more than one map if possible, and if you are lost compare the two to see if one shows a different layout. Also, always pick up the latest version of a bilingual paper tourist map, for sale at most tourist shops and subways stations, to complement your more expensive map/guidebook.
Renting a car normally is not recommended for the ordinary visitor. Besides being extremely expensive, driving in Beijing can be quite complicated, language difficulties included. Many hotels, however, rent cars that come with drivers, for those who can afford it, up to ¥1000 per day.
See also Driving in China.
See the Districts articles for individual listings.
The centre of the city and most important landmark is Tiananmen Square in Dongcheng District. This is the world's largest public square and a must see for all visitors from abroad and from elsewhere in China. The square is surrounded by grand buildings including the Great Hall of the People, the Museum of Chinese History, the Museum of the Chinese Revolution, the Qianmen Gate and the Forbidden City. It is also home to the Chairman Mao Memorial Hall and the Monument to the People's Martyrs.
The National Stadium or Bird's Nest in Chaoyang District is a new major landmark and the symbol of the 2008 Olympic Games. Two contemporary buildings in Chaoyang District are remarkable landmarks: the CCTV Building (sometimes called The Underpants or Bird Legs by locals) and the World Trade Center Tower III. Both are outstanding examples of contemporary architecture.
There are also a number of remarkable remains from the medieval city including the Ming Dynasty City Wall Site Park (the only remains of the city wall) in Chongwen District, the Drum and Bell Towers in Dongcheng District, and Qianmen in Chongwen District.
The city's many green oases are a wonderful break from walking along the never ending boulevards and narrow hutongs. Locals similarly flock to Beijing's palaces, temples and parks whenever they have time. The green areas are not only used for relaxing but also for sports, dancing, singing and general recreation.
The most important palace, bar none, is the Forbidden city (故宫博物院) in Dongcheng District. The Forbidden City was home to the Imperial Court during the Ming and Qing Dynasties. Unlike many other historical sights, the Forbidden City was relatively untouched during the cultural revolution due to the timely intervention of premier Zhou Enlai, who sent his troops to guard the palace from the over-zealous Red Guards. The Temple of Heaven (天坛) in Chongwen District is the symbol of Beijing and is surrounded by a lively park typically packed with hordes of local people drinking tea, practicing calligraphy or tai-chi or just watching the world go by. The Yonghegong (Lama Temple) (雍和宫) in Dongcheng District is one of the most important and beautiful temples in the country.
Other parks are scattered around Beijing. Some of the best are Zhongshan Park (中山公园) in Xicheng District, Beihai Park (北海公园) in Xicheng District, Chaoyang Park (潮阳公园) in Chaoyang District and Ritan Park (日坛公园) in Chaoyang District. The Beijing Zoo (北京动物园) in Xicheng District is famous for its traditional landscaping and giant pandas, however like many zoos, the conditions for the animals have been questioned.
Haidian District is home to the Summer palace (颐和园), the ruins of the Old Summer Palace (圆明园), Fragrant Hills (香山), and the Beijing Botanical Garden (北京植物园). All are quite close together and worth a visit.
The museums in Beijing are generally not yet up to the standard seen in cities such as Paris, Rome and New York. However the city contains one of the largest and most well known museums in Asia, the Palace Museum also known as the Forbidden City. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. China's government is determined to change the backward perception of its museums and has invested heavily in their development. It has also made most of them (not the Forbidden City) free to visit. However, for some museums tickets must be reserved three days in advance.
One of the most well-known museums in Beijing is the National Museum (国家博物馆) in Dongcheng District, which has been closed for renovation since 2007 and is expected to reopen in 2010. The Military Museum (军事博物馆) in Haidian District has long been a favorite with domestic and foreign tourists. The Capital Museum (首都博物馆) in Xicheng District is a new high profile museum with historical and art exhibitions. Finally, a number of restored former residences of famous Beijingers, especially in Xicheng District, give a good insight into daily life in former times.
The contemporary art scene in Beijing is booming and a large number of artists exhibit and sell their art in galleries around the city. The galleries are concentrated in a number of art districts, including the oldest and easiest accessible, but also increasingly commercial and mainstream, Dashanzi Art District in Chaoyang District. Other newer and perhaps more cutting edge art districts include Caochangdi in Chaoyang District and Songzhuan Artist's Village in Tongzhou District.
