Overview of Beijing

Geography of Beijing

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Beijing is uneclipsed in it's majesty, mystery, and magnificence. For centuries the city stood out as a leading civilization, paving the way in arts, astronomy, mathematics, medicine, and sciences. Paper, gunpowder, the compass and printing (both block and movable type) are Chinese inventions. Beijing is one of the Four Great Ancient Capitals of China and is still known in some places by it's other name: Peking. No matter what you call it, it is one few cities that has served as the political and cultural capital of an empire as vast as the People's Republic of China for as long as Beijing has.

Chosen as the host of the 2008 Olympic Games, the city again brought up feelings of enthusiasm for this unique capital and reservations about the country's qualifications and human rights standards. Whatever one thinks about the government's policies, Beijing is the home of some of the world's finest palaces, richest cultural sites, and most divine temples.

Wherever you go, be sure that you go there with all your heart.


China is officially known as the People's Republic of China (PRC). This vast country in Eastern Asia is about the same size as the United States of America, with only Canada and Russia calculated to be larger. It is debatable whether the USA or China claims the third spot as there is disputes about the validity of claims by the PRC on territories such as Taiwan, Aksai Chin, Trans-Karakoram Tract, and South Tibet. The official figure given by the PRC is 9.6 million square kilometers.

The world's largest population lives here, stretched across the continent from the East China and Yellow Sea to the 14 nations that border it. It's neighbors include:

  • Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam to the south
  • Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan to the west
  • Russia and Mongolia to the north
  • North Korea to the east.

The landscape across this massive land offers extreme diversity. Lower lands tend to define the more populated east, where the west is composed of plateaus and mountain peaks. Southern China is dominated by hills and low mountain ranges including the Himalayas and Earth's highest point: Mount Everest. In the north-west, Xinjiang is the lowest point in the country, and the second lowest point on land in the world (after the Dead Sea). The Gobi Desert is an important geographical feature that covers parts of northern and north-western China, and of southern Mongolia. Principal rivers flow from west to east, including the Yangtze, the Huang He (better known to the West as the "Yellow River"), and the Amur. The Pearl River Delta region around Guangzhou and the Yangtze delta are major economic powerhouses.


The climate is extremely diverse across these many geographic features.
North: Subarctic - four distinct seasons with intensely hot summers and bitterly cold winters
Central: Temperate continental climate - very hot summers and cold winters
South: Subtropical - mild and wet with very hot summers and mild winters

Beijing's climate is a dry, monsoon-influenced humid continental climate. This means there are humid summers and cold, dry winters. Spring can bring sandstorms blowing in from the Mongolian steppe, with rapidly warming but dry conditions. Autumn is also low on rain, but crisp and short and said to be the best time to visit as the "Golden Autumn". January averages -3.7 degrees Celsius (25.3 degrees Fahrenheit) with July averages around 26.2 degrees Celsius (79.2 degrees Fahrenheit). Annual precipitation is around 570 mm (22.4 in) and the majority falls during the summer months.

For up to date weather conditions, go to http://www.weather.com/weather/today/Beijing.

Air Quality

China has continually had an issue with pollution and though these issues are being actively addressed (especially in consideration of the 2008 Olympics), there are still many problems that affect day to day life. Widespread smog is one of the effects of air pollution. The replacement of old taxis, expanded public transportation, increased parking fees, and odd-even schemes of what days personal vehicles can be driven are all attempts at correcting the damage. In addition, the government regularly uses cloud-seeding to increase the likelihood of rain showers in the region.


Beijing literally means "Northern Capital". Situated at the northern tip of the North China Plain, there are mountains to the north, north-west and west separating it from the desert steppes. The city borders Hebei Province to the north, west, south, and Tianjin Municipality to the south-east. One of the greatest attractions to the area, The Great Wall of China, lies along the northern part of Beijing Municipality and reflects the area's naturally rugged topography. Major rivers within the city include Yongding River and the Chaobai River.

Tian'anmen (Gate of Heavenly Peace) and Tian'anmen Square make up the center of Beijing. Running through central Beijing from east to west is Chang'an Avenue, one of Beijing's main thoroughfares. The city is increasingly spreading out from this point, encapsulated by bands of concentric ring roads. The furthest from the center, the Sixth Ring Road, passes through several satellite towns.


Beijing is divided into 16 urban and suburban districts and two rural counties. There are about 8 in the central area of the city with sprawling suburbs surrounding the city.

Note that the names of areas can be very descriptive. Several place names end with men meaning "gate". These are the locations of gates in the former Beijing city wall. Other place names end in cun meaning "village", as they were originally outside the city wall.

Central Districts:
The four central districts are located within or just beyond Ring Road Two. This is the location of the old walled city. There is a high concentration of historic and cultural sites.

  • Xicheng District - Covers the north-western part of the central city area to just beyond ring two in the west and up to ring three to the north. Includes Beihai Park, the Houhai area, Beijing Zoo and National Concert Hall
  • Dongcheng District - Covers the northeastern part of the central city area approximately up to ring three to the north and ring two to the east. Includes the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square and Beijing Central Station
  • Xuanwu District - Covers the southwestern part of the central city area to just beyond ring two to the west and up to ring two to the south
  • Chongwen District - Covers the southeastern part of the central city area to just beyond ring two to the south and up to ring two to the east. Includes the Temple of Heaven

Inner Suburbs:
Four districts are fairly close to the center, but are usually referred to as inner suburbs. This is were you will find parts of the Western Hills, universities, Olympic venues, business and embassy areas, entertainment and bars as well as art districts.

  • Shijingshan District - Covers the area just west of the central city area. Includes parts of the Western Hills
  • Haidian District - Covers the north-west of the main urban area. About half of Haidian district is made up of the Zhongguancun high technology industry and business cluster and Beijing's major concentration of universities. Includes the Summer Palace
  • Chaoyang District - Covers a large area just east of the central city area stretching from ring two until beyond ring five. Including CBD, the embassy area, Sanlitun, National Stadium (and other Olympic venues), Workers Stadium, Chaoyang Park and Ritan Park
  • Fengtai District - Covers the area south end west of Beijing. Includes Beijing West Railway Station

Update 12/05/2011

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