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see BeijingBeijing
or Peking
, city and independent municipality (2010 pop. 19,612,368), capital of the People's Republic of China. It is in central Hebei prov., but constitutes an independent unit (6,564 sq mi/17,000 sq km) administered directly by the national government.
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, China.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(literally, “northern capital”), the capital and the political, economic, scientific, and cultural center of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Peking is the country’s second largest city, after Shanghai. It is located on the North China Plain, at the foot of the Hsi Mountains (which frame the city in the northwest), in the basin of the Yungting River. The climate is temperate, with monsoonal rains. The temperature averages —4.6°C in January and 26°C in July. The annual precipitation reaches 636 mm, about two-thirds of which falls in July and August. Population, including rural suburbs, 7.57 million (1970, estimate; 6.8 million in 1959); total area, 17,800 sq km (including outlying rural areas).

Administration. Peking is directly subordinate to the central government and constitutes a separate administrative unit. In accordance with the constitution of the PRC, the organs of authority and administration in Peking are the Municipal Assembly of People’s Representatives and the People’s Committee. Both of these were dissolved during the Cultural Revolution in the late 1960’s. In 1967 a “revolutionary committee” was created, which is headed by the first secretary of the city committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC).

History. The earliest evidence of a settlement in the area of modern Peking dates from the second millennium B.C. In chronicles from the first millennium B.C. to the tenth century A.D., Peking was referred to as the city of Chi. In 936 it was called Hsi-chin, and in 937 it was renamed Nan-ching. The city was the southern capital of the Khitan state until the mid-12th century, at which time it was renamed Chung-Tu, or Ta-hsing (central capital of the Juchen state of the Chin).

The city was occupied by Mongols in 1215. Under the name of Tatu, or the Mongolian name Khanbalyk, it was the capital of the Mongol Yüan Dynasty in the 13th and 14th centuries. In 1368, after the liberation of China from Mongol domination, the city became known as Peiping. In 1421, when it became the capital of the Chinese Ming Empire, it received the name “Peiching” (English form, Peking).

In 1644, Peking was occupied by an insurgent peasant army (led by Li Tzu-ch’eng), and at the same time, by the Manchuri-ans, who established their own Ch’ing Dynasty in China. In 1618, the Russian traveler I. Petlin visited Peking. In the same century, the Russian emissaries F. I. Baikov, I. S. Perfil’ev, S. Ablin, and N. G. Spafarii visited the city. In 1716 a Russian religious mission was established in Peking. For more than 150 years, the mission was the unofficial representative of the Russian government and an important center for Russian Sinology.

In 1860, during the Opium War of 1856–60, and in 1900, during the anti-imperialist Boxer (I Ho T’uan) Rebellion, Peking was seized by troops of foreign powers. In 1912, during the bourgeois Hsin-hai Revolution, the city was proclaimed the capital of the Chinese Republic. It actually was made the headquarters of the Northern militarists headed by Yüan Shih-k’ai and later by Tuan Ch’i-jui and others. A demonstration that took place in Peking on May 4, 1919, marked an upsurge in the anti-imperialist and antifeudal movement that had been inspired by the Great October Socialist Revolution (the May Fourth Movement). In 1920, Li Ta-chao organized one of China’s first Marxist Communist circles in Peking.

After the founding of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in Peking in 1921, the city served as the headquarters for the underground Northern Bureau of the Party’s Central Committee, which was headed by Li Ta-chao. Among other things, the Northern Bureau planned a demonstration against the imperialists and Chinese militarists that was held on Mar. 18, 1926.

After the establishment of the Kuomintang dictatorship in 1927, the capital was relocated to Nan-ching, and Peking was renamed Peiping. On Dec. 9, 1935, a student demonstration was held in the city to protest the Kuomintang’s fomenting of civil war and its concessions to Japanese imperialism. The demonstration set off a mass movement, under the same rallying cries, throughout the country.

Peking was occupied by the Japanese aggressors from 1937 to 1945. After Japan’s capitulation, the city came under Kuomintang authority. On Jan. 31, 1949, it was freed from the Kuomintang by the People’s Liberation Army of China, and in September 1949 the name “Peking” was restored to the city by the First Session of the People’s Political Consultative Conference of China. Peking was proclaimed the capital of the People’s Republic of China, the formation of which was formally announced in the city on Oct. 1, 1949. During the Cultural Revolution, social organizations based in Peking, such as the Komsomol and trade unions, were dispelled.