The language of Beijing is Mandarin Chinese. Standard Mandarin itself was the administrative language of the Ming and Qing dynasties and was based mainly on the Beijing dialect. For language students this makes studying in Beijing an excellent chance to learn the language in a relatively pure form. That being said, Beijing dialect contains nasal "er" sounds at the end of many words. Hence the ubiquitous lamb kabobs (羊肉串 yáng ròu chuàn) become "yáng ròu chuànr". In addition, the Beijing dialect consists of many local slangs which have not been incorporated into standard Mandarin. Beijing taxi drivers are famously chatty and will gladly engage students of the language offering excellent chances to practice the language and get a feel for the changes in the city and country from an "Old Beijinger".
English is spoken by staff at the main tourist attractions, as well as at major hotels. Otherwise, English speakers are not common, so always get your hotel's business card to show the taxi driver in case you get lost. Likewise, have staff at your hotel write down the names of any tourist attraction you plan to visit in Chinese, so locals can point you out in the right direction.
See the Districts articles for individual listings.
National Centre for the Performing Arts in Xicheng District was finalised in 2007 and finally gave Beijing a modern theater complex covering opera, music and theater. This is worth a visit even if you do not go to a performance.
The Beijing Opera is considered the most famous of all the traditional opera performed around China. This kind of opera is nothing like western opera with costumes, singing style, music and spectator reactions being distinctly Chinese. The plot is usually quite simple, so you might be able to understand some of what happens even if you do not understand the language. Some of the best places to watch Beijing Opera are found in Xuanwu District including Huguang Huguang Theatre and Lao She Teahouse. There are also a number in Dongcheng District including Chang'an Grand Theatre.
Acrobatics shows are also worth a visit if you want to see some traditional Chinese entertainment. Some of the best shows are found in Tianqiao Acrobatics Theatre in Xuanwu District and in Chaoyang Theatre in Chaoyang District.
Drama plays has had a slow start in Beijing and is still not as widespread as you might expect for a city like Beijing, and you will most likely not be able to find many Western plays. However, some good places for contemporary Chinese plays do exist including Capital Theatre in Dongcheng District and Century Theater in Chaoyang District.
Classical music has got a much stronger foothold in Beijing than drama plays. Some of the best places to go are the National Centre for the Performing Arts and the Century Theater both mentioned above as well as Beijing Concert Hall in Xicheng District.
Beijing is the center of higher learning in China. In fact, Beijing University and Tsinghua University have been consistently ranked among the top universities in the world in recent times. As such it attracts the top talents from across China and is the destination for thousands of foreign scholars each year. Most of the universities are clustered in Haidian District in the northwestern part of the city. Nearly all of the universities in Beijing accept foreign students. Most foreign students are on Chinese language programs which can last from a few weeks to a couple of years. If you have a sufficient HSK level  you can enroll in programs to study other subjects.
Most of the international business offices are in Guomao, Dawang, around the Eastern 3rd Ring Road, Chaoyangmen. The Central Business District (CBD) is centered around Guomao. Many technology companies have offices in Haidian.
Like all of China, finding a job teaching English in Beijing is relatively easy for native speakers. In fact, if you are of European descent some employers may assume that you are already qualified enough to teach English to Chinese students. However, more prestigious employers (especially universities and high-end language schools) will generally require an English teaching qualification and a Bachelor's degree (normally in any discipline, although sometimes specifically in English/linguistics).
Be aware: There has been explosive growth in the English teaching industry in recent years. This has brought the expected attendant problems with unregulated schools failing to deliver on their contracts with teaching staff. Before the Olympics it was common for teachers in Beijing to get by with business (F) visas and working as outside contractors for the schools. Similarly some teachers worked on tourist (L) visas. However, there was a government crackdown on this practice, which is illegal, in the run-up to the Olympics. To ensure your employer runs a licit operation, you are strongly advised to check with existing teachers before signing a teaching contract with an unknown school. All reputable schools will assist in securing a work (Z) visa and a Foreign Expert Permit for their teachers.
See also: Teaching English.
See the Districts articles for individual listings.
Throughout nearly all markets in Beijing, haggling is essential. Especially when browsing through large, "touristy" shopping areas for common items, do not put it beneath your dignity to start bargaining at 15% off the vendor's initial asking price. After spending some time haggling, never hesitate to threaten walking away, as this is often the quickest way to see a vendor lower his or her prices to a reasonable level. Buying in bulk or in groups may also lower the price. Beware that if you start your bargaining at too low of a price, such as 50% off the asking price, the vendor may just immediately give up on trying to sell the item to you. How high or low the vendor sets the asking price depends on the customer, the vendor, the product's popularity, and even the time of day. Vendors also tend to target visible minorities more, such as Caucasians or people of African descent.
