The History of the Origin and Development of Beijing

History. Beijing was founded as a trading center, probably about 2000 B.C. It served as the capital of the small state of Yen, which existed from about 400 to 200 B.C. The Khitans invaded China from Manchuria and established the Liao dynasty in A.D. 907. They soon made Beijing one of their two national capitals. The Khitans called the city Yenjing, a name that is still sometimes used for Beijing.

The Mongols conquered China in the late 1200's and set up the Yuan dynasty. The Mongol leader Kublai Khan made Beijing his winter capital and began to build the city in its present form. Marco Polo, an Italian trader, visited Beijing in 1275 and praised its beauty.

The Ming rulers, who came to power in 1368, made Nanjing their capital. But they moved the capital to Beijing in the early 1400's. They first called the city Beiping, meaning northern peace. They later changed its name to Beijing, which means northern capital. The Manchu rulers, who succeeded the Ming rulers in 1644, enlarged Beijing and added many palaces and temples.

In 1860, France and Britain forced China to allow foreign diplomats to live in Beijing. In 1900, a group of Chinese called Boxers tried to drive the foreigners out of China. They killed a German diplomat in Beijing and many Chinese Christians in northern China. An army of eight nations, including Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, and the United States, then attacked Beijing and destroyed many of the city's treasures (see Boxer Rebellion). After the last Manchu emperor fell from power in 1912, a series of local rulers called war lord’s controlled Beijing, the capital of the new Republic of China.

Japan gained control of treaty ports in Shandong Province early in 1919. Students in Beijing staged a protest against Japan's influence in China on May4, 1919. They organized the May Fourth Movement, a drive aimed at restoring China's pride and strength.

The Chinese Nationalist Party captured Beijing from the war lords in 1928. Its leader, Chiang Kai-shek, made Nanjing China's capital and changed Beijing's name back to Beiping. In 1937, the Japanese defeated the Chinese at the Marco Polo Bridge south of Beijing and seized the city. Nationalist troops recaptured Beijing in 1945, but it fell to the Chinese Communists in 1949.

On Oct. 1, 1949, speaking at the Gate of Heavenly Peace, Mao Zedong declared the establishment of the People's Republic of China. The Communists renamed the city Beijing and made it China's capital. They built new buildings in Beijing, developed various industries in the suburbs, and organized the farmland into people's communes (collectively owned farm communities).

In 1976, a major earthquake struck the Beijing area. It was centered in the nearby city of Tangshan. The earth-quake caused about 240,000 deaths. It also caused wide-spread property damage in the area.

In 1989, large numbers of people gathered in Tiananmen Square and demonstrated for more democracy. The military crushed the demonstrations and killed hundreds of protesters.

Tiananmen Square again became the site of protests in April 1999, when thousands of followers of the Falun Cong spiritual sect gathered to demand official recognition of their group. Instead, China's authorities outlawed Falun Gong. Despite international concerns about China's handling of these and other human rights matters, Beijing was chosen as the site of the 2008 Summer Olympic Games.



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