Economy. Peking occupies an important geographical position in one of the most densely populated and economically developed regions of the country, namely, North China. The importance of Peking as a national economic center grew in the first decade after the formation of the PRC. This was furthered by the capital’s easy access to transport routes, the expansion of internal and external economic ties, and the availability of raw materials (minerals and agricultural produce) from outlying regions. Until 1949, Peking primarily had light industry and food processing (with cottage production prevailing in both) and handicrafts. Industrial enterprises were located chiefly in suburban areas, for example, the bridge-building plant in Feng-t’ai and the locomotive factory in Ch’ang-hsin-tiang.

Between 1948 and 1957 the industrial output of the Peking industrial region multiplied 17 times, with the heavy industrial sectors taking the lead. During this period, a large number of enterprises were built with aid from the USSR and other socialist countries.

Peking’s machine-building industry produces automobiles, agricultural machinery, machine tools, bearings, electrical equipment, and equipment for the chemical, mining, textile, and printing industries. There is also an instrument-making industry. The electronics industry produces tubes, semiconductors, radio receivers, televisions, and computers.

Peking’s oil-refining industry is located in the suburban areas and consists of a new complex of refineries. The chemical industry produces acids, soda, mineral fertilizers, insecticides, plastics, synthetic fibers, synthetic rubbers, rubber, and pharmaceutical products. There is a building-materials industry. Peking is also the center of the textile (mainly cotton) and printing industries.

Peking receives its electrical power from the steam power plant and hydroelectric power plant of Kuan-t’ing. Older enterprises in the suburbs have been expanded. Production of the coal mines at nearby Men-t’ou-kou multiplied six times between 1949 and 1973. A metallurgical combine has replaced the old iron-smelting plant in Shihchingshan (on the Yung-ting River, 20 km west of Peking). Brickyards and cement factories have been built on the city’s southern and southwestern outskirts (in Liu-li-ho).

There are more than 200 large enterprises in Peking, each employing more than 1,000 people. Medium-sized and small enterprises account for about one-tenth of the gross industrial output. Industry is concentrated chiefly in two regions: the old, western area (coal mining, ferrous metallurgy, and wool-processing) and the new, eastern area (automobile, chemical, cotton-processing, pharmaceutical, food-processing, and paper industries). Cottage industries, which always had an important part in the city’s economy, have retained significance. They include wood, ivory, and nephrite carving; cloisonné enamelwork; and carpet weaving.

Peking is the largest transport junction of the PRC, the crossroads of four railroad trunk lines. The main airport is Shou-tu. Tientsin, 180 km away, is Peking’s advance port on the Po-hai Gulf of the Yellow Sea. The Peking Canal (25 km, built in 1956–57) links Peking with the Yung-ting River, the capital’s chief source of water. As of 1974, the subway (first run in 1970; length, 23 km) had not yet been used for passenger transport.


Layout and architecture. The architecture of Peking belongs to many centuries. Fragments of 12th-century adobe walls and foundations have been discovered. Their extent indicates that the city then occupied only the southwestern part of modern Peking. Even in the 12th century, the characteristic features of present-day Chinese planning for capital cities had developed. The city had a precisely delineated rectangular layout and a rectangular network of streets, which was divided into two equal parts by a central thoroughfare.

In the 13th century, the city expanded northward. Between the 15th and 17th centuries a magnificent ensemble was constructed. The mighty mud walls were faced with brick, and fortress gates were erected at the end of all important thoroughfares.

By 1553, the suburbs, also enclosed by brick walls, formed the Outer City. The Inner City included the Imperial City, which was surrounded by walls and a moat and contained numerous palaces, temples, pagodas, parks, hills, and lakes. Structures in the Imperial City include T’ai Miao (Temple of Imperial Ancestors, 1420, rebuilt in 1544, now part of the Workers’ Palace of Culture) and the Shechi Tan (Altar of Divine Earth and Herbs, 15th century, now in Sun Yat-sen Park). Parks include the park on Mei Shan (Coal Hill), or Ching Shan (Pleasure Mountain), and Pei Hai Park, which lies along the shores and on an island of Lake Pei Hai. The latter park contains the Lamaist Pai T’a (White Pagoda completed in 1651), the Pai-t’a Ssu (Temple of the White Pagoda, completed in 1651; now known as the Yung-an Ssu [Temple of Eternal Peace]), and the pavilions of Wu-lung T’ing (Pavilions of Five Dragons, 1651).

