Beijing, the current capital city of China, has a long and elaborate history. Beijing translates into "Northern Capital", and the city's history dates back to prehistoric times.
The Yongle Emperor
The earliest known history of present-day Beijing began in the Warring States Period in 473-221 BC, before the Qin, Han, and Jin Dynasties. The Liao Dynasty in 938 named Beijing the secondary capital, and the Mongol Yuan Dynasty also stationed its headquarters near what is now central modern Beijing. It was not until the beginning of the Ming Dynasty in 1368 when Beijing (then called Beiping) was named as China's capital, and began to take on the form in which it is recognized today. The third Ming emperor, called the Yongle Emperor, named the city Beijing in 1403, and the city was to serve as the co-capital alongside Nanjing. The Yongle emperor then embarked on the construction of the Forbidden City, a new imperial residence that was to become one of China's most famous and prized cultural artifacts.
The Forbidden City, by Allen T. Chang
The Forbidden City served as the imperial residence as well as political center of Chinese government for almost five hundred years. Completed in 1420, 15 years after construction began, the palace covers an area of 720,000 square meters (7,800,000 square feet) and consists of 980 buildings. The style of the entire complex exemplifies the traditional Chinese style of architecture that is commonly reflected across East Asia.
The Temple of Heaven, by star5112
The Yongle Emperor also commissioned the construction of another famous building, the Temple of Heaven, which served as the altar on which the Emperors of the Ming and subsequent Qing dynasties offered their annual prayer ceremonies for a good harvest. The most iconic building, the Hall of Prayer, was destroyed in a fire in 1889, and was re-built several years later. Like the Forbidden City, it is also one of Beijing's great cultural and historical treasures.
The Great Wall
70 kilometers north of Beijing lies the most well-preserved section of the famous Great Wall of China, known as the Badaling Great Wall. The entire Great Wall and its branches, which started out as a series of smaller walls to protect China's northern borders against nomadic invaders, stretch almost 9,000 kiolmeters across China's northern frontier. The most significant segments of the wall were built around 210 BC by the early Qin Dynasty by the first emperor, and most of the wall that stands today was built during the Ming Dynasty. The Great Wall is typically referred to as one of the 7 Wonders of the Medieval World, and is one of China's most recognizable historical structures.
In 1949, after the fall of the last Qing dynasty, the city was named back to Beijing and the capital city of China. Since then, it has rapidly modernized into a world-class city and major economic center, with over 22 million people.