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), 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. In Tang Dynasty it became the headquarter for Fanyang jiedushi, the virtual military governor of current northern Hebei area. An Lushan lauched An Shi Rebellion from here in 755. This rebellion is often regarded as a turning point of Tang dynasty, as the central government began to lose the control of the whole country.
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 annexed Liao, and in 1153 moved its capital to Liao’s Nanjing, calling it Zhongdu ,”the central capital.” Zhongdu was situated in what is now the area centred around Tianningsi, slightly to the southwest of central Beijing.
Mongol forces burned Zhongdu to the ground in 1215 and rebuilt it to the north of the Jin capital in 1267. In preparation for the conquest of all of China, Yuan (Mongol) Dynasty founder Kublai Khan made this his capital as Khanbaliq (Mongolian for “great residence of the Khan”) or Dadu , Chinese for “grand capital”.
This site is known as Cambuluc in Marco Polo’s accounts. Apparently, Kublai Khan, who wanted to become a Chinese emperor, established his capital at this location instead of more traditional sites in central China because it was closer to his power base in Mongolia. The decision of the Khan greatly enhanced the status of a city that had been situated on the northern fringe of China proper. Khanbaliq was situated north of modern central Beijing. It centred 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 Mongol-era wall still standing.
After the fall of the Yuan Dynasty in 1368, the city was later rebuilt by the Ming Dynasty and Shuntian prefecture was established in the area around the city. In 1403, the third Ming Emperor Yongle moved the Ming capital from Nanjing (Nanking) to the renamed Beijing (Peking) ,the “northern capital”, situated in the north. The capital was also known as Jingshi , simply meaning capital. During the Ming Dynasty, Beijing took 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.
The Forbidden City, home to the Emperors of the Ming and Qing Dynasties. Panorama view of the Forbidden City, home to the Emperors of the Ming and Qing Dynasties.The Forbidden City was constructed soon after that (1406-1420), followed by the Temple of Heaven (1420), and numerous other construction projects. Tiananmen, which has become a state symbol of the People’s Republic of China and is featured on its emblem, was burned down twice during the Ming Dynasty and the final reconstruction was carried out in 1651.
After the Manchus overthrew the Ming Dynasty and established the Qing Dynasty in its place, Beijing remained China’s capital throughout the Qing period. Just like during the preceding dynasty, Beijing was also known as Jingshi, which corresponded to the Manchu Gemun Hecen with the same meaning. It was the scene of the siege of the foreign legations during the Boxer Rebellion in 1900.
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 that the capital should remain at Beijing.
Yuan gradually consolidated power, culminating in his declaration of a Chinese Empire in late 1915 with himself as emperor. The move was highly unpopular, and Yuan himself died less than a year later, ending his brief 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’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 (Peiping) , “northern peace” or “north pacified”, to emphasize that the warlord government in Beijing was not legitimate.
During the Second Sino-Japanese War, Beiping fell to Japan on 29 July 1937. During the occupation, the city was reverted to its former name, Beijing, and made the seat of the Provisional Government of the Republic of China, a puppet state that ruled the ethnic Chinese portions of Japanese-occupied North China. It was later merged into the larger Wang Jingwei Government based in Nanjing. With Japan’s surrender in World War II, on 15 August 1945, however, Beijing’s name was changed back to Beiping.
On January 31, 1949, during the Chinese Civil War, Communist forces entered Beijing without a fight. On October 1 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 in Beijing. Just a few days earlier, the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference had decided that Beiping would be the capital of the new government, and that its name would be changed back to Beijing.
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. Since then several surrounding counties have been incorporated into the Municipality, enlarging the limits of Beijing Municipality by many times and giving it its present shape. The Beijing city wall was torn down between 1965 and 1969 to make way for the construction of the and Ring Road.
Beijing’s Tiananmen SquareFollowing 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 (under construction), with many areas that were formerly farmland now developed residential or commercial neighborhoods. A new commercial area has developed in the Guomao area, Wangfujing and Xidan have developed into flourishing shopping districts, while Zhongguancun has become a major center 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 neighborhoods, and significant influx of migrants from poorer regions of the country, especially rural areas.
Early 2005 saw the approval by government of a plan to finally stop the sprawling development of Beijing in all directions. Development of the Chinese capital would now proceed in two semicircular bands just outside of the city centre (both west and east) instead of being in concentric rings.
Beijing has been chosen to host the 2008 Summer Olympics, an event that has sparked nationalistic pride across China.