The are a number of interesting markets around Beijing where you can find all kind of cheap (and often fake) stuff. Some of the most popular places are Xizhimen in Xicheng District, Silk Street or Panjiayuan in Chaoyang District and Hong Qiao Market in Chongwen District.
As an alternative to the markets you can go to some of the shopping areas lined with shops. This includes Nanluoguoxiang in Dongcheng District and Qianmen Dajie Pedestrian Street, Dashilan and Liulichang in Xuanwu District.
If you are looking for traditional Chinese food shops try Yinhehua Vegetarian in Dongcheng District, Daoxiangcun, Liubiju or The Tea Street in Xuanwu District and Chongwenmen Food Market in Chongwen District.
Visiting hotel shops and department stores is not the most characterful shopping in China, but worth a look. While generally significantly more expensive, they are less likely to sell truly low quality goods. The old style of Chinese retailing is gradually being transformed by shops with a better design sense and souvenir items are getting better each year. Silk clothing, table settings and so on and other spots around town, are worth a look, as are porcelain, specialty tea and other traditional items. Some of the most popular areas for this kind of shopping are Wangfujing and The Malls at Oriental Plaza both in Dongcheng District as well as Xidan in Xicheng District.
The carpet business is strong in Beijing and you will find all manner of stores selling silk carpets and other varieties.
See the Districts articles for individual listings.
The best way to eat well and cheaply in Beijing is to enter one of the ubiquitous restaurants where the locals are eating and pick a few different dishes from the menu. Truth be told, anyone familiar with Western currency and prices will find Beijing a very inexpensive city for food, especially considering that tipping is not practiced in China.
Some of the cheapest and most delicious meals can be had on the streets. Savory pancakes (煎饼果子 Jiānbĭng guŏzi) are one of the most popular street snacks, eaten from morning till night with most carts operating during the morning commute and then opening again at night for the after-club crowds and night-owls. This delicious pancake is cooked with an egg on a griddle, a fried dough crisp is added, and the whole thing is drizzled in scallions and a savory sauce. Hot sauce is optional. Diehard fans often go on a quest for the best cart in the city. This treat should only cost ¥2.50, with an extra egg ¥3.
Lamb kebabs (羊肉串儿 yángròu chuànr) and other kebabs are grilled on makeshift stands all around Beijing, from the late afternoon to late at night. Wangfujing has a "snack street" selling such mundane fare like lamb, chicken, and beef as well as multiple styles of noodle dishes, such as Sichuan style rice noodles, but the brave can also sample silkworm, scorpion, and various organs all skewered on a stick and grilled to order.
A winter specialty, candied haw berries (冰糖葫芦 bīngtáng húlu) are dipped in molten sugar which is left to harden in the cold and sold on a stick. You can also find variations with oranges, grapes, strawberries, and bananas, or dipped in crumbled peanuts as well as sugar. This sweet snack can also sometimes be found in the spring and the summer, but the haw berries are often from last season's crop.
The most famous street for food in Beijing is probably Guijie (簋街/鬼街 Guǐjiē), see Dongcheng District for further detail.
Beijing Roast Duck is a famous Beijing specialty served at many restaurants, but there are quite a few restaurants dedicated to the art of roasting the perfect duck. Expect to pay around ¥40 per whole duck at budget-range establishments, and ¥160-200 at high-end restaurants. Beijing duck (北京烤鸭 Bĕijīng kăoyā) is served with thin pancakes, plum sauce (甜面酱 tiánmiàn jiàng)，and slivers of scallions and cucumbers. You dip the duck in the sauce and roll it up in the pancake with a few slivers of scallions and/or cucumbers. The end result is a mouthwatering combination of the cool crunchiness of the cucumber, the sharpness of the scallions, and the rich flavors of the duck.
