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Beijing History

Overview of the Forbidden CityReputed as a "Cradle of the Chinese Civilization" and "Birthplace of the Culture of Mankind". Beijing's long and illustrious history started approximately some 500,000 years ago. It is here that the ancestors of modern Homo sapiens. Peking Men, lived in caves. Beijing was first recorded as the city of Ji, or Jicheng. Records show that in the 11th century B.C., the Kingdom of Ji was an enfeoffed state of the Westem Zhou Dynasty, and during the mid-Spring-and-Autumn Period, it was seized by the Kingdom of Yan, another enfeoffed state which was located southeast to Ji. Then the Jicheng had served as the capital of Yan until Emperor Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of the Oin Dynasty and in Chinese history, defeated other six kingdoms and established a unified centralized state in 22l B.C.. The Kingdom of Yan teased to exist and Jicheng became an ordinary prefectural town. The name of the city of Jicheng changed many times over 3,000 years, but it was still regarded as a major trading center and a place of strategic importance, and kept growing in size. It was made national capital by several successive dynasties.

In the early l0th century, Khitan, a nomadic tribe in the northeast China established the Liao Dynasty, and marched over the mountains into the north part of the North China Plain. They made Jicheng the secondary capital of the dynasty and renamed it Nanjing (Southern Capital, also known as Yanjing), because it was located at southern part of their territory. Affer more than one century, the Liao Dynasty was succeeded by the Jin Dynasty, which was established by Jerchen, another tribe in the northeast.In order to maintain their control over the YeIlow River Valley and at the same time remain in easy contact with their base in the northeast, the Jin rulers moved their capital to the city of Yanjing in 1153. Then Nanjing was made the capital of the Jin with the new name Zhongdu (Middle Capital). In 1214, the Jin was forced to move the capital by the threat of emerging power of Mongolia, and the Mongolians captured Zhongdu in the following year.

 In l267, Kublai Khan, Genghis' grandson, issued an order to build a new city to the northwest of Zhongdu, and made it as his capital which was known as Dadu (Great Capital)in Chinese, for the newly founded Yuan Dynasty. Four years later, he ascended the throne in the new city. After that Dadu replaced the position of ancient capitals of Changan, Luoyang and Kaifeng. Ever since then Dadu became the national capital of unified China and its position of a national capital maintained though some mjnor changes under different names in difierent dynasties down to the present day with only minor interruptions.

In 1368, Zhu Yuanzhang, the founder of the Ming Dynasty, successfully led the rebellion and overthrew the Yuan Court and established the Ming with its capital in Yingtianfu (present Nanjing, Jiangsu Province). The Dadu was then renamed Beiping (Northern Peace). Before his death in l398, Zhu Yuanzhang willed the imperial throne to his grandson Zhu Yunwen. 0ne year later, Zhu Di, the fourth son of Zhu Yuanzhang and Prince of Yan who was gave Beiping as his domain, launched an interthmilial war to thc capital Nanjing under the excuse of Historical ceremony"Jingnan (Resotving the National Crisis)". In the aftermath of the four-year civil war between the uncle and his nephew, Zhu Di usurped the imperial power and became the third emperor of the Ming Dynasty. Since Zhu Di had been a frontier commander in Beiping for many years, he realized that Beiping was a ciy of strategic importance to the whole country, and a peaceful northern boundary was of vital importance to the whole country too. In 1403, he changed his reign title to Yongle and decided to move the capital to Beiping. Thereafter, large-scale construction was carried out. Lots of buildings including city walls, palaces, temples and gardens were added,and the city was much larger than the Dadu of the Yuan Dynasty. Many famous architectural structures, such as the Forbidden City and the temple of Heaven, were all built during the priod. In 142l, Zhu Di officially moved the captial from Nanjing to Beijing and changed the city name from Beiping to Beijng, as the city is known today. The Ming emperor Chongzhen committed suicide by hanging himself on a tree on the Jingshan (Prospect Hill) in 1644, and the Ming Dynasty was then over.

In the same year, the Manchu troops passed through the Great Wall and defeated the peasant uprising troops led by Li Zicheng who overthrew the Ming Dynasty, and founded the Qing Dynasty. Beijing was still taken as the capital city. The Qing rulers spent a large amount of money and manpower on improving or rebuilding new pleasure grounds in and around the city. The greatest achievement of the Qing Dynasty is a vast complex of the imperial gardens which was known as "the Three Hills and Five Gardens" on the northwestern outskirts of Beiiing. In 19ll, a revolution led by Dr. Sun Yat-sen overthrew the Qing Dynasty, the last fleudal dynasty of China.

With the founding of People's Republic of China on October lst, l949, Beijing became the capital of the new republic and has since developed itself into a political and cultural center of China. Reconstruction of the city began on a large scale, and Beijing has been greatly changed and it is changing every day.