Beijing City History

The history of Beijing began in the 1st millennium BC. At that time, there were already cities near what is now the capital of China. The capital of the former Yan state, one of the most powerful of the time, was built in Ji (reeds), near modern Beijing. Ji has often been said to have been the beginning of Beijing, but Ji was abandoned by the 6th century at the latest. The exact location of Ji City has remained unknown to this day, despite many attempts to find out.

Only smaller cities existed in the area during the Sui and Tang dynasties, but in 939 the later Jin dynasty of northern China (939-947) ceded much of its northern borders to the Khitan Liao dynasty. According to abbreviationfinder, the Beijing area was also in this catchment area. In 938 the Liao Dynasty established a secondary capital in what is now Beijing. They called this city “Nanjing”, which means something like southern capital.

In 1125 the Liao dynasty was annexed by the Jurchen Jin dynasty, who in 1153 moved their capital to Nanjing and renamed it “Zhongdu” (central capital). Comprehensive expansion and renovation work provided the city splendidly. It was found that Zhongdu was exactly where the area around Tianningsi stands today, i.e. a little southwest of central Beijing.

In 1215, Mongolian forces burned Zhongdu to the ground and in 1267 built “Dadu”, their own “great capital”, in the north of the Jin capital. That date now marks the real beginning of present-day Beijing. The area established at that time is passed down to us from Marco Polo as “Cambuluc” and was also known as “Khanbaliq”, ie “Khan’s city”. It appears that Kublai Khan, who wanted to become a Chinese emperor, built his capital in Beijing rather than in more traditional areas of Chian because Beijing was much closer to his power base in Mongolia. The status of the city, located on the northern edge of the Chinese Empire, increased noticeably in the 13th century, which was connected with the establishment of the Mongol Empire. From 1264 to 1368 it was the main residence of the Mongols. But in 1368 the Ming succeeded the Yuan dynasty, and Hongwu was the first Ming emperor to have his capital built in Nanjing (“Southern Capital”). The name Dadu was changed to Beiping, which roughly means “Northern Peace”.

In 1403 the 3rd Ming Emperor Zhu-Di changed the capital of the Ming Empire from Nanjing to Beiping. He also gave her her name, which is still used today. During the Ming Dynasty and especially under Emperor Yongle, the current form of the city emerged. Between 1406 and 1420 the “Forbidden City” and 1420 the Temple of Heaven was constructed. Numerous other buildings followed. In 1421 the city of Yongle was named the capital of the Ming Dynasty. It is said that Beijing was the largest city in the world from 1425 to 1650 (and from 1710 to 1825).

After the Manchus overthrew the Ming Dynasty, they established the Qing Dynasty in its place; Beijing, however, remained China’s capital during this period. During the Second “Opium War” in 1860, the British and French conquered the city, looted and set fire to the Summer Palace, which burned down almost completely. The Dowager Empress Cixi began to build a new summer palace for herself in 1884. This palace also went down in flames – foreign soldiers set it on fire during the Boxer Rebellion in 1900. The aim of the Xinhai Revolution of 1911 was to swap the rule of the Quing dynasty for a republican one. Qing official Yuan Shikai forced the Qing emperor to abdicate in Beijing and ensured the revolution’s success; the revolutionaries in Nanjing accepted, that Yuan should remain the President of the ROC (Republic of China) and Beijing should remain its capital. Yuan’s consolidation of power culminated in late 1915 with the declaration of a Chinese Empire with himself as emperor. The move, however, was not very popular, and Yuan himself died less than a year later. This ended his brief reign.

China then fell under the control of regional warlords, and the most powerful factions among them waged numerous wars for control of Beijing such as the Zhili Anhui War or the First Zhili Fengtian War. After the success of Kuomintang’s northern expedition, which ended the fighting between the northern warlords diplomatically, Nanjing was officially made the capital of the Republic of China in 1928 and Beijing was renamed Beiping (Northern Peace) to emphasize that the Beijing- Warlord government was illegitimate. During the Second Sino-Japanese War, Beiping fell to Japan on July 29, 1937, which during its occupation renamed the city Beijing again. It has now become the seat of the North China Executive Committee, a doll state who ruled northern China, which was occupied by the Japanese. With Japan’s surrender in World War II on August 15, 1945, Beijing’s name was changed back to Beiping.

On January 31, 1949, during the Chinese Civil War, communist units occupied the city without a fight, and on October 1 of the same year the Chinese Communist Party, led by Mao Zedong, proclaimed the People’s Republic of China in Beijing. Just a few days earlier, the Chinese People’s Political Conference had decided to choose Beiping as the capital of the People’s Republic of China and to finally change the city’s name to Beijing. After Deng Xiaoping’s economic reforms, the urban area was greatly changed and expanded. The main reason for the changes was the hatred of the new rulers for all symbols of the old system. To get rid of this troublesome past, they destroyed many of the old structures or used them for other purposes. Of the once 8 000 temples and monuments in the city had been preserved within 15 years only 150. In 1989 pictures from Beijing went around the world when more than a million people gathered in Tiananmen Square from April to June for demonstrations against slow reforms, corruption and a lack of freedom. But the government, which declared martial law on May 20, had the demonstrators bloodily dispersed on June 4, 1989 by the army. Thousands of peaceful civilians died in the riots.

Beijing City History

Beijing was selected as the venue for the 2008 Summer Olympics by the International Olympic Committee in July 2001.