Beijing is also known for its mutton hotpot (涮羊肉 shuàn yáng ròu), which originally came from the Manchu people and emphasizes mutton over other meats. Like variations of hotpot (general name 火锅 huŏ guō) from elsewhere in China and Japan, hotpot is a cook-it-yourself affair in a steaming pot in the center of the table. Unlike Sichuan hotpot, mutton hotpot features a savory, non-spicy broth. If that's not exciting enough for you, you can also request a spicy broth (be aware that this is flaming red, filled with peppers, and not for the weak!). To play it safe and satisfy everyone, you can request a ying-yang (阴阳 yīnyáng) pot divided down the middle, with spicy broth on one side and regular broth on the other. Raw ingredients are purchased by the plate, including other types of meat and seafood, vegetables, mushrooms, noodles, and tofu, so it's also perfectly possible to have vegetarian hotpot. A dipping sauce, usually sesame, is served as well; you can add chilis, garlic, cilantro, etc, to customize your own sauce. While "raw" sounds dangerous, boiling the meat yourself is the best way to ensure that more risky meats like pork are fully cooked and free of germs. In the city center, hotpot can run as much as ¥40-50 per person, but on the outskirts it can be found for as little as ¥10-25. Low-budget types may reuse the spices or cooking broth from previous guests, although it has been boiling for several hours.
For vegetarians, Beijing's first pure vegetarian buffet restaurant is located a Confucius Temple, see Dongcheng District for further detail.
Origus has numerous locations throughout Beijing, and offers an all-you-can-eat pizza/pasta buffet for ¥39, including soft drinks and dessert bar. If you're in the mood for Texan fare, head for the Tim's Texas BBQ near the Jianguomen subway station. They'll happily provide you with your favourite American food and drink. Tony Roma's has a location in Wangfujing (in the Oriental Plaza). Korean restaurants are also very common in Beijing. A frequent meal is the grill-it-yourself barbeque, including beef, chicken, and seafood items as well as some vegetables including greens and potatoes.
All luxury hotels have at least one restaurant, which can be of any cuisine they believe their guests will enjoy. You will find French, Italian, American, and Chinese restaurants in most hotels. Restaurants that serve abalone and sharkfin are considered the most expensive restaurants in the city. Expect to pay upwards of ¥800 for a "cheap" meal at one of these restaurants, much more if splurging.
Tea, tea, and more tea! Some shops are in malls and others are stand-alone establishments. Whatever their location, always ask the price before ordering or else brace yourself for the most expensive egg-sized cup of tea in the world. You can experience different styles of tea ceremonies and tea tastings at tea houses especially in the Qianmen area south of Tiananmen Square. These can range widely in quality and price. Some tea houses are really tourist traps whose main goal is to milk you of your money (See warning box). You can get a free tea demonstration at most Tenrenfu tea houses which are located throughout the city and at some malls. A private room or a quiet back table in a tea house with mid-range tea for two should cost ¥100-200. After an afternoon in such shops the remaining tea is yours to take home. Once tea is ordered, the table is yours for as long as you like.
As a tea-loving country and grower of much of the world's tea, coffee is not as easy to find but a the taste for it--along with more expats dotted throughout Beijing--has seen more emerging middle class and students drinking it. For example, the city alone has 50 Starbucks locations. Most are situated around shopping malls and in commercial districts of the city. Other international chains such as Lavazza also have locations around Beijing. Coffee of varying qualities is also available in the ubiquitous Taiwanese style coffee shops such as Shangdao Coffee. These are usually located on the second floor of buildings and often times offer Blue Mountain Coffee, making places like Starbucks seem a real bargain. Most coffee shops will offer wireless. Baristas in non-chain coffee shops may not be educated on how to make generally accepted espresso drinks, like lattes and cappuccinos. Espressos, alone, usually taste better and are more consistent.
Chinese beer can be quite good. The most preferred beer in China is Tsingtao (青岛 Qīngdǎo) which can cost ¥10-20 in a restaurant, or ¥2-4, depending on size, from a street vendor, but in Beijing, the city's homebrew is Yanjing beer (燕京 Yànjīng), and has a dominating presence in the city (Yanjing being the city's name from its time 2,000 years ago as capital of the state of Yan). Beer mostly comes in large bottles and has 3.1%-3.6 alcohol content. Both Yanjing and Qingdao come in standard (普通 pǔtōng) and pure (纯生 chúnshēng) varieties; the difference mainly seems to be price. Beijing Beer (北京啤酒 Běijīng Píjiǔ）is the probably the third most popular brand.
Great Wall is the most popular local brand of grape wine. Wine made in China does not have a great reputation, though this is changing. Giving wine as a gift is not a common custom in most places in China and most people will not be accustomed to wine etiquette or appreciation (white wine is often mixed with Sprite). Imported red wines are usually of a better quality and can be found in big supermarkets, import good stores, and some restaurants.
