About Beijing

History

The area around Beijing has been settled for millennia. Fossils of “Peking Man”, dating from 230,000 to 250,000 BC, have been found in caves in near Zhoukoudian, 30 miles southwest of Beijing.

The recorded history of Beijing as a seat of power and government dates back 3,000 years. In 1045 BC the town of Ji, later named Yan, appeared on the present site of Beijing and was the administrative center for the State of Yan.

Even when the capital was shifted from the site of Beijing to Nanjing (Nanking), Beijing continued to be a major city and place of strategic importance in northern China.

(Portrait of Pu-Yi, last Emperor of China) Portrait of Pu-Yi, last
Emperor of China.

The Liao Dynasty (916 – 1125) as well as the Jin (1115-1234), Yuan (1271-1368), Ming (1368 – 1644) and Qing (1644 – 1912) dynasties all chose Beijing as their imperial capital.

Through the centuries Beijing, with its strategic position in northern China, has seen many battles and shifts of power.

The name “Beijing” dates back 500 years to the Ming Dynasty and the reign of Zhu Di, starting in 1403. Beijing had been seriously damaged and many of the imperial buildings destroyed or burned during the overthrow of the Yuan Dynasty by Zhu Yuanzhang. From 1406 Emperor Zhu Di orchestrated the reconstruction of the city and the creation of some of Beijing’s most famous imperial buildings including the Forbidden City and the Temple of Heaven. Other imperial landmarks, such as the Summer Palace, were created during the Qing Dynasty.

(A 1950 Chinese postage stamp with an illustration of Mao Zedong and the Chinese flag. Issued to commemorate the creation of the People's Republic of China.) A 1950 Chinese postage stamp.
commemorating the creation of
the People's Republic of China.

During the Boxer Rebellion in 1900, Beijing was under siege by foreign armies and many iconic imperial buildings and parks, such as the Hanlin Academy and the Summer Palace, were destroyed by the English and French forces.

The overthrow of the Qing Dynasty on October 10, 1911 by the Bourgeois Democracy Revolution and the forced abdication of the last emperor occurred in 1912. Beijing became the center of China’s new democratic revolution.

In 1919 Beijing was the apex of the May Fourth Movement against feudalism and imperialism. During the time of the nationalist government the capital was in Nanjing and Beijing was relegated to the status of Special Municipality.

On October 1, 1949 Beijing was proclaimed by Chairman Mao Zedong as the capital of the new People’s Republic of China and has continued to be the national capital ever since.