Date: 12/03/2019 – Author: Thomas Bott
Reading time: 3 minutes
Date: 12/03/2019 – Author: Thomas Bott
The name “Beijing” (北京) is quickly explained: “Běi” (北) means “North” and “jīng” (京) stands for “capital”. But it’s not just the capital of the north, but of the whole country. More than 7.7 million people live in the city center alone, while its entire metropolitan boasts more than 21.5 million inhabitants. Beijing extends over 16,807.8 square kilometers (7,261.7 square miles). However, the city isn’t just known for its size, but for the incredible amount of things it has to offer.
Beijing: A city with an impressive history
The first signs of settlements in the region around Beijing date back as far as 780,000 years. Workers found fossils during the mining of limestone, which researchers later attributed to the human species. The city itself originated around 1000 BC and throughout the centuries bore many different names such as “Ji” (蓟), which means “reed”, “Zhongdu” (中都), which stands for “Middle Capital”, and “Beiping” (北平), which translates as “Northern Peace”. For a long time Beijing was not the capital of the country. However, it has acted as the seat of government since the People’s Republic of China was founded in 1949.
Throughout its long history, Beijing has developed an impressive cultural heritage, with the city being home to seven UNESCO designated World Heritage Sites. The most famous of these is the Forbidden City (故宫) in the center of Beijing — a gigantic palace which will celebrate its 600th anniversary in 2020. Today it houses the Beijing Palace Museum, which attracts tourists from all over the world. The New Summer Palace (颐和园) in the northwest of the city is another popular heritage site. Constructed between 1751 and 1764, the palace sits on 297 hectares where visitors can visit gardens and numerous structures. The city’s five remaining World Heritage Sites also reflect the city’s history and are well worth a visit.
Beijing’s Modern Architecture
The city has continued to grow around its old buildings with lots of impressive modern architecture to admire. The Beijing National Stadium (国家体育场) in the north of the city celebrated its debut on the international stage at the 2008 Olympic Games. The building, also known as the “bird’s nest”, is characterized by a woven steel frame through which its elaborate lighting shines. Inside, there is a lawn and a running track. The final of the League of Legends World Championship took place there in autumn 2017. Nearly 80,000 people watched the event on-site, and 80 million people worldwide watched it on their screens. The next mega-event at the Beijing National Stadium will be the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2022 Olympic Games.
In the immediate vicinity of Tian’anmen Square (天安门广场) and the Great Hall of the People (人民大会堂) stands the National Centre of the Performing Arts (国家大剧院) — another awe-inspiring piece of modern architecture. The structure was completed in 2007. The exterior is made of titanium and glass and its design is reminiscent of the Yin and Yang, which are extremely important in Chinese culture. In the concert hall there is an organ with 113 keyboards designed by the German organ builder Johannes Klais.
Sports and performing arts events also take place in the Phoenix Center, which was completed in 2014. It’s home to television studios that also have various events and performances. The versatile media center, whose design is inspired by a Möbius strip, will be the location for this year’s MQ! Innovation Summit.
Modern mobility needed now more than ever in Beijing
When the 7.7 million inhabitants of the city center start to move, traffic is quickly impaired. Mobility is therefore a major issue in China’s capital city. This is also due to the fact that fewer and fewer inhabitants ride their bicycles and use their cars instead. The city is trying to counteract this by expanding rental systems for two-wheeled vehicles. Driving with electric scooters is also possible through battery exchange stations. Nearly 1,000 buses and numerous underground trains are used in local public transport — with a vast amount of them already being fully electric.
Those looking to coming to or from Beijing can even find rail connections to Europe. The faster alternative is to fly via Beijing Capital International Airport (BCIA). The second largest airport in the world connects the city with the rest of the world. In the future, the recently opened Beijing-Daxing Airport will play a major role. It could even grow into the largest airport in the world.