An ancient and modern capital

Published: 11th October 2012 10:34 AM  |   Last Updated: 11th October 2012 10:34 AM   |  A+A-

Beijing, one of the oldest capitals in the world, is one of the cleanest city-states despite its burgeoning population, added by migration from the rural, remote regions of China. If you travel wither to the new business district, the industrial zones or even the older parts of the city, it is spick and span. People do not throw their garbage in the residential colonies or spit on the pavements or pee on the walls of the city. Any debris be it soiled tissue paper or the peeled skin of a fruit is safely stored in their handbags or pockets till a waste bin is located.

Located in the northern periphery of North China Plain, and 150 kms from the Bohai Sea to its south east, Greater Beijing covers 16,800 sq kms with a population of 16 million. Pre-dating a history of 3000 years and in the period of Song Dynasty 960-1127, Beijing became the secondary capital of the Liao dynasty. This was established by the Qidans normally residing north of the Great Wall. Despite the glitzy, high rise structures, Beijing has even today retained the flavours of an oriental old capital.

Embraced by mountains on three sides, the average temperature throughout the year is between 10-12 degrees Celsius with short springs and autumns but long hot, rainy summers and cold, dry winters. It is one of the wettest areas in North China. Beijing (Ji Cheng or Ji City) was the capital of ancient Yan Kingdom in 771 BC. The city developed a special character of its own as it was successively ruled by different dynasties from the Jins, Yuans, Mings to the Quings. Beijing has been the capital for more than 850 years. The peking man site on the Dragon Bone Hill in Zhoukoudian town is one more attraction, however, the whereabouts of the Peking man skull is today unknown as it mysteriously disappeared during the War of Resistance against Japan in the 1930s. People from all the 56 ethnic groups in China reside in the capital with Hans as the majority and the Hui, Manchu and Mongolian peoples as the most numerous ethnic minority. Teeming with people from all walks of life, of all ages, they go to work either by Metro or the local bus service using their Smart cards. Distances are long and therefore, travelling by various modes of transportation becomes inevitable. Just like in India, rail is the most commonly used form of transportation for Chinese to make long distance domestic trips.

Beijing alone has four stations with the Beijing Railway station situated in Central Beijing. There are 14 expressways radiating from Beijing reaching every major city in China. There are 750 bus routes in the city. The minimum charge is one yuan but a passenger can use ‘Yikatong’ which means (“all in one card”) transportation card enjoying a discount of 40 per cent. Public buses are more frequently used by citizens here rather than taxis or rail. Beijing has a modern rail network connecting the city, both the subway and the light rail. The Beijing subway system includes both underground and light rail lines connecting North and South, West and East as well as having loop lines. The “Yikatong” can be used on the bus, subway and some taxies that has a sign board “Welcome to use Yikatong”. These can be recharged at the subway station and also every bus terminal station. A 20-yuan-deposit is needed for getting a Yikatong. A taxi typically costs about 100 yuans including the 10 yuan expressway toll and takes 30 minutes or more in normal traffic. Beijing is connected to 30 main provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions as well as Hong Kong by major trunk routes.

Many people have to travel for more than two to four hours daily to their work spot as they are based in the outskirts of the city. However, one does not see people hanging out from local trains or for that matter buses as we see in Mumbai or Kolkatta. We do not even witness commuters running after buses or trains. It is very orderly at both the bus station and the railway station despite a considerable section of population using this mode of transportation.

The less said the better about traffic problems in this city despite possessing the best of the infrastructure. Traffic congestion is at its peak between 7-10 am and 5-7 pm. It is better to avoid peak hour traffic. Recent years have seen rapid increase of high-rise buildings, public lawns, greenery covered zones in the city. Local people say, “the City has grown taller and become more beautiful”. Plans are afoot to make it more beautiful by long-term development in the next 10 years.


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