The southern wall of the Imperial City formerly ended in the Ch’eng-tien Men (1420), which was replaced in 1651 by the Tien-an Men (Gate of Heavenly Peace) and by a square, subsequently also called Tien-an Men. The nucleus of the Imperial City came to be known as the Forbidden City, which accommodated the Imperial Palace.

The Temple of Heaven (Tien T’an, 1420–1530, rebuilt in the 18th and 19th centuries) was located in the southern part of the Outer City. Its principal buildings, situated along a single axis, included Ch’ing Yan-tien (Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, 1420, rebuilt in the 16th century and again in the 18th and 19th centuries), Huang-ch’iung Yü (Temple of the God of Paradise, 1530, rebuilt in 1752), and Huan-ch’iu (Altar of Heaven, 1530, rebuilt in 1749). The combination of circles and squares that lay at the basis of the layout of both individual buildings and the temple ensemble as a whole corresponded to ancient cosmogonic conceptions of the structure of the earth and the heavens.

Numerous structures were built in the Imperial City between the late 17th and 19th centuries. These included such temples as Shan-yin Tien (Temple of the Spring of Kindness, late 17th and early 18th centuries, Pei Hai Park) and Wan-fu Low (Tower of the Ten Thousand Buddhas, 18th century, Pei Hai Park), summer houses, and galleries. The buildings are notable for the lavish decorative detail and the variety of building materials (including ceramics and metals). Sumptuous ornament also characterizes the Lamaist monastery Yung-ho (18th century).

After the victory of the People’s Revolution in 1949, the main square, T’ien-an Men, was widened. To the west and east of the square were built the National People’s Congress Hall, the Museum of the Chinese Revolution (1959), and the Museum of Chinese History (1959). The main thoroughfares—Tung Ch’ang-an Tse and Hsi Ch’ang-an Tse—have been extended to reach new areas. A number of public buildings have been constructed, including the Palace of Culture of the Nationalities and the Central Telegraph Building (1958). Soviet architects designed the Exhibition Pavilion (1954, V. S. Andreev and others) and the House of Radio (1954–57, D. N. Chechulin).

The city boundaries of Peking are currently being extended. The number of Peking’s housing units has increased little since the late 1950’s, and most of the dwellings lack sewers. New buildings generally are intended to meet administrative and commercial needs.

In the 1960’s some of Peking’s antiquities were damaged. In the environs of the city there are numerous palaces, temples, and memorial buildings. The most important are the Shih-san Ling (Thirteen Tombs of Ming, 15th to 17th centuries), which consists of 13 separate sepulchers with the Lane of Spirits; the imperial summer residence and I-ho Yuan Park on Wanshou Shan (16th to 19th centuries); and the Pi-yiin Ssu (Temple of the Azure Clouds, 14th century, rebuilt in the 18th century).

Educational, scientific, and cultural institutions. Before 1949 there were 11 institutions of higher learning in Peking. In the 1959–60 academic year the city had 52 such institutions, with a student enrollment of 107,000. College studies were halted in 1966 as a result of the Cultural Revolution; they were partially resumed in the early 1970’s.

The oldest and largest institution of higher learning is Peking University. Other major higher educational institutions include the pedagogical institute, the medical institute, Tsing-hua University, the agricultural institute, the People’s University, and the conservatory. A number of scientific research institutions are located in the city, including the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Academy of Medical Sciences, the Academy of Agricultural Sciences, the Observatory, and the Botanical Garden. Peking is also the site of the Peking National Library, the Central Library of the Academy of Sciences of the PRC, the library of Peking University, and the Peking Municipal Library. Museums include the former Imperial Palace and the Museum of Chinese History. The city is the home of the troupes of the Peking Musical Drama, ballet companies, a circus, and other performing companies.


Kapitsa, L. L. Drevnii gorod Pekin. Moscow, 1962.
Sirén, O. Les Palais impériaux de Pekin, vols. 1–3. Paris-Brussels, 1926.
Lin Yutang. Imperial Peking. London [1961].
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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