The most common hard liquor is baijiu (白酒 báijiǔ), made from distilled grain (usually sorghum) spirits. It comes in a variety of brands and generally for very cheap prices (¥8 for a small bottle) and should be avoided if you want to have a clear mind for your travels on the next day. The most famous local brand is called Erguotou (二锅头 Èrguōtóu), which has 54% alcohol content. It should be noted that the local Erguotou is sold in gallon containers, often on the same shelf as water and with a similar price-range and indistinguishable colour. Care must be made not to confuse the two. Maotai (茅台 Máotái), the national liquor, is one of the more expensive brands, and costs about as much as an imported bottle of whiskey--but likely more. A large selection of imported liquor can be found at most bars.
See the Districts articles for individual listings.
Most of Beijing's bars are located in one of the bar clusters around the city. A few years back, the only one was Sanlitun, but almost every year the last few years have seen a new area emerge. The most important areas are:
See the Districts articles for individual listings.
Foreign visitors were once restricted to staying in high-priced official hotels. Tour groups tend to use these hotels but do so at rates far below those published. In general, restrictions on where foreigners can stay have become less and less frequently enforced. Hostels and western-style travel hotels are almost universally open to foreign guests. The lowest end Chinese accommodations - Zhaodaisuo (招待所) - are generally inaccessible to the foreign community. However, for those determined to get a bargain, you may be able to get a room if you speak Chinese. Many of the hostels are located in Dongcheng District and Xuanwu District. Discounted rates start around ¥30 for dorms and just below ¥200 for doubles in the cheapest hostels.
There are a large number of three and four star mid-range hotels throughout the city and in all districts. The listed rates for these kind of hotels are often in the range of ¥500-1,000 but you can often get a discount of around 50%.
Some 'expensive' hotels are in the city centre, especially in Dongcheng District, and on the eastern 3rd Ring Road in Chaoyang District, however by Western standards these hotels are still relatively cheap. In the outlying areas, especially out by the Great Wall, are some country club type resorts as well as some unique, one-of-a-kind, hotels. For the most expensive hotels, the listed rates start at around ¥4,000, but are often discounted to a level around ¥1,500.
Beijing is a safe city. However, tourists are often preyed upon by cheats and touts. Be especially cautious in the inner city, around Tiananmen Square, and on the tourist-crowded routes to the Great Wall.
That all being said, fears of scams have led many foreigners to be overly dismissive of Chinese people who approach them. Many Chinese are tourists in their capital for the first time as well. They are genuinely curious about foreigners and may just want to practice their English and get a picture with you. Be friendly but don't feel pressured to go somewhere you hadn't planned on going in the first place.
Be wary of fake money. You may observe Chinese people inspecting their money carefully, and with a reason: there are a lot of counterfeit bills in circulation. The most common are 100's and 50's. A few tips for identifying counterfeit bills:
Driving is crazy in Beijing, and reckless driving is the norm. Be prepared for drivers to violate traffic laws even to the extent of going in reverse on highways to back up to a missed exit. Also expect occasional road debris (a piece of wood or torn out tire) to be laying in the roadway. Pedestrians should be very careful crossing the street — drivers, especially taxis, will not stop for you and will anticipate the traffic light before it turns green. Be very careful when crossing any street. Take an overpass or underpass if possible. Otherwise, keep an eye on the locals and cross with them — there is strength in numbers. Cars will also often drive on sidewalks.
Free emergency telephone numbers:
Remember these three telephone numbers, and they are valid in almost entire mainland China.
Air pollution has traditionally been a big problem in Beijing. Car exhaust, coal burning, and dust storms from the Gobi desert combined to make some of the worst city air on the planet. Winter is the worst time as the cold air creates an inversion layer and traps the pollution in the city. A white surgical face mask may help with the occasional dust storms. Since 2007, the air quality has improved considerably as a result of stringent measures put in place before the Olympics. While bouts of severe smog still occur, the overall situation is greatly improved.
For general health and food advice see the main China article.
|Routes through Beijing|
|END ←||N S||→ Shijiazhuang → Zhengzhou|
|END ←||W E||→ Tianjin → Harbin|
|END ←||W E||→ Tianjin → Shanghai|
|END ←||N S||→ Heze → Shenzhen|
|This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!|
From Chinese 北京