Beijing at a Glance – Part Two

Beijing at a Glance – Part Two

Outside the walls and surrounding the old cities lie the modern industrial quarters and the rural suburbs. Despite a government preservation program, many of Beijing’s historic neighborhoods have been razed in recent years to make way for the construction of new office buildings, apartment complexes, and shopping centers. Qianmen Dajie (Ch’ien-men Tai-chi), the main street running south of the Qianmen (Front) Gate, was reopened in 2009 to foot traffic only; designed as a tourist attraction, it represents an idealized version of the old Beijing residential and shopping neighborhood of Dashalar (Tai-sha-laj). Among the many new structures built for the 2008 Olympic Games, held in Beijing, is a futuristic new Olympic stadium. The National Center for the Performing Arts (opened December 2007) is the world’s largest performing arts center. Like the stadium and the cantilevered towers of China Central Television’s new headquarters, it has helped remake the skyline of Beijing.

Modern industries have developed rapidly in Beijing since 1949. The city now has a wide range of industries. These include iron and steel, cement, machinery, chemicals, electronics, textiles, petrochemicals, motor vehicles, and processed foods. Because the city has become very polluted, the government is trying to relocate many of its most polluting factories and extend the city’s subway system. Beijing is also one of the leading centers of printing and publishing in China. Traditional handicraft articles, such as rugs, ivory and jade carvings, and cloisonn?�, are among the city’s well-known exports.

As the national capital, Beijing is the focal point of communications and transportation in China. Railroads radiate to all major provincial capitals and industrial cities. The same pattern exists for air services. A modern highway (the longest expressway in China) opened in late 2000; it links Beijing to Shanghai via the port of Tianjin. Water transportation, however, is not as well developed as in other large Chinese cities. An underground rapid-transit system moves people within the city limits.

Beijing is China’s leading center of learning and culture. Beijing University and Qinghua (Tsinghua) University (1911) are the two most respected in China. The National Library of Beijing houses a collection of 11 million volumes. More than 50 other major institutions of research and education are located in the city. The Palace Museum has the largest and most varied collection of cultural items of all museums in the country. On the grounds of Beijing University is the Arthur M. Sackler Museum of Art and Archaeology (opened 1993); it displays a collection of archaeological relics and fossils. The Beijing Opera enjoys an international reputation. The city is rich in historical sites, relics, scenic spots, and tourist attractions. The Ming Tombs (a World Heritage Site) are about 50 km (30 mi) northwest of the city. The Summer Palace, the Beihai (Pei-hai) Park, the Marco Polo Bridge, the Museum of Natural History, the Beijing Exhibition Center, the National Art Gallery, the Beijing Zoo, and many restaurants are frequented by both residents and tourists. Tourism temporarily declined after the government repression of prodemocracy demonstrators in the Tiananmen Square Massacre of June 1989, but it has since recovered.